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The Family of God

The Family of God

Family. We hear the word. We understand what it means. Sometimes.

I think it means belonging. It means that there is a place and a group of people that are yours (and you are theirs). It isn’t always easy. Sometimes it can be more painful than we would like to admit. But it can also be more wonderful than anything else in life.

God designed family because He knew it wouldn’t be good for us to live life alone. That was the first thing (and the only one) in creation that God looked at and said wasn’t good. “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). And so God made Eve for Adam. The first family was begun.

Yet that first family experienced the gamut of pain and dysfunction and hurt. It didn’t take long at all for the misery that sin brings to fall into Adam and Eve’s lives. They were separated from God by their sin but they were also separated from each other. The first marriage (made in heaven!) suddenly felt what it is like to experience distrust and discord. Yet that was nothing. The worst came in time.

What Adam had been doing on that day – the day – I don’t have any idea but I’m pretty sure that on that day his world came crashing in around him. Perhaps he was walking in the cool of the evening and thinking about life and the work he needed to get done. Suddenly the tranquility of the moment shifted. A figure was lying still before him.

“Abel! Abel! What’s wrong? Speak to me, Abel! My son… Oh God, what is this?”

We have cute little expressions like “when your chickens come home to roost” or “you’ve made your bed now you must lie in it.” But there is a grim power in the reality of a life that is turned from God. Adam and Eve felt it. They experienced grief and hurt they had never known existed.

Their oldest son, Cain, had killed their younger son, Abel.

The first family was shattered.

“You are free to eat from any tree of the garden but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

Those were the words that God had spoken to this young couple in the Garden of Eden. Yet they hadn’t listened. They had chosen to disobey His words. Now they were tasting the bitter fruit of their disobedience.

We hear His words also. “Honor your father and mother…” and then there is “Do not commit adultery” or “Do not steal” but mainly there is “Do not have any other gods besides Me.”

Yet do we hear Him? Are we really listening? Perhaps you’ve rationalized your sin and made it small and light and secret. Yet you will reap what you have sown. That is also His word.

Our families are shaped and torn by the horrible effects of our sin. It would be nice if we could blame someone else, anyone else. But there is no shifting this heavy burden.

Adam and Eve were heartbroken. Yet even in their pain and despair God was at work.

“I will put hostility between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

Eve couldn’t have known. She couldn’t have known that the powerful redemption that would be needed for her and for her husband and her sons would come through her seed. But it did.

Jesus was born of a virgin’s womb. Mary couldn’t know either as the old man in the temple rejoiced over her baby. The light in his eyes died though when he looked her in the eye and grimly said, “and a sword will pierce your own soul.”

And it did. Mary watched her Son, the Magnificent and Mighty and Majestic Son of Man and Son of God, as He was nailed to a cross. She watched Him die and that sword pierced her heart.

With Eve she wept at the harsh reality of sin. But her Son was the Seed of that first woman that God had promised would crush the devil’s head. Jesus won the right for us to be brought back to God. He made the way for our families to be redeemed and healed. He made the way for us to be a precious part of God’s family.

Jesus died for Cain and his murder. He died for Abel and Eve and Adam. He died for you. He took your sin and your death sentence. And He is the hope of our souls, our families, our marriages. You can turn to Him and He will take your worst mistake, your most grievous sin, your shame, your guilt, your pain.

That is where our true family really begins.

Your brother in Jesus,

Tim Hobbs

“You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”” (Romans 8:15, CSB)



The Amazing Mind-O-Matic!

The Amazing Mind-O-Matic!

This week I found a great deal on a Mind-O-Matic Reader Drone! This is just like you’ve seen on TV. It has all the options and it is amazing. You will be surprised when you get to church next week. We will have that little baby hovering by the front door and it will be reading the mindset of every person who walks through those doors. It was 50% off too! Can you believe it?

