Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Journey of Joy


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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:9–12).

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).

On Sunday, I spoke about three aspects of joy; the first one is one we don’t usually consider when we think about joy.

Joy and Pain are Strangely Connected

If you think about the Christmas story, there really was no reason for joy the night Jesus was born. The Israelites had waited hundreds of years for the Messiah. The Roman government occupied and ruled over Israel. Emperor Augustus declared a world tax (that is never good). Mary, a teenage girl was pregnant outside of wedlock. Joseph, pledged to be married to Mary, had very little control over his own life. He had to take his nine-month pregnant fiancée on a long trip to Jerusalem on foot (or donkey). There was no place for Mary and Joseph to stay (Stables were often caves with feeding troughs (mangers) carved into the rock walls.). Shepherds were out on a hillside working the nightshift. They were not singing “I’ll be home for Christmas.”

It was in this backdrop that we are introduced to message of angels. The angels intrude, breaking with the ordinary. They show up in unexpected places at unexpected times.
Jesus comes at just the right time in history.

The angels message: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy…”

The same message is for you and for me, “You are about to experience joy.”  

When we are going through pain or disappointment or discouragement, we have to wait things out because of the joy that will flood our hearts when God does his work. It is because of the joy before us that we endure what we are going through today.

Even in the midst of hardship there is a longer, broader view, a perspective that shows us that our trials can lead us to grow and become mature in our faith. As we walk in relationship with God, we can grow to experience a sense of joy that comes from understanding there is more than the pain we’re facing.

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Hebrews 12:2, which says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” What kept Jesus from disserting his mission? The joy of having a relationship with us.

Read page 52 of The Star devotional.

Joy is Contagious

Have you seen pictures of when a village receives a working clean water source? If not, here is a good one for you: Water Aid Video

The exuberant smiles on the faces of the people say it all—pure joy! The joy was experienced in the whole community.

The angel said the good news of great joy is for all people. The good news isn’t just for all shepherds or all Americans or all Christians. The good news is for the world—everyone.

Psalm 96 puts it this way: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes” (Psalm 96:11–13).

Joy Leads to Worship

Worship and joy fit wonderfully together. When we worship, we experience joy. When we experience joy, we worship. This is one of the reasons we sing when we get together as a church. It reminds us of the joy set before us.

In the Christmas story, the angel announced the good news of great joy, and then the entire host praised God. The shepherds immediately went to see the baby Jesus, worshiped Him, and then left telling everyone they met about what they saw. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:10–11).

We can experience the same this Advent season as we journey toward the birth of Christ and live in the truth that the good news of His arrival is the salvation He brings.
Peter told us our walk of faith in Jesus brings us a sense of joy: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).

Name the Sorrow. Name the Joy

Sunday I suggested that you name the struggle/season/pain/sorrow that you are going through. After naming it, cross it out and replace it with the joy you expect to have when God completes his work in you. For example:


Prayer

God, thank You for the good news of great joy that is for everyone—that Your Son, Jesus, has come to save us. Please help us to experience joy alongside the pain of life and to respond to joy in worship. Draw us to Yourself as we draw near to Christmas, and let us be a source of joy to others in this season and every season. Amen.


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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

A Journey of Love

Sunday, our Centerpointe kids reminded us that Christmas is about God demonstrating His love for us through His son Jesus. The key point was “God will never stop loving us.” I love the kid’s services, they are fun and full of life.
We often talk about Christmas as the time “when love came down.” We say God’s love entered the world as a baby. And that is all true. But we would be mistaken if we didn’t take a longer view, a view back in time to the beginning of the world. The history of our world, the story of the Bible, is a love story from the first day of creation. It is the story of God’s love for His people and His plan of redemption to bring us back into relationship with Him.
God is not some distant uncle who suddenly shows up with a gift nobody knows what to do with. Nor is He a cold and miserly distant figure grudgingly offering us an occasional token. Yes, love came crashing into that stable in Bethlehem. But Jesus’s birth was the culmination of a long history of love. And His love for us today, this Advent season, is not something new.
Psalm 139 tells all about how God knew us intimately before we were born. And the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians:  “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4–6).
God’s love does not depend on us. It’s not something we have to earn or perform for to maintain. It starts with God, not us. God is love. It is His nature and character. His love for us was there from the beginning of time and will continue throughout eternity.

