Peace, 10 December 2023

The Season of Advent

Luke 2:22–35, Isaiah 26:3
Big Idea: Our world desperately needs to experience shalom…peace and well-being.
One of my favorite words in the world is shalom. It’s a popular Hebrew word for many reasons, often translated peace. Many of us have been praying for peace in the Middle East, particularly Jerusalem, especially during the war between the Jews and Palestinians.
shalom is more than the absence of war and conflict. It is wholeness, well-being, completeness, and safety. Do you need more shalom in your life?
We’re in week two of our series
The Season of Advent. We’re launching from the traditional candle theme of each Sunday, today being peace. Advent is not exactly Christmas, but rather a time of waiting, expecting, preparation, arrival, anticipating…much like children (and some adults) are looking forward to those gifts under the tree!
It seems like advent calendars have recently become popular in the USA, but when I was in Germany a few weeks ago, I was amazed at how widespread they are…and how many different “gifts” are offered each day…some small chocolates, others little toys, and still others things like clues to an escape room game, puzzles, and even beer!
As much as we may yearn for December 25, the Jewish people spent not days, weeks, months, or years waiting, but centuries…anticipating the promised Messiah. Can you imagine? Generation after generation had been looking forward to the arrival of Jesus Christ. They were waiting for God to user in His Kingdom and overthrow the kingdom of Caesar Augustus.
The second chapter of Luke records the birth of Jesus, but today’s text records what happened shortly after.
Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the LORD.” (Luke 2:22-23, NLT)   
It was only a five mile journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Today, we dedicate children to the LORD, following both the Old Testament example and that of Mary and Joseph…though we don’t sacrifice animals!
So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:24, NLT)   
The creator of the universe was born into a family so poor, they could not afford the regular sacrifice of a lamb. A pair of birds was all they were able to bring. Dr. Luke includes this important detail. Jesus was not only born in a humble place, he was born into a poor family.
At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (Luke 2:25-26, NLT)   
Imagine God telling you that you will not die until you see something or someone. Wow! What a promise! Simeon was a special man who loved the LORD.
That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. (Luke 2:27-28a, NLT)
I love how the text says the Spirit led Simeon to the Temple. Did the Spirit lead you here today? I think so! About 33 years later in Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit would be given to all followers of Jesus to lead and guide us. It’s not always easy to discern the Spirit from our own minds, but I’m here to tell you God still speaks, and angels are not the only vehicle. In fact, the primary way God speaks today is through the Bible. We have been blessed with tremendous instructions, poetry, songs, history, and stories, yet we’re so easily distracted by other things. I think it’s amazing how the Spirit led Simeon to the Temple.
He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
                        as you have promised.
30         I have seen your salvation,
31                     which you have prepared for all people.
32         He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
                        and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:28b-32, NLT)
Here, the word for peace is “eye-ray-nay” in Greek. It speaks of peace, quietness, rest, not unlike the R.I.P. we see on tombstones…rest in peace. Simeon is overjoyed that he was able to see and hold the Messiah, promised and prophesied for hundreds, thousands of years. I can’t imagine what could possibly come close today.
It’s easy for us to miss, but Simeon reveals God’s plan is both for the Jews—Israel—and us gentiles, the nations. This is so important, especially as Israel is back in the news. Jesus the Messiah is Jewish, yet he came to expand God’s family to include gentiles. For God so loved the…world. I’m so glad I don’t have to be Jewish to be God’s child.
A common question among Christians is why don’t the Jews view Jesus as the Messiah. If he was Jewish and fulfilled the prophecies, how did they miss him? There are many answers to that question, but one is simply that the prophecies speak of two different times in history…the first coming (as a baby) and the second coming (soon as the King of kings). Jesus disappointed many Jews by not overthrowing the Roman government and liberating them as they thought he would do the first time he walked the earth. As I’ve often said, we live between the two “comings” of Jesus. Christmas is the celebration of his first coming, and we are waiting for his promised return.
If you’re a parent, you know how wonderful it is when someone says something kind about your children. Imagine being Mary and Joseph hearing Simeon’s words, yet further confirmation that their baby is no ordinary boy.
Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. (Luke 2:33, NLT)   
But the news was not all happy.
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Luke 2:34-35, NLT)
I guess you could say Mary was warned! She would witness the torture and execution of this baby, arguably the most controversial person in history.
So What?
Simeon was able to rest in peace knowing that God’s promise to him had been fulfilled.
What about you? Is it well with your soul? Do you have peace? The prophet Isaiah said,
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)   
The Hebrew word for peace is…shalom. True peace cannot come from politicians, treaties, or deals. It can only come from knowing Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Earlier in his book, Isaiah penned these words which are commonly recited at this time of year:
For a child is born to us,
                        a son is given to us.
            The government will rest on his shoulders.
                        And he will be called:
            Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Have we seen the complete fulfilment of this? Of course not, but the day is coming.
In the meantime, I want to go back to my question…do you have peace?
This past week I read an article that suggested what people in our culture—especially young people—need is inner peace. It’s no secret that mental health, addictions, isolation, anxiety, and despair are rampant in our nation. I think it’s easy to see why, with social media and even conventional media bombarding us with distorted messages, unrealistic expectations, and outright lies that lead to discontent and even suicide. The writer of the article, Mindy Caliguire, believes if those struggling would encounter Christians who have inner peace, it could lead to transformation. She wrote, “We could impact millions!” but then asked, “Are we marked by peace?”
Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s Kingdom is filled with peace. Where God rules, there is peace. Where the enemy rules, there’s all of the stuff that makes the news every day. Family, we are here to bring about what is good, to help people experience God’s Kingdom now. As one person said, our mission is not to help people go to heaven when they die, but rather for them to experience heaven before they die. Heaven is where God is present, ruling, reigning. When we submit to King Jesus, we participate in Kingdom life.
Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, said,
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6, NIV)
That’s Kingdom language. It all begins in our head…with our minds ruled by the same Spirit who spoke to Simeon all those years ago. We’re told the evidence or fruit of the Holy Spirit is
…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22b-23a, NIV)
There it is…peace.
Know Jesus. Know peace.
No Jesus. No peace.
This does not mean Christians can’t struggle with loneliness, mental illness, or anxiety, but rather we have hope. We know the Prince of Peace. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul also wrote these words:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15, NIV)
We get to choose who rules our hearts. We can pay attention to cable news and social media or fill our minds with the truth and our souls with the Holy Spirit. Peace rules over toxic thoughts and anxious thinking. It’s the result of time with God in prayer, reflection, Bible study, and surrender. It’s not always instant, but over time—with God—we will experience an inner peace that will speak volumes to the anxious world around us.
Listen to these words of King David from Psalm 29:
Honor the LORD, you heavenly beings;
            honor the LORD for his glory and strength.
Honor the LORD for the glory of his name.
            Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. Psalm 29:1-2, NLT)
The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea.
            The God of glory thunders.
            The LORD thunders over the mighty sea.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
            the voice of the LORD is majestic. (Psalm 29:3-4, NLT)
The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars;
            the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf;
            he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox. (Psalm 29:5-6, NLT)
The voice of the LORD strikes
            with bolts of lightning.
The voice of the LORD makes the barren wilderness quake;
            the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. (Psalm 29:7-8, NLT)
The voice of the LORD twists mighty oaks
            and strips the forests bare.
In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!” (Psalm 29:9, NLT)
The LORD rules over the floodwaters.
            The LORD reigns as king forever.
The LORD gives his people strength.
            The LORD blesses them with peace. (Psalm 29:10-11, NLT)
The LORD blesses those who seek, follow, and honor Him shalom…peace. It’s not only for us, though.

Peace is meant to be shared. Once it’s experienced, it needs to go viral. Peace on earth!
Now this prayer from Eli Pfau:

Father God, would You show me what it means to rest in You. Would the fragrance of Your peaceful Spirit continuously fill me as I seek Your face. Lord, as I lean into the peace that only You can give, draw me to Yourself more than anything. Allow me to come before You, humbled, grateful, and hopeful. I love You. 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

