Christmas 2019

The Word records this in Matthew, chapter 2: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, when Herod was king. After Jesus’ birth, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem” (v.1). Separated by some 2,000 years from Jesus’ first advent, the wise still seek Him.

I find myself very grateful for the fact that each Advent Season and with each Christmas, we are brought back to the miracle record of God sending His Son, to us, to restore the relationship that we busted apart. Proactively and independent of anything we have done, God took the initiative and poured out His grace and love in a supernatural way. It was, and is, freely given to all who would believe and receive.

Particularly interesting to me, in the birth narrative of Jesus Christ, is Joseph. Sometimes he is relegated to a less important role, overshadowed by the others that we have in the Nativity scene. But Joseph, coupled with his very presence and role, should remind us of some very important things:

  • Joseph was an average, everyday person. He was a carpenter by trade and he was a man of faith. He had lineage for sure, but nothing in his life stood out. He was not a famous person; he wasn’t wealthy by any stretch; and he had some issues to work through so that God could use Him (see Matthew 1, vv.18-25).
  • In relation to that portion in Matthew 1, Joseph would have to humble himself and overcome the anger, bitterness, and resentment he must have felt when he first learned that Mary was pregnant, before they were married. He knew the child was not his, yet, he wanted to do things honorably – knowing what it would do to Mary, if uncovered.
  • When the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, the message was very similar to what the Angel delivered to many others through history: “Do not fear!” or  “Do not be afraid!” That changed his perspective, and from that time on, he did what he was commanded to do.
  • Joseph was faithful in a very difficult and hard situation. In short, Joseph was obedient to the purpose, to the vision, to the will of the Lord.

The rest of the story is recorded, even though we don’t hear much more about Joseph in the Gospels. He took Mary to be his wife and he was the earthly father to Jesus, who had come. Ponder this: Joseph humbly adopted God’s only Son so that we, you and I, could be adopted into God’s family. What an incredible legacy.

God is faithful! Know that you can trust Him and rely on Him even when it appears like success is the furthest thing from your life’s journey. Know that God’s definition of success compared to the world’s, are often two totally different things. It can be linked and the Lord can surely use secular things to reveal deeper, spiritual truths. He can do anything He so desires and wills. But don’t allow your life to be defined by things of the world.

Christmas is a time for celebration, for humility, and for a reset. Perhaps more than anything, we should give God complete access into our lives so that we can assess how His light, His truth, His will is impacting us and transforming us into the image of His Son. Because in the end…whether we go to Him or He returns first…this is all that’s going to matter.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. May you know the hope, love, joy, and peace that He alone gives and continues to pour out. Let’s be grateful, for God is with us!

Porter

 

Renewed

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12, v.2)

Every once in a while, you get asked a question that will take you a bit off guard. I should qualify that: the longer you’ve been around, the more prone you become to questions that can seemingly come out of no where, and occasionally, take you aback. Once such question came my way, yesterday, about 15 minutes after our corporate worship ended.

As I was greeting people, interacting, and after handing off a precious 3-month old baby, it came soon after. Here is how it was presented to me, after delivering a Message on “Being a Holy Church” and sharing in The Lord’s Table, together: “Do you think it is possible that some who call themsevles believers go through all the motions, do and say all the right things, but haven’t made Jesus the Lord of their life?”

My direct response: “As heartbreaking as that is to even think about, yes – it is possible and it does happen.” Then I offered this, “We must pray that we do everything we can, with God’s help, to eliminate its possibility.”

I pondered that on the way home from worship on Sunday, through the afternoon and evening at different points, and here I am writing about it on a Monday afternoon. I must say: it is one of the things that will keep you up and weigh heavily on your heart. Not that we, any of us really, are responsible for the actions or inactions of others. We can’t decide for anyone else, although at times we would very much like to do so. Yet, we have a desperate, urgent responsibility to magnify Jesus Christ and be His hands and feet to a lost and fallen world, at every instant. We are His Church, His representatives, His brothers and sisters charged with taking His mission outwardly and giving it away. We are delivery and logistics. We are to be “broken bread and poured out wine in His Name,” as Oswald Chambers states.

How do we do this? How can it possibly be accomplished in an effective way?

Read that passage again, at the top: Romans 12, v.2We have to be renewed, we have to be transformed. We have to be reborn by and into the Spirit of the living God, by way of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We are renewed in His image; that is how! Because it is at this point where we can fulfill our God-given purposes, according to His will (not ours).

Together, we are the Church: His body, His bride, His children, and His people.

Together, we honor Him, love Him, serve Him, and worship Him.

Together, we are available to each other, build one another up, pray for the needs of others, and serve alongside our brothers and sisters to further His Kingdom. Sure – we do much more than this, but this is a beginning. It is to be continued moment by moment, day by day, week in and week out.

It begins with being renewed, allowing the transforming power of God to make us into who He truly desires us to be. Our God is faithful and His invitation has been extended to you and to me. Let me encourage you: It will change your life, forever (in the best way possible). I’ll leave you with this passage, and I invite you to reach out at any time if you would like to learn more: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, so that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but would have everlasting life” (John 3, v.16). Now, insert your name where “whosoever” appears. It is that personal, and it is that fulfilling.

Be blessed in the renewal only He can deliver and give!

