Monday, December 1, 2014

Written by Pastor Stuppy

December 3, 2014
God is our refuge and strength.

Whenever he was scared, Jimmy ran to his mom and dad’s bedroom. Whenever it would storm and the lightening would flash and the thunder would boom, Jimmy would run to his mom and dad’s bedroom. Whenever he was afraid that the boogie-man under his bed was going to get him, Jimmy would hop out of his bed and run down the hall to his mom and dad’s bedroom. He would leap into their bed and hide under the covers. Jimmy found security in his mom and dad’s room. With mom on one side and dad on the other, Jimmy felt safe and wasn’t afraid anymore.

Now I realize that most of us have grown out of that stage. When we’re scared, we no longer run to mom and dad’s room. But let me ask you this: Where do you run? Where do you run when lightening strikes in your life? Where do you run when the thunder of trouble rumbles all around you? Where do you seek refuge when you see the storm clouds gathering on the horizon of your life?

A refuge is a place where you go to find shelter. It’s a place where you feel safe and secure. For many people their home is their refuge. That is where they find shelter from the elements: the rain and the harsh winter wind. There they also find respite from the hectic pace of life; from the strain and frustration of work; from the callous; cold-hearted attitude that has become so common in our communities. "Even if nobody else cares, at least I know my family is there for me."

Back in the days of King David, the one who wrote most of the psalms, people often sought refuge in caves or walled cities such as Jerusalem. Yet as safe as any of these places might be, none of them can give perfect protection. Those of you who know your Bible history, know that the city of Jerusalem was attacked, captured and destroyed at least three different times, and most of its inhabitants were killed. Those of you who know medieval history know that those who lived in castles were not protected from the devastating plagues that swept across Europe, killing hundreds of thousands.

The same is true today. Our homes may be strong but few could withstand the direct hit of a tornado or hurricane. When the flood waters rise, houses once thought secure, are inundated. The threats of terrorists’ attacks ebolla scares remind us that places of refuge and safety are not all that easy to come by.

The Psalmist says "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Ps 46:1). God is always present. He is there day and night. He is with us every second of the day. He knows the dangers that surround us. He knows our needs and how best to help. He also has the desire and ability to help us. He is in control. So don’t be afraid. Put your trust in God. Join the psalmist and say, "Therefore, we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea." (Psalm 46:2). God is our Refuge and Strength!

Monday, November 17, 2014

What does God need to do to get your attention?

When my alarm clock goes off early in the morning in certainly gets my attention, as well as that of my wife. Referees get the attention of basketball players with a whistle.  Babies get the attention of their parents with the piercing screams.  Parents get the attention of their children by threatening to cut off their allowance if they don't clean up their room.
You can't believe how much money is spent today getting peoples' attention.  What young person wouldn't want to buy the latest video game or new phone after seeing it advertised for four months on TV? How can you resist buying a lottery ticket after hearing about all those who have won millions? With so many things demanding our attention and begging for our time, maybe that is the only way we can be lured in.  Someone or something has to grab our attention.
Getting peoples' attention is not something new.  God's done it many times. I'm sure that the dark clouds, thunder and lightening that surrounded Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Ten Commandments got the attention of the Israelites.  Don't you think that he got people's attention with the flood, the fall of Jericho, and with the mighty feats of Sampson?
One might wonder how God gets our attention today. Since he doesn't openly reveal himself in the same way now that he did with the nation of Israel, what does he do?
I can't help but think that God has caught the attention of many a new parent as they witnessed the miracle of birth and the precious gift of a child. Doesn't God seek our attention every time we look up into the heavens and see the marvels of the world which he made? How can we look at a rainbow and not recall that God placed it in the sky to remind us of his promise not to again destroy the world until judgment day arrives.
Doesn't God also get our attention than when we find ourselves flat on our back in the hospital awaiting surgery or as we await the results of lab test? What about when we lose our job? When a loved one dies? When tragedy strikes? God can use these things too to get our attention. When these things take place, what do we do? We often look to God. We look to God for help, for strength and for answers.