Citizens, 13 November 2022

JOY: The book of Philippians
Philippians 3:17-4:9

Series Big Idea:
Paul’s letter from prison to the church in Philippi is filled with joy.
Big Idea: Paul challenges followers of Jesus to live as citizens of heaven, filled with joy, prayer, and peace.
Have you ever been in another
country? Maybe you’ve taken the Ambassador Bridge or the tunnel to Windsor. It’s usually not a huge transition, but customs, the red maple leaves on signs, and the currency are constant reminders you’re not in the USA.
Mexico, though bordering the USA, is an even more radical experience. Once I was in San Diego and I rode the trolley train south to the border where I was a able to simply walk into Tijuana without any effort. Once there, the language, the music, and the food were noticeably different…and getting back into the USA was a minor ordeal!
I’ve been privileged to have been able to travel around the world, and whether it’s Bolivia, Burundi, or Britain, there’s no place like home, where I know the language, the culture, and where I am a
Home is a special place. Where do you call home?
If you’re new around here, welcome! We’ve been examining a letter written by Paul—one of the early Church leaders—wrote to a congregation he started in the city of Philippi in Greece. He’s covered a number of topics and today’s text begins with pastoral words.
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. (Philippians 3:17, NLT)
Those are bold words! Do you want others to live like you?
I don’t think Paul’s saying he’s perfect, but he’s a follower of Jesus and followers of Jesus are called to not only follow Jesus, but also help others follow Jesus. We call this…
Most of you are familiar with Jesus’ final words in the book of Matthew. It’s known as the Great Commission. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not an optional thing.
Discipleship is not only for professional Christians. It’s the mission—the commission—of everyone who claims to follow Jesus. He said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20, NIV)
Go and make disciples. That’s the mandate, the assignment. A disciple is a devoted follower—an apprentice—and part of being a disciple is making disciples…following Jesus and helping others follow Jesus.
Who are you following? Who influences you? We all have people who influence us, and we probably all have people we influence. Side note: my favorite definition of leadership is influence. That makes us all leaders. You might not have a title or position, but if you influence, you lead. It might be a friend or co-worker or a child, but if you have influence, you lead.
When Paul says, “Pattern your lives after mine,” that’s a high level of influence. Let me ask again, who influences you? Who are you influencing?
Jesus’ simple invitation was, “Follow me.” He didn’t force it. There were no seminary degrees required, no tests to take, no pre-requisites. John Mark records several examples.
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17, NLT)
As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. (Mark 2:14, NLT)
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34, NLT)
This whole thing—First Alliance Church, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, Christianity—is all about following Jesus…and helping other people follow Jesus. Paul seemed to do this quite well. What about you?
Who is influencing and discipling you?
Who are you influencing and discipling?
I dream of a day when every person in our First Alliance family is engaging in the lives of others, both as a disciple and discipler. I’m doing my best to equip and disciple you on Sunday mornings, but I can’t disciple each of you intimately in this large-group environment.
iscipleship and spiritual formation—according to the late Richard Bush—is slow, incremental, over time, with others, and for others.
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. (Philippians 3:17, NLT)
I could easily do a sermon on verse 17 alone! Paul explains why he wants them to follow his example:
For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. (Philippians 3:18-19, NLT)
Just because you read it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true.
Just because someone called themselves a Christian doesn’t mean it’s true.
I hate to say this, but there are many so-called Christians and even pastors who are not following Jesus. But by the grace of God so go I. This is why Jesus said
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34b, NLT)
You can’t follow Jesus and your desires. Which is it?
Family, I love you. I must warn you there are a lot of dangerous pastors and Christian celebrities out there. There are people trying to sell books, make money, become famous, and Paul would say “they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.”
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:20-21, NLT)
Are you following your desires or Jesus?
Are you a citizen of this world or a citizen of heaven?
There’s so much talk about heaven…what it will be like, when we get to go there, who will be there with us,…I did an entire sermon series on heaven a few years ago, but here’s my simple definition of heaven:
Heaven is where God lives. Paul says that explicitly in verse 20. If heaven without God sounds attractive, you don’t belong there. Seriously. Heaven is where God lives, and that’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” There are moments when heaven kisses earth, where God’s presence is unmistakable. Understand, God is omni-present, meaning He’s everywhere at once, but there are special times when you know He’s real.
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:20-21, NLT)
If heaven is where God lives, are you doing life with God or are you merely a citizen of the USA? I love this country, but this body and this country will not last. I’m looking forward to a glorious body and the new earth. How about you? Chapter four begins…
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work. (Philippians 4:1, NLT)
Now we know what the therefore is there for! Church family, I feel the same way about you. Stay true to the LORD. Many are abandoning the faith these days. Deconstructing is what all of the cool kids are doing, and deconstruction itself is not a bad thing. We need to regularly pause and take inventory of our lives, our beliefs, our heart. Why do we do the things we do? Why are you here this morning? But stay true to the LORD. You can deconstruct religion, but don’t leave Jesus. Don’t buy into the prideful lie of satan that you are somehow above the Almighty. Someone recent said the problem with our country is we are one nation over God instead of under God.
Stay true to the Lord. I love you. You are my joy. I appreciate you. Thank you!
Now Paul offers more notes about his friends.
Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. 3 And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life. (Philippians 4:2-3, NLT)
These two women had been proclaiming the gospel, the good news, but as so often happens, they experienced conflict. Paul’s saying, “Don’t cancel one another! Work it out. Extend grace. Love well.” Could we use that message today?
Now he returns to simple, clear instructions.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! (Philippians 4:4, NLT)
Paul is under house arrest while writing this letter. He’s not at the beach! Yet he emphasizes the theme of this entire letter: joy. Are you full of joy? It doesn’t come from trying harder, but rather from being with Jesus. Joy…in the LORD! Despite circumstances, we can have joy knowing we are loved, forgiven, accepted, and adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God. We have hope. We have a guaranteed future with the LORD forever in paradise. We have meaning and purpose. That’s what people need today. They’re searching…often in strange places! We are called to be hope dealers, and it begins with our attitude, with our time with Jesus, with experiencing joy and contagiously sharing it with others.
Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. (Philippians 4:5, NLT)
Would people say you are considerate? There were a lot of so-called Christians who weren’t exactly considerate during last week’s election!
Paul reminds them the Lord is coming soon. I know, it’s been 2000 years, but we need to be ready. We need to get others ready. Jesus is coming soon.
Now Paul issues one of the most challenging statements:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. (Philippians 4:6a, NLT)
Do you ever worry? I do! Heather had to put a sign in our bathroom to remind me of this simple message. I worry. It’s a sin. It shows my lack of faith. I take matters into my own hands rather than trusting God, praying, seeking His help. This would be a great passage to memorize.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6b-7, NLT)
What a great passage for this month of Thanksgiving! Thank him. Then we’ll experience peace.
Our world desperately needs peace. Our government needs peace. Our streets and homes need peace. It is found in Jesus, and it comes by living in Christ Jesus. I think the rest of today’s text offers a pathway to peace.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9, NLT)
Did you catch that? Think about good stuff, follow Paul who followed Jesus, and the God of peace will be with you. You want a formula, there you go!
Think well. Find peace.
So What?
There’s so much in this passage! Let’s review:
Discipleship is not only for professional Christians.
Who is influencing and discipling you?
Who are you influencing and discipling?
“Spiritual formation (discipleship) is slow, incremental, over time, with others, and for others.”
– Richard Bush
You can’t follow Jesus and your desires. Which is it?
Heaven is where God lives.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Think well. Find peace.
Which of these is the most radical? The most challenging?
Maybe you’ve thought discipleship is only for the paid staff instead of getting in the game. Perhaps you’ve been influenced and discipled by social media or your co-workers or classmates rather than godly men and women. Maybe you’ve become impatient with the growth of others or even yourself, frustrated by sins or addictions. Your desires win over Jesus’ desires. It could be that—like me—you worry when you could be praying. Very often our problem boils down to our thoughts which stem from what we watch, read, hear, or surf. Shut off the junk, think well, and find peace.
This is not how the world lives, but we’re
primarily citizens of heaven. We shouldn’t live like everyone else. It’s not about striving, but rather surrender. We don’t have to be in control because God is in control. We are called to be in this world, but not of it, citizens of heaven on God’s mission on earth to make disciples of all nations.

Honestly, it’s an impossible task…apart from God’s supernatural love. I don’t know about you, but I need more faith. I need to be with you each week to be reminded God will come through, no matter the challenges before me. We’ve been given an incredible assignment to proclaim good news, but sometimes I’m afraid. I can even freak out about the news of this world, yet joy and peace are hallmarks of the Kingdom of God. We serve a God of miracles who is on the throne inviting us to enjoy Him and challenging us to go and make disciples.

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

Peacemakers, 23 August 2020

Blessed are the Peacemakers
Blessed: The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:9

Series Big Idea: The greatest sermon in history is radical, revolutionary, and relevant.

Big Idea: God is on your side when you are complete in Him and help others experience shalom.

NIV: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

NKJV: Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)

The Message: “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. (Matthew 5:9)


It’s not only a greeting, it’s one of my favorite words. Many simply translate it as “peace,” thinking, perhaps, of Richard Nixon fingers or a groovy, tie-dyed, hippie saying. Shalom is so much more than the absence of conflict.
Shalom is more than peace. It means wholeness, completeness, everything in its right place, mutual flourishing.

We’ve been looking at the Beatitudes this summer, eight invitations, eight announcements of blessing from the lips of Jesus. These are not instructions to follow, but rather they are declarations of reality, both present and future. What does it mean to be blessed? The greatest blessing is the presence and favor of God.

NIV: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Blessed are the wholeness-makers.
Blessed are the shalom-creators.

What comes to mind when you think of peace? I may have tainted your answer by referencing images from the 1960s and 70s! Quite often we think of the opposite of war. Maybe you picture a quiet place near water—a peaceful location. A dove is a popular symbol for peace.

We’ve been blessed to live in a country that has been relatively peaceful for the past century or so. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are the only physical attacks I’m aware of on our soil since the 19
th century. War is a foreign concept to most of us (and to those of you who have served in the military, thank you).

Let me say again, peace is not merely the absence of war or conflict. True shalom means wholeness, completeness, everything in its right place, mutual flourishing.

Inner Peace

We often sing a song called “It is Well.” Is it well with your soul today? Do you feel whole, complete, at peace? Before we talk about peacemaking, let’s begin with ourselves. If you don’t have peace, you can’t make peace. You can’t give away something you don’t possess.

Our mission, our hope, our purpose, our life as First Alliance Church is all about Jesus. We worship a Person, not a book. We are about a relationship, not a religion. As we saw last week, it begins with what’s inside—our heart—not a bunch of rules to follow. We are to be known for our love, not our politics.

Whenever I think about Christian maturity, I’m constantly drawn to the fifth chapter of the book of Galatians where it says the fruit of the Spirit is

…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a, NLT)

Where do we get love? It begins with God. God is love. You can’t create love, but you can receive and share it.

How can we experience joy? The joy of the LORD is our strength. Dallas Willard said, “God is the happiest, most joyful being in the universe. God is not mean, but He is dangerous.”