Better yet, because I ordered by midnight they threw in the handy-dandy prophetic schedule for Jesus’ return. Whoa! Just like that I am in the know and that new series on prophecy is shaping up to be killer! Well back to the Mind-O-Matic. When we have it set in default mode it sounds a buzzer, well more like an angry gong with accompanying flashing lights and a siren when anyone with a negative, whiny, complaining, petty, jealous, fearful, bitter, angry attitude comes walking in. If you’re really in a great mood and you are feeling content, joyous, excited, peaceful, confident, loving, positive and happy then this amazing machine begins to play the Hallelujah Chorus!

You’ll want to get there early and get a good seat so you can see what it reveals about your friends. Plus if you’re there early then, well, they won’t be there to see what your mindset is – well, just in case things haven’t gone too well that morning.

Ok, so I didn’t really buy a Mind-O-Matic Reader. Thankfully they aren’t on the market yet. It would be really bad if you could see my mindset and what I’m thinking sometimes except that actually you can see my mind in action. No, you can’t see what I’m thinking but you are going to have a pretty good indication by how I act, what I say, and my attitude.

You really can’t judge a person’s heart. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” But then He said, “By their fruits you will know them” and “every good tree produces good fruit and every bad tree produces bad fruit.” Beginning to get the picture?

God has given us all a “Mind-O-Matic” and we didn’t even have to listen to some slick salesman and pay three easy payments of $79.95 to get it. It comes standard from the factory of souls. It comes straight from the mind and heart of God. His heart is for us and He wants our lives to be filled with joy and wonder and praise and worship. Too often our hearts are filled with bitterness and anger and pain and heartache and embarrassment and… the list goes on and on.

So do something for yourself. Stop and take inventory. Look back over all your posts on instagram and twitter and face book and any other social media you are on. Review the things you have said to your friend, your wife, your brother, your mother, your teacher, your student, your boss. Here is one red flag – if your life is full of drama then it’s probably because your life is revolving around you.

Now, if you’re a normal human being then you are going to have good days and bad ones. But what is the overall direction of your heart and your mind? What do you see as your overall attitude about God and life and where you are in it?

Some may not be able to figure this out by yourself. You may need someone close to you to help. But do this for me. Before you put them on the spot with the request to tell you the truth about you assure them that you really want to know. Let them know that you won’t be mad if they speak the truth and it is uncomfortable. Then do it.

But most important of all, more than any self-inventory or even bringing a trusted friend into it, turn to your Creator and ask Him to speak to your heart about what He sees there. Don’t do it lightly. Do it when you have time to sit and read the Word and pray and repent and rejoice and let Jesus transform your mind. Let Him tear you down and then build you back up.

It is amazing to me that God cares so much about us that He wants our life to be filled with everything good – with Him. I pray that God will speak to you and that you will not turn away but you will receive it. I pray that you experience His life in a fresh new way during this season of reviving and growing.

Your Pastor,

Bro. Tim Hobbs


“God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you.” (Psalm 51:10–13, CSB)


Death Comes Unexpectedly!

Death Comes Unexpectedly!

This is not a Charlotte’s Web story (or Pollyanna for those who caught that reference). I’m just saying that this one is a bit more grim. Okay, maybe that’s more than a little melodramatic when we’re talking about the death of a spider.

It showed up in my window this summer. Trapped between the screen and the window it lived its life. It was a stubby black spider with really big front legs. He was a muscled up guy who was living large off all the bugs that were attracted to the light coming through my window. I watched him for several weeks. Every day he was moving and actively seeking out his next meal. I watched him grow and get larger. He was king of his little domain. Until today.

As I was working on several projects on my computer in front of my window I glanced up perhaps at some movement. What I saw was a bit shocking. My spider was backing away from the upper right corner and another spider was charging at him. The new spider had longer legs and a thinner body but the battle if you could call it that was over in a few seconds. The new spider skillfully cast its web and almost magically it appeared and completely bound my spider. I was rooting for my guy. I’d been watching him for several weeks and it was over in a moment. I felt like a Florida State fan when ‘Bama comes to town.