What God has done to capture more attention than anything else has to be the gift of God's own Son, Jesus Christ. Look at how much fuss goes on at Christmas time. Even though many don’t believe in Jesus, He still gets their attention. The resurrection of Christ has done the same thing. It was God’s proclamation to the world that the victory over sin, death and the grave was won for us by Christ. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

          “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Those words have an edge to them. There is a rebuke in them. Truly the women, who came to the tomb of Jesus, were looking for someone who was dead, not someone who was alive. Think about them on that first Easter morning. Because they did not have enough time to properly prepare Jesus’ dead body for burial on the first Good Friday, these women had purchased spices with which to finish the task once the Sabbath ended. So early on Sunday morning, the women got up and, carrying the spices they had purchased, set out for the tomb. As they walked, they began to talk about the stone that had been placed in front of the tomb and sealed with Pilate’s own seal. They wondered who would take it away.
          When they arrived, they found the tomb open. With great grief they looked into the tomb. Then to their great surprise, an angel greeted them and asked them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” In other words, “Why do you act as though the Savior were still dead?” The words contained a rebuke, a rebuke for their lack of faith, a rebuke for living as though Jesus were still dead.
          We too deserve this rebuke. Like those women, we carry around needless burdens. We often carry around needless burdens of guilt and shame because of our sins. We act as though Jesus were still dead and, therefore, we are still in our sins.
          Like the women, we worry and fret about things when we really have nothing to worry about. The women fretted about the stone and who would roll it away. How often don’t we worry about the ‘stones’ that stand in our way? We live as though Jesus were still dead.
          The women came to the cemetery with great grief. They came expecting to find a dead body. We too often stand in the cemetery and think only of the deaths of those we love and of our own deaths that are to come. We act as though Jesus were still dead.
          Why do you look for the living among the dead? When he sees us bearing needless burdens, fretting and worrying our way through life, grieving over loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus, and when he sees us letting sin get a foothold in our lives, the Lord asks us too through his angel, “Why do you live as though I were still dead?” We have a risen Lord! Jesus, who was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised again for our justification. We have a risen Lord who has broken the power of the grave so that we can look forward to rising from the dead with our loved ones one day. We have a risen Lord who gives us the power to say “no” to sin. Let’s not live as though Jesus were dead; we have a risen Lord.

There is no reason to live in fear.

          Many years ago, the children of Israel were faced with a challenge.  They were ready to enter the Promised Land, the land of Canaan.  The problem was that it was inhabited by many powerful nations.  All over the land there were fortified cities.  This was the land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants.
After crossing the Jordan River, they came face to face with the city of Jericho.  It was a city surrounded by two great walls.  One wall, I read, was six feet thick and thirty feet high.  The inner wall was twelve feet thick.  The walls were so large, people built their houses on top of them.  Jericho was the first step Israel had to face in its conquest of the Promised Land.
From a human viewpoint, things did not look good.  How would they penetrate these walls?  How would the ensuing battle go? They weren’t warriors! They were slaves, nomads, shepherds, many things, but, not warriors. Joshua, their leader, had never commanded an army. I’m sure these Israelites were filled with fear.
Their fears must have increased even more when they heard about God’s plan of attack. God told the Israelites to march around the city once each day for six days.  On the seventh day they were to march around it seven times.  The priests were to blow their horns and the people were to shout.  Then, God said, the walls will fall down.
Put yourself in their shoes.  How foolish they must have looked to the people of Jericho!  How many doubts and fears must have filled their hearts.
Are God's promises to us any less spectacular?  Are they any easier to believe?  Are the foes we face any less threatening? Whether it is a terrorist’s attack or a bout with cancer, we must put our trust in God. God says that all things will work for the good of those who love him.  He says that all who believe in him will live and never die.  He says that he has given his angels charge over us to keep us from danger.  Are these promises any good? Certainly, God gave them to us.
It all comes down to faith.  The Israelites did what God told them to do and the walls of Jericho came crashing down.  (Read Joshua 6.)  As we grasp God's promises in faith, we too, will be the recipient of God's blessings and realize the fulfillment of his promises.
Trust in God, believing that our sins are forgiven, faith that we have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, knowing with certainty that we shall rise from the grave and live with God in heaven for all eternity, they all rest on the promises of God. As you deal with the problems of life, put your faith in God, his Word and promises. You will not be disappointed.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