Porter

 

A Timeless Quote

AW Tozer

The post today is credited to the great man of the faith, A.W. Tozer. He was a key figure in the Christian and Missionary Alliance and was known for his “deeper life movement.” The excerpt shared below was posted recently on a page that I follow, and I felt compelled to share it. Not to discourage, but to have us really examine the essence of what he is alluding to: heart and life transformation. From a Message he delivered, titled: “Game of Pious Words,” here is Tozer in his own words. May the Lord use them to saturate our souls and move us to holiness:

“Do you realize that most men play at religion as they play at games? Religion itself, being of all games the one most universally played. The Church has its ‘fields’ and its ‘rules’ and its equipment for playing the game of pious words. It has its devotees, both laymen and professionals, who support the game with their money and encourage it with their presence, but who are no different in life or character from many who take no interest in religion at all.

As an athlete uses a ball, so do many of us use words: words spoken and words sung, words written and words uttered in prayer. We throw them swiftly across the field; we learn to handle them with dexterity and grace – and gain as our reward the applause of those who have enjoyed the game. In the games men play there are no moral roots. It is a pleasant activity which changes nothing and settles nothing, at last. Sadly, in the religious game of pious words, after the pleasant meeting no one is basically any different from what he has been before.”

 

To Live is Christ

To Live is Christ

For a few weeks now, through the summer heat and humidity, and all the unique, seasonal challenges that the summer brings, God has been speaking loudly. It really began the week of July 4th and has seemingly continued each day since. What is very interesting, and often consistent in how God works, is that He shows up, speaks, and reveals in the seasons and times when we least expect.

The summer. A time when school is out. People are traveling and on vacation. Families and friends are visiting. The water is a great getaway. A somewhat slower schedule is often welcomed. And then, perhaps when we may not expect it: God shows up, He speaks, and He gets our attention. Not saying He can’t when we are physically exhausted, overloaded, or under pressure; but rather, I sense His unbelievable patience waits until He can get through to us, so that we hear/receive more clearly.

This is what I feel going into this Series: “To Live is Christ.” It has been curating now for a while, week in and week out. God knows what He is doing, all the time. His ways are far better than my ways; His plan is far better than my plans. I say all of this, to make this point:

This Series belongs to Him!
It is surely a God-ordained, Jesus-led, Spirit-filled journey
that will, with His guidance, lead us into more intimate
relationship with Him.

I would like to encourage you and invite you to join us. Consider that a heartfelt invitation. More than anything, I feel it will delight the heart of God and be a beacon of hope to you, in your life right now. It begins this Sunday 8/4/19 @ 10 am and will continue for several weeks.

I hope you will come alongside us for “To live is Christ.” Remember, the journey is the destination. Blessings and peace to you and yours. Hope to see you Sunday!

Porter

 

Mission > [is greater than] Establishment

A few days ago, I found myself pulled into a discussion I didn’t fully realize I was being pulled into. Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes. Prepared or not, ready or not, and sometimes willing or not – there you are. Right in the thick of it.

It was interesting. It was relevant. I was just running a bit late for a long overdue dental appointment. So I had about 15 minutes, at that appointed time, to try and give an answer for a question that was being tabled. The discussion surrounded the church and the mission that the church has been given: “to go into all the world, and make disciples of all nations…” (see Matthew 28).

A good question you might be wondering, right about now, is this: What in the world does the church, the Great Commission, and establishment have to do with one another? That is a very good question – let me elaborate a bit more.

One of the persons in the discussion was convinced that the church, for the most part, has become more of an “establishment” and has lost (or minimized) it’s first love in pursuit of things that aren’t necessarily “after God’s own heart.” They referenced things like: structures, systems, vision statements, financial reports, and groups at the top who hold onto authority and power. A few minutes into this back and forth, this person made the comment: “the church looks more like an institution to me, with an establishment, goals and objectives, and less like the movement Jesus led.”

I have to be a little honest here: That had me thinking. Even if it may be accurate in some instances, in some examples, in some places and spaces; it surely is not true everywhere, in each situation, in every church. How do I know this? Because God’s Church is His answer to a lost and dying world that desperately needs the Gospel. The Church is the body of Christ, a city on a hill, a royal priesthood that has been called out of darkness into His marvelous light. He charged the Church to go into all the world, and He stated in no uncertain terms, that He would be with us even until the end of the world (again: Matthew 28).

I believe if we “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” that it will all fall into place as long as we lean on Him to provide and sustain us. Who do we need to be? What do we need to do? We need to surrender to God! We need to be available and willing to go, to learn, to serve, and to work. We need to allow God to do His part and we need to be faithful in doing ours.

When our priorities are aligned with God’s…when all of that has been fleshed out and made new, I just believe we can trust that He will keep our actions, our motives, and our purposes in the right place. The Church is an essential, necessary, living movement that is called to give Jesus away. The Church is a people in communion and fellowship with God and with one another, who take the mission passionately and with great urgency. The Church is you and I, and despite any establishment or ulterior motive that some may in fact have, with God’s help, we can move the mission forward in spite of it. We must.

The conversation will continue. We agreed that day that it wasn’t going to just end there. I now look forward to it. But believe me, there are many out there who have a similar mindset and position. Some are in your sphere of influence. People who have been hurt by churches and church-people, whether recently or decades ago. People who have questions in a day/time where faith seems to be on trial and skeptics come out of the woodwork. People who try to seek excuses and reasons to stay at arms-length from making a decision that will change the course of their life, forever. Let’s seize this God-given opportunity to give truth away…to give Jesus away…to truly be The Church for His glory! 

Blessings and peace.

Porter