The new spider wrapped up his prey and started carrying him over to his lair. It was over. The violence of it and the quickness of it surprised me. But that’s the way life goes. There are so many times when we think we have it all together. We think we are in control. But suddenly a new enemy shows – maybe it is cancer, maybe it is an unexpected issue with our finances, maybe it is a marriage that is crumbling.

Be sure of this. We do not live in a world of peace and safety. We live in a fallen world. We live in a battle zone. We have an enemy. “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, CSB) He will steal your freedom and wrap you in chains. He will rob you of your vitality and suck the very life out of you.

“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10, CSB)

And there is this powerful word of assurance: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, CSB) If you belong to Jesus then He has already laid down His life for you. His victory over sin, death, and hell is your victory. You can’t lose.

“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27–30, CSB)

As for my spider, well, I’m still a bit upset about that. Oh sure, I know, Garfield whacks one every week in his comic strip. I stepped on one in the bathroom the other day and it didn’t bother me a bit. I guess I had just kind of enjoyed watching the little guy. So I’m sure that with counseling and extensive therapy, I’ll get over it someday. Maybe I’ll go see the new Spiderman…


Called Out

Called Out

Speak to my weary heart
Strengthen my broken parts
Lead me to Your open arms
Word of truth
Illuminate all these lies
The enemy speaks inside
In freedom I will rise

The song is called Word of Life and it is by Jeremy Camp. I heard it on the radio this week as I was hauling kids back forth to activities for Kids Day Camp. It resonated with me because of a central thought in the chorus.

‘Cause You called me out from the grave
So I can live like I’ve been changed
There is a new song in my soul
And it begins
When I breathe in
Your word of life

God has called us out. He has called us out from death to life, from sin to righteousness, from hopelessness to joy and peace. He has called us out from where we were and brought us to a brand new experience in Jesus.

So let’s do a little word study. The word for church in the New Testament is ekklesia (ἐκκλησία). The preposition ek begins the word. It literally means “out of.” The rest of the word is based on the Greek word, kaleo, which means “to call.” So ekklesia, the church, is literally “the called out ones.”

What are we called out of? Death, pain, sorrow, guilt, fear, condemnation, judgment, and hell. What are we called to? Life, joy, peace, freedom, salvation, and heaven. God never intended that we should meet Him and walk away from that encounter unchanged. Has your life changed since you met Jesus?

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, AV)

So, if this is true, and we are “called out” then what is that supposed to look like? Just because we have been called out of darkness and into light doesn’t mean that we are perfect. We fail constantly. But the grace of God abounds in us and He constantly draws us back to Himself.

It does mean that we are different now. It means that we have a fresh start in life. “Old things are passed away…” Embrace what God means when He calls us a “new creature.” That is what you are. Now go and live this new life! Turn away from every temptation to fall back into that old way of thinking and living. You’ve been made new. Now, go and sin no more.

Your Pastor,

Bro. Tim Hobbs

“…and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, AV)



A Bible School To Remember

A Vacation Bible School to Remember

We just finished Bible School. It’s Saturday now and to be honest, I’m tired. I’m not physically tired so much as emotionally and mentally tired. Dealing with screaming children who are competing for a “spirit stick” can be draining. Thanks a lot, Samuel! No, really. Thanks, Samuel, you did a great job of getting the kids excited about games. They had a blast. Also thanks to Michael, Jeremy, Noah, and the rest of the games crew.

But it wasn’t just the games they were screaming for. It was the candy (and the, uh, carrots). Thanks to Maurie those kids were trying to kill our eardrums. There were reports of little dogs crying all over the neighborhood from those high pitched screams! Well, okay, maybe not. But it was loud. Those kids got so excited about those containers of super sour gummy worms or whatever it was. They would try to guess how many was in the container and whoever got closest went home with a deluxe load of sugar. You’re welcome, moms! But really, Maurie did a great job of giving those kids something exciting to look forward to every day.

But it wasn’t just the games and candy, there were also the snacks. The snack ladies did a fantastic job. Although I did get one complaint from a little girl who said the snacks were too sweet. She thought an oreo that was dipped in some kind of sweet cream icing and served up was too sweet. I know, crazy, right? And then there was the kool-aid. Of course, Cheryl coordinated snacks while Linda, Mona, Idell, Carol, Sloan, Barbara and crew did their best to keep the sugar flowing! Great job ladies, thank you.