“I will never leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrew 13:5

       “For some, the presence of difficulties and suffering in the world mean that God is punishing them for something. But for others, it is the sign that God is not able to do anything about the problems they face. Others wonder if he simply does not care.
William Frey, retired Episcopal bishop from Colorado, tells the following story: “When I was a younger man, I volunteered to read to a degree student named John who was blind. One day I asked him, “How did you lose your sight?” “A chemical explosion,” John said, “at the age of thirteen.” “How did that make you feel?” I asked. “Life was over. I felt helpless. I hated God,” John responded. “For the first six months I did nothing to improve my lot in life. I would eat all my meals alone in my room.
One day my father entered my room and said, ‘John, winter’s coming and the storm windows need to be up — that’s your job. I want those hung by the time I get back this evening or else!’ Then he turned, walked out of the room and slammed the door. I got so angry. I thought Who does he think I am? I’m blind! I was so angry I decided to do it. I felt my way to the garage, found the windows, located the necessary tools, found the ladder, all the while muttering under my breath, ‘I’ll show them. I’ll fall, then they’ll have a blind and paralyzed son!’” John continued, “I got the windows up. I found out later that never at any moment was my father more than four or five feet away from my side.” In the same way, Jesus did not promise to spare us, but he did promise to be with us: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).”
I recently ran across this article on the intranet and wanted to share it with you. To sum up, we should never doubt God’s love. If God loved us enough to give us his Son as our Savior, why would he hesitate to give anything else we need? What blessing would he withhold? When tragedy or trials come, don’t doubt God’s love for you, his presence in your life. His goal is always to bless you. His goal is that you spend eternity with him in glory. Praise be to the Lord!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Don’t lose sight of that which is most important!

          Years ago, an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students. He was talking to them about how they were to prioritize their busy schedules. To drive home a point he wanted to make, he took out a one gallon, wide-mouth mason jar. He then took some big rocks and carefully placed them into the jar, getting in as many as he could. He them asked the class if the jar was full and they said yes. He smiled and pulled out another jar filled with gravel and poured it over the large rocks and shook it until it all settled down and was filled to the top. He asked again if the jar was filled. They had caught on but before they could answer he took sand and poured it in and watched it sift down between the empty spaces of the gravel. Is it full now, he asked? He then poured water into the jar which took up more of the empty space. When he was done, he asked them, “Now, what is the point of this experiment?”
          One eager beaver said, “No matter how busy you may be, you can always squeeze a little more into your schedule.” He said, “No, you missed the point.” Think about it. The point was simply this, “If you don’t put in the big rocks first, you will never get them in at all.” If you don’t take care of the most important things in life, in your schedule, in your day, they will never fit them in.
          So what are the most important things in your life? I am sure we would talk about our job, our education, taking care of our family, helping the kids with home work, etc. These are truly important. I doubt that anyone would debate that. But, it’s not uncommon to let the most important thing in life get left out of the picture or “mason jar” if you will.
          There is nothing more important than knowing that SALVATION IS FOUND IN NO ONE ELSE THAN JESUS CHRIST. When you put together your schedule, be sure he is part of it. Be sure you have time for worship, Bible study, and prayer. Also be sure to make time to teach these truths to your children. And one we might overlook - making time to share Jesus with those around you. Bowling, soccer matches, dance lessons, March Madness, fishing, pursing your education, taking care of your lawn, even going to work – they are all like gravel, sand, and water. The big things, the rocks in life, are the ones that take care of your spiritual life, knowing Jesus as your Savior and having time to share that Savior with others. Be sure to make the time.

God’s love for sinners is clearly seen in all our Lord does for us.