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It can be a mind-boggling concept to grasp. But as we pursue the journey of love, let me encourage you to simply accept that God’s love for us exists beyond the constraints of time, space, and our limited understanding. It’s a love worth focusing on, meditating on, and basking in during this season of preparation.








Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Journey of Hope This Christmas


Sunday we celebrated the first Sunday of Advent. The word advent is a version of a Latin term which means “coming.” We use these weeks leading up to Christmas as a chance to look forward to our celebration of the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, the light of the world, our Savior. Our first week focused specifically on the gift of hope that we find in Jesus, especially during dark seasons of life. 

Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” I love the imagery of an anchor. An anchor does not remove us from the storm or moving water; it secures us in the midst of it.

Everyone relates to the need for hope. Sometimes life overwhelms us. Financial stresses, relational dysfunctions, memories of loss, broken hearts, sickness, etc. We’ve all been there at some time or another. If you find yourself in a season of hopelessness, let me encourage you with three thoughts: acknowledging the darkness around us, embracing the wait, and committing to the journey.

Acknowledge the Darkness

It does no good to say there is no darkness. We have to acknowledge where we are. 

Before Easter of this year, I knew something was wrong with my body, so I went to the doctor, who told me I was simply getting older and should expect some of the symptoms I was describing. Two weeks later I went back and insisted something was not right. After some persistence, he ordered an x-ray and an ultrasound, and found I had a tumor in my bladder and it needed to be removed. I could have said, “There’s nothing wrong…” “I am not sick…” “I am a child of God…” and denied the symptoms. I could have done that all the way up to stage four cancer.

We have to acknowledge we in a dark place before we can completely turn to God. Sick people seek out doctors because they admit they are sick. Weak people seek assistance because they recognize their weakness. Sinners repent because they come to the conclusion that they are sinners and are separated from God. Facing the darkness and calling it what it is allows us to see true light. It’s when we acknowledge the darkness that we can see the star that leads us on the journey.

Embrace the Wait

No one likes waiting. We live in a culture that does everything possible to reduce the amount of time we spend waiting! Waiting is uncomfortable. Waiting is lonely. Waiting takes longer than you think or desire, but waiting is also a time of self-discovery – your weaknesses and your strengths and your need for God. Waiting is also a time of God-discovery - we discover we can trust him, and we can hear his voice.

Furthermore, waiting shapes our character and teaches us more than we will every learn from getting what we want instantly. Do you know how you learn the meaning of endurance? You have to endure. Endurance changes you.

Advent is a time of waiting. While it feels unnatural, there is great benefit in embracing this season. The waiting reminds us of where our hope is set. It allows us the time and focus to hear the voice of God, the promise that our hope will be fulfilled. Waiting deepens our faith in God and creates a deeper hunger for Him.

Commit to the Journey

My natural images of waiting involves sitting around; one involves moving. But the concept of waiting throughout the Bible is one of active waiting. We wait with expectant hearts, but we are constantly moving forward on our journey.

Priest, professor, writer, and theologian, Henri J. M. Nouwen described the waiting we see in Scripture as very active. In Waiting for God, he wrote, “Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.” As the psalmist encouraged: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24).

When I am waiting for light to shine through my darkness, I have a few key passages of scripture I run to.

Psalms 121:1–4, “I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

Lamentations 3:19–26, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

Isaiah 40:28–31 "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

These passages are filled with hope and life. They remind us that we are not alone in our darkness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 15:13)


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To watch Sunday's message online, click: MESSAGE

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

#GivingTuesday



It’s “Giving Tuesday,” a day when families, companies, and organizations come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give to others in need.