How do we experience inner peace? The prophet Isaiah wrote,

You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Trust in God is the pathway to true, personal peace. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Paul said, “He himself is our peace” in Ephesians 2:14). He has made peace between a holy God and sinners like us.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Followers of Jesus are engaged in a process called sanctification, becoming like our Teacher and Master. It’s a lifelong journey of death to our ego and agendas. It’s a process of growth, suffering, redemption, and maturity. It begins with time with God. You are your friends. You can’t follow someone you don’t know. This is why prayer, Bible study, and worship are so important. They are three of the many habits we engage in to know God…not just about God, but truly know Him. As we know Him, we trust, surrender, and become like Jesus.

George MacDonald wrote,

Christ died to save us, not from suffering, but from ourselves; not from injustice, far less from justice, but from being unjust. He died that we might live—but live as he lives, by dying as he died who died to himself that he might live unto God. If we do not die to ourselves, we cannot live to God, and he that does not live to God, is dead.
Put another way, Satan and God both want us dead…for different reasons!

Is it well with your soul? Do you have peace? If not, tell Jesus, the Prince of Peace. I don’t promise that a five-second prayer will instantly fix everything, but surrender is the first start, welcoming Jesus into your life. Additional steps may include eliminating certain media and social media, fellowship with other Christ-followers, Celebrate Recovery, and/or biblical counseling.

Making Peace

Once we have peace with ourselves, we begin to look at our relationships. Much of our own inner turmoil is due to unresolved conflict with others. Who do you need to forgive? Who needs to forgive you?

We cannot guarantee peace, but we can work toward it. You and I have a responsibility in our relationships, but we’re never one hundred percent responsible for the health of those relationships. It takes two to tango!

I’ve spent years working on reconciling broken relationships. It’s not fun! It’s not easy! It’s included a lot of prayer. I want to rush the process. I want to fix it. I’ve been encouraged by Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.

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

We might not live a peace with everyone, but we can try. We can refuse to hold grudges. We can reject bitterness. We can extend grace. We can seek to understand. But sometimes peace is not possible.

Thankfully, we serve the God of the impossible!

My Story: Lynn Kampfer

Peacemaking is costly, but ultimately worth it.

You can hear that in Lynn’s story. Driving to Wisconsin is costly enough (do you know how expensive the tollways are, to say nothing of gas?!). The emotional expense was far greater, yet God clearly rewarded her for her efforts.

Peacemaking can be messy. If you think about it, most anytime you make something, you create something, you get involved with something, there is risk and sacrifice. If you make a cake, it takes time, money, and some dishes to clean! If you make a campfire, you may get slivers or encounter wildlife as you acquire wood…and may even burn yourself lighting it. Relationships are arguably the most risky, complicated, messy things we can create, yet nothing has a greater reward. There is no great gift you can offer than yourself.

Peacemakers are countercultural, accepting God’s invitation to join Him in the upside-down reality. When we engage as peacemakers, we are blessed, but clearly others experience the joy of reconciliation, of wholeness and completeness, of shalom, too.

The Telos Group

I was introduced to The Telos Group through Stu G and The Beatitudes Project. They are a stunning example of peacemaking. Their mission is to “form communities of American peacemakers across lines of difference, and equip them to help reconcile seemingly intractable conflicts at home and abroad. In the Middle East, they are pro-peace, Pro-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian.

So What?

Your next step today might not be to travel to the Middle East and make peace between Israelis and Palestinians! But I can’t let you off the hook, either.

Like each of these Beatitudes, the applications are endless…and unique. Begin with yourself. Where is it not well with your soul? Where are you experiencing conflict, tension, unrest? What keeps you up at night? What makes you anxious? Who do you need to forgive? What broken relationship needs to be reconciled?

Thinking beyond yourself, where do you see or find yourself in the midst of conflict? It might be at work, in your home, or even on social media. How can you promote listening, respect, dignity, and even love among others, perhaps even among enemies? This is especially timely as two political parties and their followers are at war with one another. Cancel culture frames everything into binary categories. Nuance is eliminated and attacks are made, often without any basis in fact or reality.

I think about the old song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” C.S. Lewis said, “The fingerprint of God is in the present.” It is now. In this moment we can know God and be transformed by the peacemaking God who is the God of peace.

Shalom—wholeness—and healing are both incremental processes. They take time. It’s a journey of a million miles that begins with one step What is your next step?

The first place to start, of course, is on our knees, praying not only for God to bring peace, but for Him to reveal how we can participate, how we can respond to this invitation, how we can be an answer to our own prayer…and that of so many others.

Family, now is a brilliant time for true believers in Jesus Christ to put down our weapons of “rightness,” debate, and attack against whomever you consider the enemy…and set an example of peace, of love, of grace. I’m not saying there’s no place for healthy, respectful dialog, but even if you’re right, an arrogant spirit will repel rather than engage another.

Children of God

NIV: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

There is no greater title or identity than child of God. This is the reward. This is the promise.

Your primary identity is not in your occupation, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or even citizenship. You are a child of the Most High God, created in His image with dignity, value, and worth. That identity is affirmed and confirmed when we are peacemakers. As we become like the Prince of Peace, we experience, keep, and make peace.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. (Matthew 5:9,
The Message)

God is on your side when you are complete in Him and help others experience shalom.


LORD, bring more wholeness and healing into my heart that I might live in more harmony with others, that I could be self-giving and others-centered just as Jesus, the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6), did. LORD, may our hearts be filled with shalom, the multi-faceted wholeness you want to bring to us and through us to the world. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Credits: Some ideas from The Beatitudes Project

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

Shepherd: Peace, 15 December 2019

Shepherd: Peace
Series—Away in a Manger
Luke 2:4-20, 1 John 3:5-8, Isaiah 9:2,6-7, Isaiah 53:5, Luke 1:76-79, Ephesians 2:13-17, Philippians 4:6-7

Series Big Idea:
The Skit Guys have provided us with resources to view Advent from five different perspectives.

Big Idea:
Jesus is the Prince of Peace and desperately needed in our hearts and world.


The shepherd in the drama said it’s more than peace. It’s God’s highest and most complete good.

God’s peace on the earth…His highest and most complete good. Isn’t that what we all want? Jesus taught us to pray,

“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

That’s shalom, and it’s our subject today in our Advent series
Away in a Manger.

Our world is in chaos. Have you noticed? I’m grateful we don’t find ourselves in the middle of a war on our soil today. There are presently 28 countries at war, but even more staggering is a recent report—the Global Peace Index—which stated there are “just ten countries which can be considered completely free from conflict.” The USA is at war in seven countries right now! In fact, we are ranked as the 128th most peaceful country in the world (Afghanistan is 163, Iceland is number one).

Locally, it’s no surprise to anyone that we live in a city and region in chaos. It seems like every day there’s another report in
The Blade of a shooting, robbery, overdose, or protest. Despite our beautiful Metroparks, community services, industries, and world-class attractions like the zoo and art museum, violence and crime thrive.

Even closer to home, there’s a lack of internal peace. The statistics for ulcers, depression, and anxiety are overwhelming. Suicide is rampant, especially among young people.

Could we use peace on earth?
The older I get, the more I seek perspective. There are always optimists talking about how the world is getting better—and it is—and pessimists who say the world is getting worse—and it is.

There’s an irony in the Christmas story. Dr. Luke describes it this way:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (Luke 2:8)

This was common. A shepherd’s job is to watch over the sheep.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (Luke 2:9)

One angel shining with the glory of the LORD appears and terrifies the shepherds.

I’ve heard many stories of people who encountered angels. It may have been someone who helped with a car broken-down on the side of the road, only to disappear. Perhaps it’s a stranger who offered an encouraging word at the perfect moment, then suddenly gone. Frequently the angel is identified as an angel after their appearance.

The shepherds had no doubt this was an angel! While we often think of angels as nice and helpful and gentle and quiet, this one terrified the shepherds.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. (Luke 2:10)

Don’t be afraid. Easy for you to say, angel! The angel delivered good news—the gospel! We all love good news, and this good news was for all the people. All the people. Shepherds and kings. Jews and Gentiles. Rich and poor. What’s the good news?

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12)

The long-awaited Messiah has been born…to you! The description was necessary since this was not the way a king normally enters the world…wrapped in rags and lying in an animal’s food trough. Now the story develops.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

Suddenly. Why are people always sneaking up on these poor shepherds?! This disruptive group of supernatural creatures announces peace in the midst of disturbing the shepherds who were just minding their own business in the fields! The original Greek word for peace here, eirene (i-ray-nay), means one, peace, quietness, rest.

Not this night! There was nothing quiet or restful or peaceful about these angelic visitors, but once they changed their underwear (!), I’m sure they didn’t mind. After all, they were privileged to be among the first to meet the Messiah.

Leave it to God to invite common shepherds to the delivery room of His son! Most royalty enter the world surrounded by powerful and famous, with paparazzi trying to get the best photo and story. Not the Messiah.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15)

What a brilliant idea! The shepherds may have been common, but they weren’t stupid!

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:16-18)

The shepherds were the first (human) evangelists, spreading good news about the arrival of the Messiah, the advent of Jesus, God moving into the neighborhood with flesh and blood. All who heard it were amazed. It amazes me two thousand years later.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:19-20)

Jesus. Prince of peace. Shalom arrived in person!

Two weeks ago we looked at the prophet Isaiah and how his words hundreds of years before Christ were perfectly fulfilled through Jesus the Messiah.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

When we read phrases like “Prince of Peace” and “of the greatness of his government and peace there will be end,” it may not seem terribly significant. After all, every nativity scene seems to depict a tranquil gathering of people and animals around baby Jesus. “All is calm, all is bright…sleep in heavenly peace.” Jesus came in the midst of nice people who lived in a nice neighborhood with nice neighbors and a nice government, right?

Hardly! This is the Roman empire! Herod would order the death of Jesus and all of the other baby boys under two years old. This is a culture that didn’t use lethal injection for criminals. They were crucified! Battles were common. Oppression was normal. Peace? For some, it was unimaginable.