          The story is told of a farmer who once owned a number of hens. Unfortunately one afternoon the hen house burned down. As the farmer picked through the rubble, he came across one hen lying dead near the door of the hen house. Her top feathers were singed brown from the fire and her head lay limp. When he reached to pick her up, he felt something move. The hen’s four chicks came scurrying out from beneath her. The hen’s body had saved them by shielding them from the flames even though she died in the process.
This story or illustration has been around for some time in various forms, but it serves well as an illustration of the love that our Lord has shown to us. Jesus uses much the same picture when he said, ““O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under wings, but you were not willing!
Jesus had come to save all people from their sins and their consequence. The first promise had been made to Adam and Eve soon after their sin of disobedience. That promise was renewed again and again – to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and many others.
Yet, when Jesus arrived, he was rejected. Oh, there were some who believed in him. His popularity went up and down. In his home town of Nazareth, they tried to kill him. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes often sought to discredit Jesus. “He eats with sinners,” they cried. He worked with prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners. More important of all, he stole the hearts of the people. The more he was praised by others, the greater their hatred.
Yet he loved him. As he looked at the very ones who would plot for his arrest and cry out for his death, Jesus wept. You can feel it in his words – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…. how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under wings, but you were not willing!”
Every soul is precious to the Lord. That includes yours and mine. He loves us all. He proved that at Calvary. There the innocent Lamb of God laid down his life for the sins of the world. There he died in our place. There he faced the wrath of his Father and endured the pains of hell. He did it out of love for us.
What a comfort that is for us all. We need a Savior just as much as the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day. Our sinful nature is just as strong as theirs. How often aren’t we rejecting the Savior as they did? We do it when we refuse to listen to him and do our own thing. It happens when we let the activities of life squeeze time for worship and prayer out of our schedules. And yet Jesus loves us. With his love he seeks to draw us back again and again. Again and again he assures of his forgiveness and love. Just as a hen, by instinct, loves her chicks, Jesus loves us because it is part of his nature to do so. Thank God that it is.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lent – a time for meditation, repentance, and preparation

          Lent is upon us once again. The word "Lent" itself is from the old English word which means spring. The German word "Lenz" also means "spring." From what I could find out its basic meaning is to lengthen and refers to the lengthening of the days in the spring time.  Since a part of the pre-Easter season always falls in spring, it is only natural that through the ages this season from Ash Wednesday to Easter should come to be called Lent.
The early Christians remembered Lent with special devotions which were held during the forty hours during which our Savior lay in the tomb. The period of commemoration was later extended to two weeks, and eventually, in recognition of the forty days of our Lord's temptation, to forty days. Since Sundays were never fast days, these days were during Lent but not considered part of Lent. As a result Lent runs from Ash Wednesday up to Easter Sunday.
For many, including Lutherans, Lent is a time of commemoration. The Scripture lessons each Wednesday evening retell the journey that our Lord took to the cross. It begins with his meeting with his disciples to celebrate the Passover on Maundy Thursday, the night he instituted the Lord's Supper. It ends with the Lord’s dead body being placed in the grave to await the resurrection on Easter morning.
Lent is also a special time of spiritual contemplation. Our focus is on the passion or suffering of our Lord but then also extends to the cause for that suffering. That cause, of course, is our sinfulness. Christ came into the world to carry the burden of our sins on himself. Even though he was holy, without sin, he took on our sins and suffered their consequence.  The wrath of the Father was directed toward him. He endured the pain and torment of hell and died in our place.
When we see the dire results of our sins, we cannot help but grieve. It is our sins and those of the world that brought this pain and suffering on our Lord. Lent is a time when we focus our need to repent of our sins and look to Jesus as our only hope and salvation.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this observance. In the Medieval church it was customary for penitents to come to church on this day in sack cloth and bare feet. After finishing their prayers, they threw ashes on their heads - ashes, made from palms blessed the previous Palm Sunday.
The Lenten season ends with the glorious message of Easter morning, "He is risen!" It assures us that his work was done and was complete. The payment for sin had been made.  The wrath of God appeased. The power of sin, death, the devil and the grave were all broken.  What a glorious day and what a glorious promise Jesus gives us - "Because I live, ye shall live also!
So, while Lent is a season of repentance and sorrow over sin, it is also a time when we look ahead to the joy of Easter day. May the Lord bless your meditation this Lenten season!