“Coincidentally”, my scripture reading this morning was from Exodus 35:4-29, where God asked Moses to receive an offering from the people for the tabernacle. The emphasis in the passage are the words, “everyone who is willing.” This was not a forced offering, but an offering that expressed gratitude and generosity.

This year, please consider making Centerpointe Church one of the recipients of your generosity, so that we can move forward with our mission of passionately following Jesus, inviting everyone we know to join us. Through Centerpointe Church you are supporting community benevolence, homeless outreach, and extensive international giving.

Every gift makes a difference in the furtherance of the Kingdom of God around the world. Whatever you decide to give, I know that God will honor and multiply it.

Giving is simple: Just click on the link below:

Thank you for being one of the "willing."

Richest Blessings,
Pastor Keith

Be the Husband You Want Your Daughter to Marry

"Be the husband you want your daughter to marry." It's the best piece of advice I could give in the moment. In a recent meeting with a father of one son and about to be the father of a daughter, I was asked to give one piece of advice, since I have had the privilege to raise four girls.

In light of the recent sexual harassment cases, I am convinced my advice was right on target.

We have to model what it means to be a man and woman of God. When it comes to our kids, we overestimate what we say and underestimate how we live. We need to give our kids a picture of what it looks like to express love to their future spouse.

Included in this, but not limited to it, are public displays of affection. Our children need to know what it means to touch appropriately. They also need to know what is safe and what is off-bounds.

Almost every day, since the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassments, someone else is being revealed as a sexual offender. What is as much as concern to me is the girls who are allowing themselves to be in a situation and not knowing how to get out of it or talk about it. They were put in situations where someone in authority abused their power and manipulated the situation for their own sick pleasure.

As a father of four daughters, it breaks my heart every time I hear these things happening, and it is becoming more and more common for abusive situations to happen earlier and earlier in life.

We need to teach our kids that, no matter what the promotion or job security, it is wrong to be harassed in the workplace and it takes courage to get out of the situation and speak up.






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Friday, November 03, 2017

Confession vs Appeasement

Do not confuse confession with appeasement—confession does not mean we’re off the hook. Confession does not make things easier for us. Confession does not make God look the other way about our sin. Confession does not absolve us of our responsibility. Confession prepares us for conversation with God and acceptance of his forgiveness, his terms, his sovereignty.

- Liberating the Leader's Prayer Life, Terry C Muck

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Tithing: A Timeless Principle of Discipleship

Tithing: A Timeless Principle of Discipleship

By the number of emails I received recently from groups that want to help me face the summer financial crunch for my church, I am guessing many churches are experiencing major challenges when it comes to finances and budgets. Our church is no exception. It is my opinion that the church does not have a budget problem; rather it has a discipleship problem.

I doubt that there is any more threatening subject than that of tithing, which is why pastors today are nervous about bringing up the topic. However, we need to have this conversation. As Martin Luther put it, “There are three conversions necessary in the Christian life: the conversion of the heart, the mind, and the purse” (Randy Alcorn, Managing God's Money).

Some of the angst comes from people’s negative experiences with previous churches, pastors, and evangelists. We must confess that some pastors, on occasion, have used biblical texts related to tithing in a manipulative manner to raise the budget or to build a building. Such behavior should not be tolerated; however, this does not alter the basic biblical teaching on tithing.

Just so we are clear, the definition of tithing is: Giving ten percent (10%) of our income to God through His church. The original tithe was an offering of one's agricultural income to the Lord as an expression of thanks and dedication. Today, because we live in a monetary society, we give ten percent of our salary.

I recently preached a message at Centerpointe on tithing and its significant role in discipleship. You can find the video and the text at Tithing Message.

This subject is too important to not address.

Because I Care,
Pastor Keith