Jesus. Prince of Peace. Paul would later write about the Messiah.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:14-17)

Jesus is our peace. He brings together Jews and Gentiles, black and white, rich and poor, young and old. But remember, shalom peace is more than the absence of conflict. It’s God’s highest and most complete good.

There was a day when God’s shalom ruled the earth. Everything and everyone were at peace. There was no death or hatred or selfishness or pride. It was paradise, a garden called Eden. Until sin entered the world. Until Adam and Eve disobeyed God. The serpent—who knows how to lie, steal, kill, and destroy better than anyone—introduced evil and rebellion and war to our world, shattering shalom. Peace was broken…to pieces.

The only solution to our sin, to violence, to wars, to brokenness was Jesus. He is our peace. He rescues. He restores. He reconciles. He redeems. He renews. He revives. One writer has said,

“The peace of God is a full, satisfying, rich, and juicy fruit of His Spirit to His people and creation. The shalom of God is intended for relational goodness and harmony through and through. Peace is the original order of creation and remains in the heart of God for all His creation.” (Skit Guys)
Isn’t that beautiful? What a vision! I want to experience that. I want you to experience that. I want City Council and Columbus and Washington and Syria and North Korea to experience that. I want every man, woman and child on the planet to experience shalom, wholeness, completeness, relational goodness and harmony through and through.

It won’t come through an election, though.
It won’t come through new laws.
It won’t come through the perfect enforcement of old laws.
It won’t come through more jobs, more education, or more money.
It won’t come through religion and traditions and striving.

Shalom only comes through God. It is manifest through Jesus. It comes through the Holy Spirit being given space to work in us, making us more like Christ. It comes through surrender, giving up control, hitting rock bottom and letting Jesus take the wheel. As the old song says, “Let there be peace on earth…and let it begin with me.”

The Bible begins with peace during creation (Genesis 1-2) and ends with peace in New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22. We’re living in the awkward in-between, seeking to know God and His shalom in a world fixated on its own happiness and pleasure. And it’s why what happened in Bethlehem was a strategic initiative by God to bring us peace—shalom—in the midst of a chaotic world. Listen to one of Jesus’ best friends, John:

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:5-8)

We know the devil’s work. We see it every day. Addictions. Racism. Hatred. Greed. Disease. Bitterness. Envy. Insecurity. Pride. Despair. Fear. Worry.

Jesus came to destroy them! The sweet baby Jesus didn’t remain in the manger. He grew. He showed us what it means to be human. He died and rose again, conquering sin and death. He literally destroyed the devil’s work. Hallelujah!

Although some were surprised on Resurrection Sunday, it was prophesied—not by Isaiah or Micah or even Moses, but God in the third chapter of the Bible. After the devil tempted Adam and Eve,

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)

Jesus would be born of a woman. Satan would strike his heel…but Jesus would crush his head! God knew all of this. His plan was perfect, even though we’re not. All pain and suffering is not God’s fault, but rather the result of our choices, our free will. When we screwed up, God sent a Savior, a Healer, a Restorer, a Rebuilder…the Prince of Peace.

We have all been enlisted to join him on his mission to seek and save the lost, to be hope dealers, to love, to make disciples. The purpose of Christmas was Good Friday…and Easter. The word “Savior” in Greek,
soter, can be translated “preserver” or “deliverer.” Jesus came to deliver people from the devil’s work, to preserve the shalom peace of God so that we might experience the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Obviously, we are not experiencing the fullness of heaven now, but there are moments when heaven kisses earth, when love conquers hate, when peace prevails.

So What?

So what are we to do? How do we experience peace in a world of chaos? First, we need to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

“Let there be peace on earth…and let it begin with me.”

Peace is broken not just by others, but often by ourselves. We often make a mess and blame God. Here are some examples of how we break peace:

  • - When we spend more than we make, leading to debt and financial bondage
  • - When we read, post, and say negative words instead of encouragement
  • - When we mask our true self and hiding rather than courageously being truthful
  • - When we shade the truth and tell lies
  • - When we take and hoard rather than give and share
  • - When we are envious of others rather than being grateful
  • - When we gossip to others rather than caring enough to lovingly confront
  • - When we rationalize our sinful behavior rather than confessing and repenting
  • - When we value our comfort over doing the right thing

Maybe you’re not experiencing peace simply because you’re not choosing peace. Call yourself whatever you want, perhaps you’re following some of the works of the devil rather than pursuing selfless, humble love for God and others.

Many of you have lived lives of peace. You’ve made good choices and served others, yet injustice has followed you home. You think, “It’s not fair!” You’re right. It’s not fair when others sin against you, and what is even more unfair is that Jesus would leave heaven and live here…so he could die for our mess!

The baby in the manger would experience death, the ultimate loss of shalom. Yet his death brings us life, forgiveness, hope, …peace. He said,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
(John 14:27)

Later, he said,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (
John 16:33)   

So what do we do when our peace is broken? After examining ourselves,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

In a word, trust. Give it to God. Let it go.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I’m still working on this, but over the years I’m starting to make a little progress. As the sign in my bathroom says, “Worry about nothing. Pray about everything.”


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

It takes two to tango. You can’t control the behavior of others. The best you can do is pray and love. Some relationships will never be peaceful. Some are not even safe. Love and leave the results to God.


Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is alive. He is still at work. Through the Holy Spirit, God’s shalom is brought from heaven to earth. God’s highest and most complete good is available if we seek first His Kingdom, if we trust and obey. Like the shepherds, we can join the angels in bringing honor and glory to the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of Peace.

May you know the peace of Christ this Christmas and experience God’s highest and most complete good. May he bring peace to each of us so that He might work peace through us for His glory.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)


Credits: Some ideas from The Skit Guys.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Gift of Jesus, 24 December 2017

    The Gift of Jesus
    Series—The Gifts of Christmas
    Luke 2:1-11

    Big Idea: The greatest gift in human history was Jesus Christ.

    Skit Guys Video


    Christy, I bought you a gift. I hope you like fruitcake! Merry Christmas!

    Who loves Christmas cookies? I’m sorry, I don’t have any to throw out this morning, but I sure love them better than fruitcake! I’ve rarely met a cookie I didn’t like. I love sugar cookies, shortbread, …yes, I love buckeyes…but to clarify, I love to EAT buckeyes! My favorite cookie is gingerbread. I LOVE gingerbread!

    Have you ever eaten cookie dough?

    Have you ever made chocolate chip cookies and then poured the final chips from the bag into your mouth?

    Have you ever poured the extra flour from the bag into your mouth? Of course not! But the flour and baking powder are essential. Skipping that tiny teaspoon of baking powder can destroy a batch of cookies.

    History is filled with tiny things making a huge impact on our world. As Christy said in the drama, “Big things can come from really little places.” Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow—and today—came from a “little town” of Bethlehem two thousand years ago. The greatest gift came from the smallest place.

    What are some of your favorite Christmas gifts? What are some of your least favorite Christmas gifts? That list might be more interesting!

    One of my favorite Christmas traditions is the white elephant gift exchange. I’ve received some very interesting gifts at those parties! I think we can all agree there are some gifts we really don’t want!

    During this Advent season of arrival, of waiting, we have looked at the gifts of expectancy, grace, reconciliation, and adoption. None of those can be wrapped or shoved into a gift bag, but those who choose to receive those gifts experience things far greater than an iPhone which will be obsolete in a few years or a sweater which will be eventually sent to Goodwill.

    Today we conclude our series,
    The Gifts of Christmas. It has been my experience that there is no greater gift than the gift of Jesus. But like all gifts, you must choose to receive it or not.

    The Christmas Story

    Most of us have heard the Christmas story read by a friend, family member, someone at church, or even Linus on A Charlie Brown Christmas. A doctor named Luke wrote a biography of Jesus and our text for today comes from the gospel—or good news—of Luke.

    In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

    The scene is the Roman empire about two thousand years ago. Transportation was difficult, yet required by the government.

    So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

    Joe and Mary travel about eighty miles to this little town of Bethlehem. The timing of the census was terrible as Mary was eight or nine months pregnant, although it is possible they were in Bethlehem for some time before the birth, as stated in the next verse.

    While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6-7)

    That nativity set you may have in your home might not be 100% accurate, though the same can be said for many things regarding our understanding of the Christmas story. I like the biblical account as it is ancient, tested, and trusted around the world. Most likely Bethlehem was filled with travelers and with no guest room available, they slept with the animals in the downstairs of a home. Tim Chaffey writes,

    Archaeologists have excavated first century homes from the Judean hill country. They have discovered that the upper level served as a guest chamber while the lower level served as the living and dining rooms. Oftentimes, the more vulnerable animals would be brought in at night to protect them from the cold and theft. This sounds strange to many of us, since we wouldn't dream of bringing some of our cattle into the house at night, but even today in some countries of Europe (e.g., Germany and Austria), the farmhouse and the animal quarters are often different parts of the same building.

    There was no inn, no innkeeper, no stable…they were probably staying with family in an overcrowded house.

    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (Luke 2:8)

    What a scene! There are scholars who believe these weren’t just any shepherds, but rather Levitical shepherds tending to animals which would be used for Passover sacrifices in the Jewish rituals. These were special lambs who had to be without defect, creatures given great care, even swaddled by their shepherd in order to be acceptable in the temple as a payment for the sins of the owner. What an image for Luke to highlight while telling the story of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who would be in swaddling cloths. These shepherds were in for a big surprise!

    An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:9-11)

    There are so many ancient prophesies fulfilled in these eleven verses. I wish we had time to explore them, but suffice it to say this was no ordinary baby and no ordinary birth, though the event occurred among ordinary people in a small, ordinary town.