The key to a good night’s sleep

          My wife and I have a friend who just can’t sleep well if the window is not open.  Even in the winter she opens the window wide and turns up the electric blanket. My dad slept with the covers over his head. It could be ninety degrees out and he still put the sheet over his head.  He’d wake up dripping wet in sweat but he slept like a baby.
The key to a good night’s sleep for me is a good pillow. For years I had the perfect pillow. It was a feather pillow that had gone through many a pillow fight when I was away to school. It was no longer fluffy and full since the feathers had all broken down. My wife said it was filled with quills not feathers. I think she was right. I haven’t slept well since I left it at a motel on a family trip.
A long time ago, a man named Jacob had a rock for a pillow. He was the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. He was on his way to his uncle Laban’s house to find a wife. The real reason he was making this journey was that his brother, Esau, wanted to kill him. Jacob had stolen Esau’s birth right, then schemed with his mother to get the blessing too. The blessing was no ordinary blessing. It was the promise that a great nation would come from his seed, that the land of Palestine would someday belong to his descendants, and that the Savior would come from his seed.
After all the dirty tricks that Jacob had pulled, he had to be wondering if God would still bless him. He didn’t have to wait long for the answer. No sooner had he started his journey when God came to him at Bethel (which means `the house of God’) and renewed the promises that he had made to Abraham and Isaac.  They were promises that Jacob needed to hear. Now he could take his journey with peace in his heart for God was with him.
There are times in our life when we may wonder if God is with us. Our sins may trouble us. We may not have been to church in a long time. We may simply believe God is not on our side.
In his Word, God comes to us and makes promises just wonderful as those he made to Jacob. He promises to be with us always, to forgive our every sin, to turn troubles into blessings. He promises to watch over us with his angels, to provide for our needs and much more.  Just open the Bible and read a bit.  You won’t be able to read far before you will run across these gracious promises of our Lord.
As we approach the somber Lenten season and our joyous celebration of Easter, we can’t help but think about the promise of Jesus that all who believe in him – “you shall never die but  have eternal life.” What a joy to know that when our life on this earth is over, our dear Lord will gather his children, every believer in heaven and earth, to live with him forever in glory.
As you go through your life, face difficult times, keep these promises of God before your eyes and in your heart. You will sleep in peace each night whether you rest your head on a soft pillow or a rock.

You’re on safe ice when you’re trusting in the Lord!

         I grew up in Michigan only a few miles from the lake. A few days ago I heard that Lake Michigan had frozen over for the first time in twenty years. It brought back memories and reminded me of a story I heard long ago.
In the early days of our country a weary traveler came to the banks of the Mississippi River for the first time. There was no bridge. It was in the middle of winter, the surface of the mighty river was covered with ice. He wanted to cross over to the other side but did not know if the ice would be strong enough to support his weight.
Night was falling, and it was urgent that he reach the other side. Finally, after much hesitation and with many fears, he began to creep cautiously across the surface of the ice on his hands and knees. About halfway across he heard the sound of singing behind him. Out of the dusk came another man, driving a four-horse load of coal across the ice and singing merrily as he went his way!
Here he was, on hands and knees, trembling, lest the ice not be strong enough to bear him up! And there, as if whisked away by the winter's wind, went the other man, his horses, his sleigh, and his load of coal - upheld by the ice on which he, the weary traveler, was creeping on hands and knees.
Some of us have learned only to creep upon the promises of God. Cautiously we venture forth upon his promises, as though our step might make his promises more secure. We need to cast our fears aside. Our faith is founded on the unchangeable and unbreakable promises of God.
As we face troublesome times, God says that he will always be with us and that he will protect us from harm and danger. That promise is more certain than that ice which carried the weight of the wagon loaded with coal. God's promises are founded on his faithfulness to his Word, his almighty power and divine wisdom.
It's only when we trust in ourselves do we find ourselves on thin ice. How frail we are! How helpless to solve the problems we face! What can we do to solve the problem of sin? What can we do to make up for the countless times we have broken God's law and will continue to do so? Without the Lord's help our situation is hopeless.
It is only when we put our trust in the Lord can we be certain that all will turn out well. This is not only true when it comes to the problems we face day in and day out. More importantly, it is true when we are face to face with the consequences of our sin.
"Commit thy way unto the Lord. Trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass." (Psalm 37:5) Turn your problems and troubles over to the Lord. Put your trust in him and you need never be afraid. He is our Rock and Fortress. We have no reason to be afraid as long as we have him to rely on. With him as our foundation, we are never on thin ice.

Jesus is the Key to Winning “the Gold.”