But it wasn’t just the games, candy, and snacks – there were also the crafts. The crafts were just one more way that our theme this year, Operation Arctic, pointed the kids to Christ. Thank you, Virginia, Lenora, Kim, Peggy, Natalie, Renee, Katelynn and the crafts crew! Y’all did an awesome job and we appreciate your service.

Then there was the music. This year, Matthew Melton took over his older brother Joseph’s job. And he did a great job! The kids loved the songs accompanied by guitar and they also loved the hand motions and music on the CD. Thanks, Matthew!

Then the drama – boy, was it dramatic? Jenny had her crew really delivering some zingers (knock at the door, “who’s there?”, “Canoe.” “Canoe who?” “Canoe open the door? I’m tired of knocking.” Yes it was inspired. But we had a blast as Maurie, Caleb, Emma, Caitlyn, Ethan, Steven, and myself had a ball telling a crazy Arctic story that reinforced what the kids were learning all week. Thanks, drama team! Great job.

But that wasn’t all. This year we did something entirely new. One of our rotations was a Bible enrichment time. Susie taught the kids about how the Bible was laid out (Old and New Testaments, different types of writings – law, history, poetry, Gospels, etc.). The kids learned how to open a Bible and find a Scripture reference. Some of the kids had never tried to use a Bible before. Susie (and her crew – Rebecca, Hannah S. and Alec) had them doing Bible drills and the competitions were great. Thanks, Susie! Fantastic!

But there’s more! Our Bible study time was our very first rotation coming out of the morning assembly (because it is the most important thing we do). We had some great teachers (Kristen, Marla C., Shannon Milum, Annette & Lee Ann, Hannah W., and Caleb). We had a bunch of great helpers (Cameron, Josiah, Angela, Chloe, Kailey, Aundrae, Shannon Mangum, Marilyn, Austin & more).

We also had some great helpers doing a variety of jobs – Brandy, Erin, Frank, Zack, Hunter, Marla R., and finally, Hannah Hobbs. Hannah directed all this activity and worked to coordinate it. She has done this for several years now and I am so grateful for her willingness to work hard to help kids know Jesus.

I say all this for a reason. I don’t usually spend a lot of time patting people on the back. But I want our entire church to see that our VBS is a ministry of the entire Body of believers at Branch. I could also list all who gave, brought food or craft items, invited kids, decorated, prayed – except only God knows the complete list of who did what. Jesus said, “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (Matthew 10:42, NLT)

So if you played games, prepared snacks, gave away sugar (oops, I mean candy), taught the Bible, loved on kids, prayed for kids – well you had a part in at least six kids who prayed to receive Jesus. You had a part in seeds that were planted in many others. Only eternity will reveal the impact of what happened in VBS this week but it was certainly one that will long be remembered. Thank you.

Your Pastor,

Bro. Tim Hobbs

“Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.” (Matthew 18:2–5, NLT)



We Are So Different!

We are so amazingly different.

Our differences are one more way that we can see the handiwork of God in creation. If we all happened to evolve by chance somehow over millions of years then what is the likelihood that we would have evolved to have such a variety of different personalities and to have such different likes and dislikes? How could that have come by chance?

Our differences haven’t evolved. They were created by a loving God who loved us too much to replicate mindless robots who would be exactly alike. So we have those opposites – from the very beginning: Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah, Moses and Aaron (and Miriam), Ahab and Jezebel, Paul and Barnabas. The list is as long as there are people. We are different.

We differ in so many ways. We have different complexions, different political views, different hair, different hobbies, different ways of talking, different laughs, different ways we spend our money. Every area of human personality is built upon the fact that we have a freedom to choose how we will live and what we will do. This becomes especially important when we come to how we respond to God.