    The prophet Micah wrote about 700 years before the birth of Jesus these words:

    “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

    There is so much solid evidence for faith in Jesus, including dozens of Old Testament prophesies uniquely fulfilled in Christ hundreds of years later. This is one. You can’t choose where you’re born, but Jesus’ birthplace was prophesied. O little town of Bethlehem! Big things can come from really little places.

    Boaz, Barley, and Jesus

    Jesus came from a little town that means “house of bread” as Christy mentioned in the drama. There are more than 5000 biblical references to baking bread…from unleavened bread during the Exodus to Jesus breaking bread and saying to His friends, “This is my body.” Ezekiel Bread can be found in grocery stores nationwide, a unique recipe found in the Bible.

    One of the most fascinating stories in the Bible involves two women, Ruth and Naomi, distance ancestors of Jesus.

    Naomi’s husband dies, her sons had died, and she is alone with her two daughters in-law. She urges them to find new husbands. One does but Ruth stays with her mother in-law, Naomi. They travel to Bethlehem…1000 years before Jesus is born.

    At the time, if you owned a field, you were not allowed to harvest the corners of it, instead making it available to the poor and hungry. One day Ruth “gleans” from the field of Boaz, gathering ingredients to make bread. Boaz sees her, likes her, gives her more food, and eventually Boaz marries her. Ruth goes to Bethlehem and finds not only the gift of bread but the gift of a bread winner. Ruth and Boaz have a son named Obed, a blessing to not only them but also grandma Naomi. She was overjoyed at the gift.

    The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15)

    Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him.  Ruth 4:16
    The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:16-17)

    Ruth was King David’s great-grandmother and Naomi was his great, great-grandmother! The little town of Bethlehem became known as the City of David, and centuries later that label will be used by angel’s announcement to the shepherds.

    Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

    A Kinsman-Redeemer of all people was arriving in Bethlehem. Jesus came to rescue and redeem humanity in the same town where Boaz had redeemed His ancestor Ruth. If you’ve ever read through the Bible, you know there are some genealogies that can be extremely boring, but this one is quite fascinating:

    Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. 

    David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, (Matthew 1:5-6)

    Two of Jesus’ ancestors met during the barley harvest and a part in the ongoing gift-giving which would lead to the birth of Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

    So What?

    We can talk all day long about big things coming from really little places. We can read the Christmas story of the birth of the Messiah. We can sing songs, exchange gifts, and eat cookies, but what difference does Jesus make two thousand years later? Jesus is the greatest gift. The story doesn’t end with a baby in a manger. Sweet baby Jesus would grow up, teach with wisdom which amazed the most brilliant minds of His day, perform countless miracles, willingly surrender His own life on a cross for the sake of every man, woman and child who follows Him, rise from the dead, ascend to heaven, and promise to return.

    Jesus is the greatest gift. He came as Emmanuel, God with us. He came to our world to be with us, to relate to us, to love us, to show us what it means to truly be human. And He’s coming back for all who receive the gift, who receive Him, who follow Him.

    Jesus is the greatest thing in my life. He has given me life—bountiful life! I live every day knowing my sins are forgiven which gives me peace. I know He is returning someday to our broken world which gives me hope. He is present here and now by the Holy Spirit living inside of me which gives me great joy. I’ve experience meaning and purpose for life, surrendering to the Creator God who knows me and still loves me.

    And all of this can be true for you, too. There’s nothing special about me. I just said, “Yes” to the gift. And you can, too. The most famous verse in the Bible says

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    That’s a promise of eternity with God after you die, but also the promise of His presence and power and peace in this life, here and now. It’s not about religion or even being good. It’s simply about welcoming Jesus into your heart, your life, your world and inviting Him to lead and guide Your life. It’s about a relationship with Almighty God, a journey in which you can actually know your Creator, be adopted into a faith family of love, receive a fresh start in life, conquer your fears, and truly experience joy. If Jesus is not the main ingredient in your life, you’re missing out on the greatest ingredient, the greatest gift. I urge you to receive the gift, the gift of Jesus. Let Him lead and guide you and who you through His Word, the Bible, real wisdom, life, and joy.

    One of my favorite songs of the season is “Joy to the World.” One of the lines says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Is there room in your heart for Jesus? He’s the main ingredient in my life and He can do incredible things with yours if you let Him in, if you receive the greatest gift this Christmas, the gift of Jesus.

    Credits: title, drama, and some ideas from The Skit Guys.

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

  • Gift of Reconciliation, 10 December 2017

    The Gift of Reconciliation
    Series—The Gifts of Christmas
    1 John 4:7-12

    Big Idea: Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father…and one another.

    Skit Guys Video


    An old man who just wants to make things right with his kids. That’s sounds so reasonable, doesn’t it? He seems like a nice enough guy. What kind of person would reject love? He’s done everything he can think of so this time...this season...he goes...himself. He gives himself....a new beginning.

    We’re in the middle of a series called The Gifts of Christmas. Two weeks ago we talked about the give of expectancy. Advent is about arrival, anticipation, and waiting. Last week we examined the gift of grace, unmerited favor. None of us deserve forgiveness, love, peace, forgiveness, or hope, yet that’s where God’s amazing grace becomes so vital to not only experience but also share. Today we’re talking about the gift of reconciliation, a word that reflects reunion, understanding, and resolution. In a world full of brokenness, reconciliation is desperately needed.

    It has surprised me over the years how many good parents are estranged from their children. Don’t good parents produce good kids? How could someone walk away from the love of a father—or mother? Why would a “Christian” family have any division or unresolved conflict? Why are there so many prodigals amongst our First Alliance family? And then I look at the gap in my own family photo. Why? What happened? Can I fix it? If so, how?

    Let me state from the beginning relationships require at least two people, and reconciliation requires at least two, also. The holidays are a time when people gather—with family, co-workers, and friends—for parties, meals, and for Christmas. I have nothing but good memories of childhood Christmases, not only tearing open brightly-wrapped presents and stuffing myself with cookies but seeing relatives I dearly loved.

    It’s very different for me now. Obviously the wonder of gifts under the tree is different as an adult and I think twice before eating too many cookies, but while I love the family and friends in my life, I’m also reminded at this time of year about those with whom I am not connected. Many of my favorite people will be spending Jesus’ birthday with Him rather than me, which his bittersweet.

    What’s more bitter and not at all sweet are those broken relationships. There will be one very empty chair at our table on the 25
    th for the second year in a row, and while our relationship with our daughter has taken some baby steps forward, it has a long way to go. How could someone reject the love of a father?

    Tragically, it happens every day, and not just with human fathers. Our heavenly Father went to the most extreme of measures to show us His love. We can accept or reject it…it’s our choice. He made the first move. The ball’s in our court.
    We’ve looked at our text for today—written by one of Jesus’ best friends, John—before, but it bears repeating. It begins

    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

    This sounds so familiar to anyone who has cracked open the Bible, but this is revolutionary among other religions. Love comes from God? Those who love are born of God? Those who love know God?

    And what if we don’t love? What does that say about us? The command here—and elsewhere in the Bible—is to love…one another.

    What is love? That’s the question! Hollywood will tell you one thing, Hallmark cards another. A man I knew searched the Bible to understand the true definition of love when he came upon this next verse.

    Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

    God is love. He’s the definition of love! Love is a person. Love is also a verb. It is action.

    This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)

    Love is more than words. The verse describes the purpose of Christmas itself. God showed His love by sending Jesus into the world, Emmanuel, God with us, that we might live, the we might experience abundant, satisfying, purpose-filled life.

    This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

    Jesus came to die for our sins on the cross, to be the perfect sacrifice, to reconnect us with our Creator in a relationship destroyed by our sins, our pride, our rebellion, our offenses against God. Elsewhere in the Bible it says

    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

    Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)

    We have received love.
    We have received reconciliation.
    We have received an invitation to know our Creator—not just know about, but know.

    Why would a holy God want to reconcile with sinners like us? Why would a righteous deity want to make the first move in mending a relationship we destroyed? That’s the love of a Father…a good, good Father. He takes the initiative to fix things when life happens. He sets the perfect example for us in our human relationships…our messy human relationships. You know…words get said, feelings get hurt, blame gets assigned, misunderstandings occur. It’s so easy for once-beautiful families and friendships to be strained or even severed. That’s where love comes in.

    Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

    Let’s take a moment and meditate on those verses. Wow! God so loved us. We are to love one another. If God is love, what does it look like to love one another? It means looking out for the best interest of the other person. We’re naturally selfish, thinking about our own needs, desires, and opinions. Loving another means putting ourselves in their shoes for a moment. It can be so easy when they like us and are like us. Loving someone different…that’s another story! But it’s possible when God’s love is made complete in us.


    Sometimes the most difficult people to love are those closest to us because they are capable of not only great love but great pain. You might know the story of the prodigal—or extravagant—son. Jesus tells his audience…

    Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  (Luke 15:11-12)

    Then the prodigal son takes the extravagant gifts of inheritance from his generous father, takes off for a foreign land, and parties until he’s homeless and hungry. In fact, the text says

    He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:16)

    That might sound gross to us, but to a Jew, even being near pigs was horrifying, much less eating their food.

    I love the beginning of the next verse.

    “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:17-20a)

    The soundtrack for this moment is, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas!”

    The son could be home for Christmas if only in his dreams. He showed up ready to beg for a job as a servant. After all, he already played his son card, walking off with half of the father’s wealth, a scandalous thing given an inheritance is received after someone dies. He is ashamed, humiliated…but desperate.

    “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

    In 1985, Benny Hester wrote a song called When God Ran, about this verse. He sings:

    The only time I ever saw him run/ Was when He ran to me/ He took me in His arms/ Held my head to His chest/ Said "My son's come home again!"/ Lifted my face/ Wiped the tears from my eyes/ With forgiveness in His voice He said/ "Son, do you know I still love You?"/He caught me By surprise, When God ran

    That’s reconciliation. That’s grace. That’s love!