          In Sochi Russia, athletes from countries all over the world have come to compete in winter sports.  Most are young. Some are older. All are the best at what they do. Getting to the Olympics, for most athletes, requires a life of sacrifice and hard work. Between the work-outs, training, and competing, athletes work long and hard to get their chance to win the gold. That’s the goal of the Olympic athletes - win a medal, gold, silver, or bronze, preferably gold. They want to do the best they can and hope that it is good enough to win one of the coveted medals. Along with it, would come the satisfaction and pride of a job well done, the glory of being number one.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all striving for something. It is likely not an Olympic gold medal but something much closer to our grasp. It might be gold in the form of money, success, or worldly possessions.  Our goal might be to retire early and comfortably. We might wish to travel the world and see exotic places.  Or our goal may be simply to have the good life – good friends, good health, and a loving family. We all have our goals in life. We may pursue them vigorously or let things just happen but we have goals none the less.
As a child of God, we have many spiritual goal as well. These goals are much more important than money, retirement plans, or even our health.  Our goal as God’s child is to live a righteous and holy life. It is a goal that is unattainable until we are freed from the sinful nature that clings to us. Our goal is to worship our Lord, to love our neighbor as our self, and so on. We may not succeed in reaching these goals here and now, as God’s child we embrace them.
There is another goal that we have which we would call “A Spiritual God Medal”. That goal is to spend eternity in heaven with our Lord. From John 3:16 we learn how this goal is reached. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Now that is a goal worth pursing! Unlike the Olympic gold medals which can only be given to one person or one team in each event, this prize is available to all. When Jesus died on the cross, he took away the sins of the whole world.
God wants us to put our faith, our trust in Jesus as our Savior from sin and remain faithful to him until our life on this earth is over.  That’s when we, as God’s children, can claim the prize – the gift of eternal life. It’s a reward that is not based on our works, how good or bad we have been.  The Bible states clearly that we are sinners. Salvation is a gift from God.
If everyone could walk away from the Olympics with a gold medal, there would be little interest in pursuing such a goal. How different with salvation!  Oh, that all would seek out the Lord Jesus as their Savior and put their trust in him.  And let us, who know him, remain faithful until the end and we will receive the “Crown of Life” (Rev 2:10).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Having it all! Is it possible?

           It is hard to imagine how wealthy some are in the world. Investor Warren Buffet, the Walton family of Walmart fame, Bill Gates, and others. They have accumulated not millions but billions. To those on the outside people dream about what it would be like to be that rich. We led to think that such wealth would mean an end to our problems, a life of easy, and happiness. We know, from many examples that this is just not the case. Stories abound about lottery winners whose lives are ruined by their acquired wealth.
           One famous example is that of the late billionaire, Howard Hughes. At the age of 20 he became a noted film producer and one of his works, Two Arabian Knights, won an academy award. As a pilot he set cross-country and around the world speed records. He had highly publicized relationships with Ginger Rodgers, Katherine Hepburn and Ava Gardner, among other Holly wood legends. And the income from the business he inherited provided him with almost unlimited funds. Between the fantastic amount of wealth he accumulated and the remarkable feats he achieved, most agree that he had it all.
           Yet all the outward success he fostered decayed quickly. He began to suffer from a series of mental disorders, and he became a fanatic about cleanliness, fearful of any germs. (His servants had to wear white gloves, sometimes several pairs, when touching documents he would alter read.) He had a devouring dependence on narcotics. His last years were the worst: naked, dirty and emaciated, he remained in darkened rooms and limited his contacts to a few employees who kept him alive. In a sense, he still "had it all"; he had his billions. Yet he had nothing.
           In today's success orientated world, happiness and contentment are being wrongly equated with Hughes style success. Big money, respected accomplishments and high-society connections are tantalizingly offered as bait to lure the commoner into believing that "having it all" means everything.
           "Having it all," that is, true happiness and contentment, cannot be bought, bribed or earned. But it is given freely, as a gift, by the same Lord who has given us all good things to enjoy. In fact, God wants us to have it all!
           Jesus once said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." It was for that very reason that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world. He lived a perfect life and died on excruciating death in our place, to pay for our sins. By that death, later by his resurrection from the dead Jesus destroyed sin and its power once and for all. He victoriously made things right between us and our God by his self-sacrifice. By believing in him we share in that victory!
           We can know that our sins have been forgiven by our gracious God, that Jesus has put us back into a right relationship with Him, and that He will give us the ultimate evidence of that victory in everlasting heavenly glory.

           Believe in Jesus as you Savior from sin - that's having it all!

Christ is King – let him rule your life.