Some deny there is a God. Others believe in Him but won’t surrender their lives to Him. Still others believe that there is a God and they (we) have given Him their (our) lives (such as they are). There is also a group that claims to believe in God but lives as if there were no God – practical atheists.

The point is that God made us with a legitimate choice. You are free to choose chocolate or vanilla and you are free to choose to worship God or curse God. Yet your freedom has its limits. Our choices are limited by the laws of nature and of man and more importantly by the laws of God.

Of even greater gravity is that our choices bring consequences. If I choose to sleep in a tree I may well wake up with a crick in my neck or I might wake up with a broken arm from a bad fall. I hate it when that happens.

When I deny the reality of my Maker, the Lord God of heaven and earth, I will face the consequence of that decision. I must. If there truly is a God and He did not hold you and me accountable for our decisions then what kind of God would He be?

God has given each of us a place and a role on this planet. He has numbered out our days and put us in the place He wants us to be and He asks one thing of us. He asks us to believe in Him. Now, it isn’t just a nod of the head, intellectual kind of belief that He is asking. He is asking for us to believe from our hearts that He is God and He is good and He is loving and He is Jesus. He died on the cross for our sins and today He calls us and invites to turn from our sin and turn to Him so that we can be forgiven.

Those differences? They have been smeared all over the map of human history because of sin. We are created in the image of God but that image has been marred and scarred and defaced by sin. Satan doesn’t create anything. He can’t. All he can do is to mock God’s creation by perverting the original perfect design of God. We see it in sex, marriage, food, sanctity of life, gender and a dozen other areas every day.

I want to encourage you to embrace God’s plan and His design for your life. It is amazing when He begins to smooth out the wrinkles and take away the bumps and show us His purpose for our life. I am praying for you. I pray that God will use your distinct personality and even your likes and dislikes to bring Him glory. That is what we’re made for.

Your Pastor,

Bro. Tim Hobbs

“So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:8–10, HCSB)



Joy… to the World!

It’s Christmas Eve and I am singing the songs of Christmas. They are wonderful reminders of the powerful truth of the Incarnation of Jesus. God became a man. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Praise His name! Immanuel – God with us!

Yet even as I hear the singers sing that it’s the most wonderful time of the year and joy to the world I remember that this message is delivered into the middle of chaos and suffering and evil. It is delivered to hearts that are hurting – grieving the loss of loved ones that they will never again get to hug at Christmas time.

The headlines from the news only reinforce this darkness. Bank robberies, hijackings, shootings, political division, terrorism – it all reminds us of the incredible pain and suffering and wrong that is present in our world. A three year old senselessly shot in Little Rock, Carrie Fisher’s heart attack, a three year old kept locked in a box – these are the headlines this week from my world. How can it be the most wonderful time of the year?

The songwriters wrote with that thought in the background:  “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.” And then there is this, “Yet with the woes of sin and strife, the world has suffered long… two thousand years of wrong And man at war with man hears not the love song which they bring: O hush the noise, ye men of strife to hear the angels sing.” Yes, the songwriters lived in the middle of this mess just as we do.

Yet the secular message of Christmas without Christ has no antidote to offer for the anger and pain and hatred and bitterness and envy and greed and corruption. There are those who would say, “Just be good for goodness sake!” But that message falls flat when people simply cannot do it. And we can’t. As much as we may want to do it we don’t have the power to be the person that we want to be. That’s why Jesus came.

That’s why Charles Wesley included the line “God and sinners reconciled” in Hark the Herald Angels Sing. The whole point of Christmas is that God has made a way for us to be at peace with God. “I bring you good news of great joy that shall be to all people! For unto you is born this day in the city of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” Christmas is a wonderful time of year because it is the time that God shows us how very much He loves each and every one of us.

The birth of Jesus prepares and leads us through His life right up to the climactic moments of His death, burial and resurrection. He is the ultimate expression of God’s love and concern for a lost and rebellious race of people. His death is the proof of God’s love. He loves you.

Jesus – “The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:9–12, HCSB)

Jesus has come “as far as the curse is found.” Joy to the world!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is born…” Christmas is not about those who have it all or are immeasurably happy. It is about “us” – all of us. Jesus came for every one of us. I hope you will receive Him today.