    The father in the drama leaves his home and goes out to meet his family, just as the prodigal son’s father went out to meet his son.

    Seeking Reconciliation

    When we seek reconciliation, there are no guarantees. It takes two to tango, but someone needs to make the first move. Perhaps that someone is you. Maybe this Christmas is the one where steps are taken toward the healing of broken relationships. That is certainly the prayer for my family.

    One thing I love about our God is there is nothing too difficult for Him. Prayer is powerful. There is no hopeless relationship. Nothing is beyond repair. No relationship is beyond fixing. That includes our relationship with God and our relationship with others.

    God saw that the space between us and Him had become too great. So He ran to us. He came down to us at Christmas. Love comes down at Christmas.

    So What?

    We love God because God first loved us.
    We love others because God first loved us.

    He has done everything possible to show you His love, to have a relationship with you. It’s your move. What will you do?

    Perhaps you’ve done everything possible to show others your love, to have a relationship with them. It’s their move. There might not be anything else you can do other than remain faithful, pray, and wait.

    I’m there. Many of you are there. The gift of reconciliation means God took the initiative and has reconciled us to Himself which then allows us to potentially be reconciled to others.

    Will you receive the gift of reconciliation with the Father?
    Will you extend the gift of reconciliation to someone this Christmas?

    Credits: title, drama, and some ideas from The Skit Guys.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Angels, 25 December 2016

    Series: First Christmas
    Luke 2:1-14

    Series Big Idea:
    Most know the Christmas story, but what did the individual characters experience?

    Big Idea: We need not fear angels…or anything but God.

    Merry CHRISTmas! My name is Kirk and I’m thrilled to be able to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with you!

    Throughout Advent—this season of waiting—we’ve been looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of various characters present at the First Christmas. We looked at the Wise Men, Elizabeth, the Innkeeper, Joseph, and today it’s the angels.

    Have you ever met or seen an angel? Our minds picture a person dressed in white with wings and a halo, but angels are real creatures. In fact, they’re mentioned nearly three hundred times in the Bible! Unless they suddenly became an endangered species, they are just as real and important today.

    We don’t have time to do a thorough study of angels today, but I want to look at two words they spoke: fear not.

    In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

    So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (
    Luke 2:4-7)

    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (
    Luke 2:8-9)


    Why were they terrified? They saw and angel. They saw the glory of the Lord.

    It seems like often when angels appear, people are afraid. That makes sense, right?

    The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. (Matthew 28:5)

    But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. (Luke 1:13)

    But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)

    Sometimes people are already afraid and angels are sent to bring comfort and peace.

    God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. (Genesis 21:17)

    But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:20)

    And we have the example in today’s text.

    But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Luke 2:10

    I have loved Charlie Brown for as long as I can remember. Being a musician, I should’ve identified most with Schroeder, but whenever I would read the Peanuts comics or watch the television specials I always connected with Charlie Brown.

    Charles Schultz, the creator of Charlie Brown, told so many wonderful stories, but the best story he ever told was not his, but taken from the Bible.

    Perhaps you’ve seen the Facebook post by Jason Soroski. I’m so grateful to Crystal who sent it to me. I nearly cried reading it…and I want to share it with you today.

    Last year, A Charlie Brown Christmas aired on national prime time television for the 50th time. In a world where the latest greatest technology is outdated in a matter of months, and social media trends come and go in a matter of days, 50 years of anything becomes quite meaningful.

    I am a fan of all things nostalgic and all things Christmas, and so when the two are combined I am hooked, and the Charlie Brown Christmas special falls squarely into that category.

    I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized
    Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since.

    But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one important thing I didn’t notice then, and didn’t notice until now.

    Right in the middle of speaking, Linus drops the blanket.

    Charlie Brown is best known for his uniquely striped shirt, and Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up.

    Until this moment. When he simply drops it.

    In that climactic scene when Linus shares “what Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, “fear not.”

    Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schultz was saying, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.

    The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

    The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

    The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.

    The world of 2016 can be a scary place, and most of us find ourselves grasping to something temporal for security, whatever that thing may be. Essentially, 2016 is a world in which it is very difficult for us to “fear not.”

    But in the midst of fear and insecurity, this simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    What are you afraid of? I know that’s an odd question to ask on Christmas Day, but what are you afraid of?

    The dark?
    Your credit card bill next month after Christmas shopping?
    Your health?

    God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1John 4:16-18)

    We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

    Fear not!

    The angels said it.

    It’s the most common command in the Bible.

    If we recognize the love and presence and power and wisdom and wonder and mystery of God, our other fears will diminish.

    Technically, the Bible doesn’t say the angels sang. It says they praised God.

    Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 

    “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (
    Luke 2:13-14)

    We can praise with words, but music has a special way of enhancing the worship.

    “Angels We Have Heard On High” has possibly the longest word in any piece of music! The 18-syllable word is "Gloria." Gloria, in excelsis Deo means simply, “Glory to God in the highest.”

    Fear Not

    The message of Christmas is Immanuel, God is with us.

    Fear not…God is with us.
    Fear not…the Prince of Peace is here.
    Fear not…you are not alone.
    Fear not…the baby will return soon as King Jesus.

    Happy birthday, Jesus! Merry CHRISTmas! God bless you!

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • We Are Reconciled, 9 February 2014

    Big Idea: We are reconciled to God—and one another—in Christ.

    Ephesians 2:11-22


    Who are you? As we continue our series on the book of Ephesians, a letter written by Paul from prison to the early church, we’re looking at this issue of identity. “Know thyself” was the famous declaration attributed to a number of ancient Greek sages.

    Part of knowing ourselves is knowing others and how we are similar and different.

    From the beginning of time, humans have experienced rivalry and conflict.

    The differences between Cain and Abel resulted in the first murder.

    The differences between Catholics and Protestants resulted in one of two Church splits.

    The differences between those of European and African descent resulted in slavery.

    The differences between USAmericans and al-Qaeda resulted in 9/11.

    The differences between Buckeyes and Wolverines resulted in…

    It’s a natural result of sin and the fall that we tend to see others as the enemy, especially if they are different (which ultimately includes every person on the planet!). Competition can lead to healthy fun and encourage growth. The Olympic games are a great example of this as athletes are motivated to train and perform knowing others are doing the same. When good sportsmanship leads to a great race, the world appreciates the dedication of both the gold medalist and those with lesser awards. Unfortunately rivalry and conflict can also lead to hostility, hatred and even death.

    Differences can be celebrated and appreciated, but they must never overstep the second most important command given by God to love others.

    Tragically our world is not filled with love. Sure, we see people that love their families and friends, but Jesus’ command to love our enemy may be the most radical statement in human history. Whether literally or figuratively, we have constructed walls to separate us from others.

    The conflict we examine now is between Jews and Christians. Today that conflict may seem almost irrelevant. After all, when is the last time you heard about a Jew attacking a Christian? The Jewish/Muslim wall is far more visible, but the early church struggled to understand their role in relationship to the chosen ones of Israel. After all, God made a covenant with Abraham that included many special promises, including a Promised Land.

    It’s impossible for us today to fully understand the depth of the hostility. Nothing in our present culture comes close. The differences between Jews and Gentiles resulted in division, pride, and tension. Many Jews believed Gentiles were created by God to be fuel for the fires of hell. The animosity was so great that it was against the law for a Jew to help a Gentile mother in her hour of greatest need need because it would bring another Gentile into the world. If a Jew married a Gentile, a funeral was performed for the Jew since such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death. (
    The Message of Ephesians by John Stott).

    Jesus was Jewish while on the earth. His first converts and disciples were Jewish. Paul was Jewish. However, the church in Ephesus and other churches were in the region were composed primarily of Gentiles. You can imagine the challenges this presented, challenges that were addressed in nearly all of the New Testament letters. The obvious issue concerned the legitimacy of Gentiles that followed Yeshua, Jesus. Debates went beyond theology, however, to include cultural issues such as diet and circumcision.

    Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (11-12)

    It’s notable that the Gentiles are referred to in the negative, the “un”circumcised. Gentiles were without God and without hope.

    Two thousands years later without God we have no hope. It’s no wonder people turn to drugs and pleasure and alcohol and a variety of other addictions. This is why it is so crucial for us to be filled with hope, filled with joy, and shine the light of Jesus to a dark, hopeless world. This is why God has a mission to seek and save the lost, and He has entrusted that mission—and the Great Commission—to you and me. These verses are written in the past tense to early believers, but to countless in our community there is presently no hope.

    But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (13)

    There’s another “but.” But God. But “in Christ.” The blood of Christ brings us in. I love this verse! We were far away and now we are brought near.

    For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (14-18)

    is our peace (2:14). He doesn’t distribute peace. He’s not the peace-maker. He is our peace. Peace is found in Jesus, not the opinion others have of you, circumstances, self-esteem, your finances, your health, or anything other than Jesus. Living in Him we have peace with God. Peace isn’t the absence of conflict; it’s the presence of Jesus.

    Jesus has made the two became one. Where have we heard that? Marriage!

    Yesterday on this stage a man and a woman became one in marriage. Each held a lit candle representing their two lives and families and brought them together to light the unity candle symbolizing their new life together. Neither individual was lost, but together a new family began.

    This past week I spent nearly three days praying with 32 other pastors from Washtenaw County. It was an incredible experience, not only to spend time with Jesus but also with many so different from myself—in every way except for Christ. We came together in Christ.