           I read a story about a young sentry who was on guard duty for the first time. He had orders not to admit any car unless it had a special identification seal on its bumper. About the middle of the night an unmarked car approached which the sentry quickly stopped. Inside the car was a general and his driver. When the sentry told them that they could not enter because the special seal was not on the car, the general got impatient and somewhat angry. He finally leaned over and told his driver not to worry just drive on through. When the sentry heard this he moved forward and asked the general, “I’m sorry to bother you sir, but I’m new at all this. Could you please tell me who I should shoot first, you or the driver?” This young sentry may have been new to his job but he knew what his job was. He knew what it meant to take orders and carry them out, to respect those in authority.
While we may not be in the military, we are expected to comply with those who have authority over us. That would certainly include our parents if we are children, the police, the local and state governments, etc. We submit to the authority of the IRS when we pay our taxes even though we may not like it.
The authority that I would like you to think about more seriously is the Lord, Jesus Christ. In fact, the Bible calls him the King of kings and Lord of lords. When Pilate questioned Jesus about this, shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus replied, “You’re right when you say that I am a king” (John 18:37). What that means to us who follow Jesus is that he is our King.
The rule of a king is called a ‘monarchy’. There are roughly 200 countries in the world and about a fourth of them have some form of a monarchy. Most of these monarchs are figureheads with a parliament type body having the real power. In God’s kingdom, the power of Christ is supreme. His power is unlimited. He created everything that exists and sustains it with the power of his Word. With his power, he rules the world. He controls the forces of nature. He brings about the rise and fall, not only of the ocean tides, but the nations of the world. They all exist by his permission.
His desire is that as many people as possible would come to know him as their Savior before he returns on Judgment Day when it will be too late. As our King, he watches over us. He protects us from harm and danger. With his victory at Calvary, he defeated the Devil, freed us from the power of sin and death.
There is no king who has had such power, can do so much, or moved his people more. Do you recognize him as your King? Do you submit to his will as the Lord of your life or do you often go out and do “your own thing?” Do you trust him to save you and protect you? Do you believe that, according to his promise, he will turn your trials into blessings? Most important of all, do you take your sins, when you fall short, to his throne of grace and ask for his forgiveness? It’s yours. You have his promise on that.
Like the young sentry, don’t ever forget who is in authority. Always seek to do his will for Jesus Christ is the King of kings.

Have you made a New Year’s resolution?

          Did you make it till midnight on New Year’s Eve? Maybe it’s not important to you to observe this tradition. But, people around the world wait with eager anticipation for the stroke of midnight on December 31st to welcome in the New Year. Party hats and horns, confetti and streamers, balloons and fireworks, are all part of the celebration. Then at midnight, everyone shouts “Happy New Year!”
Have you given much thought to what you are saying when you wish someone a “Happy New Year?” Is it your HOPE that their New Year will be a good one? Is it merely a wish you are making on their behalf? “I hope you win the lottery.” or, “I hope you don’t get laid off.”
Let’s face it. Isn’t looking into the future nothing more than a “hope and a prayer”? After all, we can’t see into the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen or how things will go in our life? Will we lose our job or get a promotion? Will our business prosper or will we go bankrupt? Will we be blessed with good health or face sickness? Will we see the blessed arrival of a baby or face the loss of someone we love? For most the future is seen as a blank slate that has yet to be written. They ask, ‘How can anyone know and be certain that the New Year will be a happy one?’
The truth is that one can know. The truth is that the greeting “Happy New Year” when used for a child of God is not an optimistic wish but something we know will be true. It is a prediction that will become reality. We can say this because it is based on the word and promise of God.
When Jesus came into this world, he did not simply come so we could celebrate his birth. He came to suffer and die. Through that suffering and death, Jesus defeated Satan and freed us from his power. By his resurrection, he assured us that death and the grave can no longer imprison us. By being punished for our sins, he assures us that our sins cannot condemn us. In other words, there is nothing yet to be done to secure our happiness for the future.
While we live on this earth, things may not always be easy. Before we are taken to glory, we feel the effects of sin around us and from within. This experience is not always a pleasant one. When we lose a loved one in death, it hurts. Yet, if they die in Christ, it won’t be long until we see them again. We face problems, many of them, but God has promised to use them for our good. The bottom line is that our futures are bright and our lives are good - so long as Jesus lives in our heart.
If you want your New Year to truly be a happy one, stay close to Jesus and his Word. Let him rule your heart and life. Trust in his promises. Enjoy the blessings he has to give! Have a happy New Year!