Merry Christmas!

Pastor Tim Hobbs


We’re Nuts!

I’m not calling you a nut. Really! Just keep that in mind as you read. Ok, well, maybe I am just a little. Yeah, you’re right, I called you a nut. Sorry, but anyway…

I shelled some pecans this morning – picking out those delectable, delicious bits of goodness. The thought struck me that this is so much like our hearts. I don’t know if you’ve ever shelled pecans or if you have ever taken time to examine the shell and inner parts of the pecan.

The hard, wooden shell around the outside we know about. It has to be broken in order to access the good part of the pecan. But even within the pecan there is inside the two halves a division. That division is made up of some of the bitterest stuff known to man. If you’ve ever bit into a bite of pecan pie and suddenly experienced a strong, bitter taste then you know that someone failed to pick out all the bad parts. The interesting thing is that those bitter portions grow with the nut and they are shaped and wedged into the fruit of the nut very tightly. This makes it hard to remove it all.

How is our heart like that pecan? Well, we have built up a hard shell around our heart. We resist the working of the Lord in our lives many times. We don’t want Him poking and prodding and removing all the barriers and walls we have erected. But it needs to happen if we are ever going to reach our God-given potential.

So, yes, the Lord cracks open the hard shell. He removes the bitterness from our hearts so that all we meet will encounter the incredible difference that Christ makes when He makes a man’s heart His home.

The problem lies in the fact that we deceive our own selves and lie to ourselves and pretend that all is well. We excuse and rationalize and justify our sorry behavior. Ultimately, though, God’s Word is the hammer that can crack open even the hardest heart. I’m thankful the Lord specializes in hard cases like you and me.

I’m also thankful that Jesus Christ left heaven and became a man. He fully identified with you and me in His life and especially in His death. He died on a cross to save me from my sin. When He broke through the wall of unbelief and resistance I had built up around my heart I was changed forever. I’m still not perfect. He’s digging out those bitter portions from my heart.

You have a choice. You can keep your nuttiness, your hard shell and those bitter divisions that make your heart so hard. Or you can turn to Christ and ask Him to crack you open and dig out all the bad stuff. You can give up your life to Jesus or you can keep it for yourself. Except, ultimately, you can’t keep it.

We have to die to who we have been so that we can have life forever.

I pray that this new year will be a time that God will do a mighty work in our hearts. There are worse things than having a hard head. But a hard heart is one that’s tough to overcome. May God richly bless you and your family in 2017!

Your Pastor,

Bro. Tim Hobbs

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:24–25, NLT)



The Gifts of Christmas

The music of Christmas has always been a blessing to me. The carols, the fun songs, Rudolph – all of it. I love Christmas music. I was listening to some this morning and thinking about the gifts that we give at Christmas. I think we most often go back in the Bible to the coming of the Wise Men and the gifts they gave to Jesus. But I think there is much more there that we haven’t explored.

Mary’s gift. I’ve thought about Mary a lot and tried to imagine the place she found herself. It’s hard to fathom what a young woman (probably a teenager) felt when she heard the news from the angel Gabriel that she was to have God’s Son. So what was it that Mary gave to the Lord Jesus? She gave herself. Oh, yes, she gave her womb to hold Him and nurture Him and allow Him to grow inside of her. But she gave far more than that. She gave everything she was. If you’re a mother you know exactly what I’m talking about. Mothers don’t just carry a baby like you would put eggs in an incubator. They carry that child and they love that child so powerfully and they endure the sickness and pain of pregnancy, the discomfort and then the agony of childbirth for the love of that little baby. Mary gave everything that she was to this baby. She gave up her plans, her ideas, and her expectations. In return she was privileged to birth our Savior into this world (her Savior too!). Could you give a greater gift than she gave? I don’t know how.