    On the way to the PACT Pastors Prayer Summit I was talking with my dear friend, Rabbi Allen Singer, about this passage. Allen is a Messianic Jew who embraces not only the Old Testament but also every word of the New Testament. He agreed that like a marriage, it is not the Gentile that becomes a Jew or a Jew that becomes a Gentile, but rather that one new man—one new believer—emerges because of Jesus. Through the cross we are both reconciled. Through Jesus we both have access to the Father by the Spirit, another beautiful image of the Trinity—one God in three Persons. Through Christ, Jews and Gentiles have equal access to God. We take this for granted but this was a radical revelation, especially to early Christians that were surrounded by elitist Jews who alone had special access to God before Jesus came. What this means is that through Jesus we all have access to the Father. My prayers are no more or less accessible to God than yours or Billy Graham’s. Jesus didn’t simply die so you can go to heaven when you die. He died to reconcile all—Jew and Gentile—to God if we trust and follow Him and receive by faith the gift of life that He offers.

    Our status is not based upon our race, color, nationality or earthly citizenship. It is based upon our identity “in Christ.” That’s what brings us together. Reconciliation doesn’t just happen because we say some flowery words or put on a nice show. It begins in the heart and our deepest common identity in Christ. God separated the Jews from the nations which led to spiritual pride and hatred between Jew and Gentile, but now there’s peace. Now there’s true shalom.

    Through Jesus we are even able to overcome church divisions that for centuries have separated Catholics and Protestants. I have often said that I have never met anyone that loves Jesus more than Father Ed Fride—and in my younger days I didn’t even know if it was possible to be Catholic and a Christian!

    Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (19-20)

    Have you ever been in a strange place where you felt uncomfortable? Foreign countries are probably the most extreme example, especially when you don’t know the language. You quickly realize you are an outsider, and unless you are confronted with someone with the gift of hospitality, you feel like you don’t belong. Incidentally, this is true when people visit churches, too. They often feel alien until they are welcomed. Hospitality literally means welcoming the stranger.

    In Christ we are not longer aliens. As we said weeks ago, we are saints. We are God’s children (1 John 2:12). David was God’s servant (2 Samuel 7:8). Moses was God’s servant (Number 12:7). We are fellow citizens. We belong to heaven now. Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

    The apostles and prophets were not the foundation but laid the foundation. The foundation is Jesus (1 Cor. 3:11), the chief cornerstone. He is our foundation. He is our senior pastor. He is our big Brother, and because of Him, we receive the same love and treatment and access to the Father that He enjoys.

    In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (21-22)

    Paul refers to the Old Testament temple. We are living stones put together by Christ (1 Peter 2:5). The Church is under construction today. The temple is holy because the Holy Spirit fills each believer.

    J. Vernon McGee said that God placed in a human-made structure is a pagan philosophy. God is in the house because we are in the house. When we come together to worship, the Holy Spirit is present, but when we all leave the building, the Holy Spirit leaves with us.

    This building is important, but it’s not any more holy than your house, your car, your school, your office, or anywhere else you find yourself filled with the Holy Spirit. The house of God is not the church building…it’s you!!!


    The first three chapters of Ephesians are filled with doctrine and theology that help us understand our identity, who we are. The second half of the book is filled with practical application.

    To review,

    we are in Christ
    we are saints
    we are blessed
    we are appreciated
    we are saved

    We are reconciled—in Christ.

    Paul was imprisoned for allegedly taking a non-Jew inside the temple of Jerusalem (Acts 21:27, 29). It was his efforts at reconciliation that led him to prison where he wrote this letter.

    In some ways Ephesians is not unlike Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” a famous document written while imprisoned from the cause of reconciliation.

    At the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games last week, IOC president Thomas Bach said

    Olympic Games are always about building bridges to bring people together. Olympic Games are never about erecting walls to keep people apart. Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity.

    He echoes the words of Paul, recognizing that despite our history, culture, race, income, nationality, gender, occupation or family of origin our primary identity and true unity can only be found—not in athletic competition—but “in Christ.”

    We have more in common with believers of other nations, races and languages than non-believers from our own families. We are reconciled and made one in Christ.


    Some ideas from

    J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
    Mark Driscoll,
    Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
    GLO Bible
    Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
    J. Vernon McGee
    , Thru The Bible,

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

    We Are Saints, 12 January 2014

    Big Idea: We are saints, God’s people set apart for His purposes, blessed with grace and peace.

    Ephesians 1:1-2

    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

    To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

    Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


    Good morning, saints! Good morning, sinners!

    Today we continue our new series, Who Do You Think You Are? It is a series about identity, and identity is one of the most important aspects of life. I believe theology and anthropology—understanding God and humans—are the two most important fields of study, for the more we understand God and ourselves, the more we will flourish.

    Who are you? Who are we? These are the primary questions we will seek to answer throughout our study of the book of Ephesians.

    As a review for those who braved the snow last week and a summary for those who didn’t, we noted that Ephesians…

    • - was written by Paul in prison in Rome
    • - to the church in the city of Ephesus, a cosmopolitan city not unlike Ann Arbor
    • - it was written not only to the church at Ephesus but to all in the region
    • - it is, therefore, one of the most universal books of the Bible, filled with timeless truths
    • - frequently speaks of what it means to be “in Christ,” our primary, true identity

    I want to note a few additional things about this book.

    • - It is about “the Church which is His body,” of which Christ is the head
    • - Paul founded the church in Ephesus during his second missionary journey
    • - Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years during his third missionary journey (Acts 19:8-10; 20:31)
    • - This may be the epistle referred to in Colossians 4:16
    • - Like many New Testament books, Ephesians has an Old Testament parallel—Joshua
    • - The church in Ephesus had many great preachers including Paul, Apollos, John and Timothy; what a legacy!

    Ephesians 1 begins…

    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

    This is a letter written by Paul from a Roman prison. Paul was once a religious zealot named Saul.

    Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. (Acts 8:2-3)

    His conversion may be the most remarkable in history, an encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9). Later he goes by the name of Paul (Acts 13:9).

    Paul, an
    apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

    The word “apostle” is interesting. The Greek word means “messenger” or “envoy.” I like to say there are two types—Apostle and apostle. An Apostle is the highest office of the Church. They received their commission directly from Jesus. Even though Paul did not know Jesus during His earthly ministry, the glorified Jesus commissioned Paul. They also saw Jesus after His resurrection, often wrote scripture, and performed signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:112). They also started churches.

    Today there are people that are called
    apostles. I consider myself an apostle. I have been involved in starting or planting churches. I’m a spiritual entrepreneur.

    Paul, an apostle
    of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

    As we said last week, the core message of Ephesians is that our identity is in Christ. Paul is a messenger of Jesus. He has no personal agenda. The messenger only delivers—they don’t create—the message. As he was repeatedly arrested and beaten, he must’ve thought, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”

    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus
    by the will of God,

    It was clearly God’s will that Paul become an apostle. He was called for a very special purpose, specifically to write much of the New Testament and be the most prominent figure in it after Christ.

    Note that God does the calling. He still calls people today. He calls people to start churches, to travel to foreign countries, and to become pastors. He calls people to be beacons of light amidst the darkness at factories, schools, offices, and homes across our county. Be ready for His call. Be ready to respond. Be ready to obey.

    Jonah received a calling, did not obey, spent three nights in a fish, and eventually got on board with God’s will!

    You may be waiting—patiently or impatiently—for His call. I had a friend who spent years asking God to show him what to do. Silence meant to continue to be faithful to his current assignment until the time was right for something new, something that eventually came. He now leads a church God called him to plant in Chicagoland.

    You might not like your calling. Take it up with God!

    To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

    I began with the greeting, “Good morning saints.” When you think of saints, perhaps you think of a New Orleans football team or a bunch of dead guys that have churches named after them!

    A saint is a holy person.

    The word “sinner” is used about 300 times in the Bible, often in conjunction with the 600 references to God’s wrath. It occurs no more than three times in reference to believers. God sees us as saints. Why don’t we? When we begin following Jesus as Lord, we become genuinely new creations, though not totally new. We are given a new nature, the nature of Jesus Christ when we identify with Him. That’s incredible!

    Paul writes to the church…

    To God’s holy people
    in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

    …in Ephesus and to those in the region and calls them “God’s holy people” or saints.

    A saint is not a perfect person. Saints (
    haggais) means separated or set aside for the sole use of God, holy vessels like those in the tabernacle.

    J. Vernon McGee used to say there are two types of people today: saints and ain’ts!

    We have been set apart for God’s use. Isn’t that incredible?!

    We are saints
    and sinners. Notice what is next…

    To God’s holy people in Ephesus,
    the faithful in Christ Jesus:

    We are not saints because of how we act but because we are “in Christ.” Last week we briefly looked at nine uses of this phrase “in Christ” in the first thirteen verses of Ephesians. We are saints or God’s holy people “in Christ.” We are the faithful “in Christ.” We are full of faith.

    You might be thinking, “I’m not always faithful.” True. This is where the faithfulness of Jesus kicks in. Paul wrote to Timothy an incredible truth.

    Here is a trustworthy saying:

    If we died with him,
    we will also live with him;
    if we endure,
    we will also reign with him.
    If we disown him,
    he will also disown us;
    if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself.
    (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

    Because we are in Christ, we are faithful. It’s not about what we do, but what He has done.

    Imagine that your name was chosen in a radio contest and you’ve been given a
    backstage pass to a rock concert. You go backstage, someone asks your name and then asks you to leave. When you flash them your backstage pass, everything changes. You’re “with the band!” You are on their team. You didn’t sing or play an instrument or even setup the stage, but you’re with them. You have special privileges not because of who you are or what you’ve done but who you know.

    Being in Christ is so much more. It’s having a backstage pass to heaven, not because of anything you’ve done, but because you’re with Jesus.

    It’s actually much more.

    The bird is in the air and the air is in the bird.
    The fish is in the water and the water is in the fish.
    The believer is in Christ and Christ is in the believer.