Joseph’s gift – I’m not sure we know what to do with Joseph. He was a carpenter. He was probably an older man who had been betrothed to Mary when he found that she was pregnant. His first thought was to divorce her privately. But the angel came and told him that Mary had done nothing wrong. She had not been unfaithful. Instead she had been blessed with a child that was God’s own Son and the Savior of His people. Joseph’s gift was to lay aside his reputation and his pride. Joseph’s gift was to take Mary as his wife in spite of what people might say. And I’m sure they said plenty. He gave up himself to God’s plan. That is a gift befitting a king.

There were other gifts. Elizabeth gave wise counsel and love to a tender young woman who had the most improbable and impossible pregnancy. An unknowing innkeeper gave Jesus the poorest and most unlikely of birth places when he turned them away from his already full inn. The shepherds came and brought the wildest story imaginable – angels appearing to announce the coming of Messiah! The wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrhh. Simon and Anna brought praise to God and affirmation of who Jesus was. Herod – Herod’s gift was an extension of who he was. He killed innocent babies who happened to have been born around the same time as Jesus in the area of Bethlehem. It was a gift from hell.

But all of these gifts placed the birth and the life and the death of Jesus into its proper setting. He didn’t come to live a privileged life of power and wealth and ease. He was born to poor, working class people. He grew up with the knowledge of hard work but also with the love of family and the faith of His people. He grew up with God’s blessing and approval.

One thing led to another and Jesus preached and taught, corrected and chided, healed and delivered as only the Son of God could. He identified with each of us and He loved every single mother’s son and daughter among us. He died for us. His gift was pain, suffering, sorrow, guilt, and despair. He gave His life’s blood to pay your sin debt and mine. “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift!”

So the gifts of Christmas are real. The Father sent His only Son and our entire world has been turned upside down. Thank God! Where would we be without Christmas?

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (Galatians 4:4–7, NLT)


A Day of Prayer and Fasting – October 15th

Our church has set aside time during the day on Saturday, Oct. 15th for fasting and prayer. We would be honored if you would join us.

Too many times I begin to pray without adequately preparing my heart to pray. I want to remind you as we approach a very special day of prayer and fasting tomorrow that we each need to prepare ourselves so that we can effectively intercede for others. It isn’t selfish to begin your time of prayer by praying about your own needs. It is vitally important. Just make sure that you begin with a heart filled with praise, a desire to be right with God, and a hunger for Him and not just what He can do for you. So here is one model of how we can prepare our hearts:

A = Adoration – spend time just praising God and worshiping Him. Don’t ask for anything at this point. “Hallowed be thy name…”

C = Confession – ask God to forgive your sins.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

T = Thanksgiving – Thank God for forgiving you and accept His forgiveness. Thank Him for salvation. Thank Him for life and breath and all things!

S = Supplication – Ask God to meet the needs within your family, friends, church family, coworkers, neighborhood, classmates, etc. Pour out your heart for people who are hurting and in need.

I want to encourage you to pray and fast with others from our church family tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 15th. I am suggesting a fast from 6:00 am until 6:00 pm, 12 hours in which we do not eat so that we will be reminded to pray. Now, if tomorrow is not a good day for you to do this then do it on Monday or Thursday or whenever works for you. If 12 hours isn’t right for you then do 24 or 36 or 8 or what you can do. If you want to fast from food but still drink juice or coffee (I usually drink just water) that is fine. Do it in the way that God leads you. If you would rather fast from your smartphone, tablet, computer, television, music, movies, books, football, entertainment, etc., that is fine. Do it in the way that will help  you to focus on God in prayer. I just hope you will join me in fervent prayer for a nation that has lost its way.

As you begin your fast, start with some specific requests that you are going to be praying for (for example):

  1. Praying for lost family members to be saved
  2. Praying for revival and awakening in our nation
  3. Praying for our Fall Revival and true revival within our church

I wouldn’t make a long list. Make it short enough that it is easy to remember. Prepare for your time of fasting by making your list today. This list will guide you and help you to be focused. It will keep you on track and it will be much easier to remember why you are doing this. Finally, don’t lose heart if it doesn’t go as well or as easily as you hoped. There are no style points involved. Just do it.