    That’s radical!!!

    Paul continues this idea when he says…

    Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Grace and peace. These are two of my favorite words.

    What is grace?

    It is unmerited favor.

    was the Gentile form of greeting.

    Grace is the means by which God saves us. You must know God’s grace in order to have peace. The world can never know true peace until it knows God’s grace.

    Outside the church we see “love” and “peace” but rarely “grace.” It is that amazing!

    Peace was the religious word, shalom in Hebrew.

    Peace means peace with God, to have our sins forgiven. It is more than the absence of war. Shalom means “to complete, to make sound.” It was used to describe the temple when it was finished (1 Kings 7:51). It is used to describe tranquility. The word was also used as a greeting, as it is here.

    Last year our daughter, Kailey, talked about how she was going to focus on a word in 2013. I decided to follow her lead and have declared “peace” as my word for 2014. I have far more self-inflicted anxiety and fear and I’m choosing to embrace peace. Jesus is the Prince of peace. Paul blessed us with peace. I’m declaring peace on my life and I want to do the same for yours.

    Grace and peace are two things you can have regardless of life’s circumstances. They’re yours if you accept them, much like salvation and God’s love.

    Paul is greeting his friends and blessing them with grace and peace, not from Himself, but…

    Grace and peace to you
    from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    The Holy Spirit was already present in Ephesus. Now Paul ensures that the Father and Son are recognized.

    Notice how often Christ Jesus is mentioned in this short section.

    Christ is the title. Jesus was His human name. That’s why they’re used interchangeably. You can call me Pastor Kirk or Kirk the pastor. You can call Him Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. Paul goes a step further and acknowledges Jesus as LORD. All glory and honor and praise is due Him for He is God, He deserves our praise, He is worthy of our worship.


    We’ve spent a great deal of time on two short verses, just the greeting. If you’re reading through Ephesians with us, perhaps you blew past this passage, anxious to get to “the good stuff.” It’s here! In Christ we are saints. In Christ we are declared faithful. In Christ we are blessed with grace and peace.

    This week I had this thought of Jesus talking to me. I didn’t have a vision or hear an audible voice, but I simply had the realization that Jesus truly loves me. He knows me. He is my friend. He’s God, but I’m on His team. He has given me His identity. I am in Christ and Christ is in me. Wow!

    Every day we have a choice—to be saints or aints! We can choose to be lord of our lives or surrender to the LORD Jesus Christ. We can we His badge or risk it going alone, doing it our way. I urge you to embrace Jesus and the identity that is offered to you in Christ. It is truly a joy to say “Your will, Your way!”


    Some ideas from

    J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
    Mark Driscoll,
    Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
    GLO Bible
    J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible,

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

    Presence & Peace, John 16:16-33, 21 July 2013

    Big Idea: No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.


    We conclude the sixteenth chapter of John. We read Jesus’ final words to His followers as His arrest and crucifixion approaches.

    Before we begin I want to remind you of three things:

    1. Your Daddy loves you if you trust in Jesus
    2. The presence of God is here, not in Jesus’ flesh and bones, but the Holy Spirit
    3. Peace is available to those who follow Jesus, regardless of the circumstances


    Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

    Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

    He would be arrested, crucified, then resurrected.

    Jesus knew they wanted to know what He meant.

    Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (19-20)

    “Little while” may refer to Him leaving to die and then appear.
    “Little while” may refer to Him leaving earth and then, someday soon, appear.

    Joy is coming. Our sorrow will be turned into joy.

    He cares about the broken hearted. He is close to them.

    He gives this example:

    A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (21)

    He continues

    So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (22-24)

    This is the third time Jesus says to pray in His Name, to abide in Him, to obey Him.

    Pray to the Father in Jesus’ Name. You can pray to Jesus, but He’s with the Father praying for us.

    God wants to hear and answer prayer from those who follow and obey Jesus.

    Followers of Jesus have instant, direct access into the presence of God Almighty.

    Those that belong to Jesus—the branches connected to the Vine—have the same access to the Father that Jesus enjoys. When we pray in Jesus’ Name and for His glory, the Father gives whatever is asked. Why? As we will see in this next passage,
    the Father loves you!

    “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (25-27)

    Jesus often spoke in parables. Many of them are obvious to us because the Bible records His explanation, but so much of what He said was cryptic and mysterious. In fact, He frequently responded to questions with more questions rather than a simple answer.

    In verse 25, He acknowledges how He has been speaking figuratively.

    Mark Twain famously said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

    The Holy Spirit will later guide them and remind them of Jesus’ words, both those things they understood and those that were unclear.

    Some believe John 20:30-31 is the key to the book of John

    Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

    Verse 28 is also vital.

    I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (28)

    Only Jesus could make this declaration.

    Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” (29-30)

    Jesus is God in the flesh. They finally get it!

    “You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

    These men will desert Jesus.

    Later in the week there will be a moment when the Father is not with Jesus, on the cross forsaking Him as He bore our sins (Ps 22).

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (33)

    This is the last thing He says to them. He wants these words to ring in the minds as they watch Him suffer and die. He wants them to remember His presence, power and peace when He ascends into heaven. When they suffer persecution and ten of them martyrdom, He wants to be certain that they have a peace that endures.

    We can have peace in this life, only through Jesus.

    No Jesus. No peace.
    Know Jesus. Know Peace.

    The only thing you can find in this world is trouble. Trouble and peace do not negate one another. As Don Miller notes, “We are not saved
    from trouble, but rather saved in trouble.”

    Jesus doesn’t say, “Have courage and overcome the world.” Rather, the Greek emphasis is, “Have courage—
    I have overcome the world.”

    Jesus’ victory is our victory. Only in dying to ourselves and receiving new life in Christ can we have peace and joy.

    As Gary Burge concludes

    “Christianity is the offer of God to live in His followers and achieve in them the victory demonstrated in His Son Jesus Christ. And in that indwelling, an indescribable peace will be ours despite the fury and foment of the world around us.”

    - The NIV Application Commentary, John

    You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    The Holy Spirit, John 14:15-31, 26 MAy 2013

    Big Idea: Jesus loved us enough to leave…in order to usher in the Holy Spirit


    What is the greatest thing you’ve ever waited for?

    - spouse
    • job

    Chicago Cubs fans have been waiting for them to win the World Series since 1908!

    Was it worth it?

    Last week in Jesus’ farewell to His disciples, He said it’s good that He leaves because He’s going to prepare a place for them. He’s getting the house ready but He’ll return.

    In today’s passage as we continue our series on the Gospel of John, Jesus continues His farewell address to His eleven disciples in the Upper Room.

    It’s always hard to say goodbye to a loved one, but it’s easier if we know they are returning for a purpose...and that they will return.

    Jesus is telling His friends that He is leaving, He is leaving for a noble purpose, He will die, AND He will return.

    “If you love me, you will obey what I command. (14:15)

    We don’t usually command people to obey, except, perhaps, a parent to a child. This word “command” could be translated, “to watch carefully or attend to; training the eyes.” We will be attentive to Jesus’ commands if we love Him.

    If you love Me, you’ll care about what I have to say and you’ll listen to my instructions. If you love Me, attend to my teachings.

    Actions speak louder than words.

    And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (16-17)

    The Greek word translated “Counselor” in the NIV,
    parakleton, might best be conveyed as “advocate,” someone like a defense attorney. “Para” means alongside and “kletos” is to call. The paraclete will come alongside and help in your defense.

    Notice the Father will give “another” Counselor or advocate. The Father sent Jesus, and He will send the Holy Spirit.

    Because of the Holy Spirit, we are better off today than the disciples. We have 24/7 access to God through the Holy Spirit. Last week we noted we will do greater things.

    The Greeks used the same word for truth and reality. Usually it conveyed reality. Jesus is offering us a Spirit of reality, access to things that are most real. We live in a world of illusions and delusions.

    For example, we believe we are entitled to at least seventy or eighty years of healthy living on this planet. Anything less and we are robbed. This is an illusion because every day is a gift we receive. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

    Jesus says, “I will introduce you to reality.”

    I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (18-21)

    I cannot imagine being an orphan. The pain of being alone in the world must be excruciating. Jesus says He will return.

    What does Jesus mean when He says, “I will come to you? It could refer to one of three things.

    - second coming
    - the Holy Spirit
    - most likely the resurrection on Easter

    We are containing the divine. This is a radical reality.

    Paul will write that we are “in Christ.”

    Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” (22)

    J. Vernon McGee notes Judas is the first missionary. His concern is for the world. Is yours?

    Back in John 1:10, we saw Jesus in the that He made, yet the world didn’t know Him.

    John 3:16 says God so loved the world.

    Much of the world does not love God today.

    Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (23-24)

    This is pretty straightforward.

    Now Jesus gives a sneak preview of Pentecost Sunday, which was actually last Sunday on the Christian calendar. The second chapter of the book of Acts will record the moment in which the Holy Spirit is activated on earth. Jesus says,

    “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (25-27)

    Verse 25 was long a source of Church history, some believing the Father sent the Spirit and others saying the Father and the Son sent the Spirit (Nicene Creed).

    Notice the Spirit will help John and the others remember what Jesus said and they will write it down!

    Jesus’ legacy to His followers was Peace; Shalom. This is not a temporary, earthly peace but a divine peace with God (Romans 5:1) that cannot be disrupted.

    The passage concludes with Jesus saying…

    “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

    Jesus knows satan is coming.


    “Come now; let us leave.

    Go...with the Word of the Father, the truth of the Holy Spirit, and the peace of God.

    It’s almost time for us to leave, too!

    As we await Your return, LORD Jesus, may the power of the Holy Spirit be alive in our lives. Fill us, Holy Spirit. In Jesus Name, amen.

    You can listen to the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.