Overcoming Fear with Songs of Hope

Overcoming Fear with Songs of Hope

Dear Friend,

During the last five months of 2014 we saw the world focused on Ferguson and St. Louis.  Right before Thanksgiving national headlines read like a war correspondent’s report.  Fear had gripped the community.  People were afraid before Christmas to shop in the malls least they be confronted by protestors and reminded of the sins of racism which had festered for years in the hearts and minds of many.

If we are going to stop this disease from destroying our community and our lives, we must ask God to root out the cancer of fear which feeds racism daily. The only cure for this cancer of fear is 1 John4:18 which says “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fears.”

The fact is if we truly believe that we are loved, we will experience the powerful antidote to the poison of fear.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believeth in him shall not perish but have life everlasting” (John 3:16).  It is His love which frees us to live a life of faith and love that is not paralyzed by fear.

Because, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,” we can sing the songs of hope on the coldest, most fear filled nights that life may throw at us.  Not only does God proclaim, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), but He also demonstrated it through sending His Son, Jesus Christ into the world.  Jesus, through His death on the cross, personally revealed…

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Don’t Miss Jesus for the Manger

Don’t Miss Jesus for the Manger

Dear Friends,
It takes great faith to be obedient to God when you are unsure of yourself. None of us can say with certainty how our obedient actions will be understood and interpreted in days to come. We can want more than anything to be understood, accepted, loved, and welcomed by others. This often gets in the way of being obedient to God. During the seasons of Advent, Christmas,and Epiphany we can find wisdom to understand ourselves in God’s story from his servants in the Scriptures. Advent: means coming. We reflect on the prophecies ofthe Messiah and prepare ourselves for His Coming, not just in the Christmas season but for His Return. Christmas: A celebration of Christ’s birth. The fulfillment of prophecy. What we’ve prepared and waited for has arrived. Incarnation, Emmanuel: God with Us. The Shepherds are the first evangelists of Jesus’ birth. Epiphany: The Magi come and worship,Jesus revealed to all nations as King. People like Mary and Joseph,the unnamed shepherds,and the magi from the east. Over the next few months we are called to prepare ourselves for celebrating Jesus’ birth. Let’s ask for God’s help now.

Heavenly Father,

In me there is darkness,But with you there is light; I am lonely,but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;I am restless, but with you there is peace. In me there is bitterness,but with you there is patience; I do not understand your ways,but you know the way for me. {Dietrich Bonhoeffer,1943) Lord we pray you open our eyes to the seasons before us,that we might be prepared to rightly adore Jesus in celebration and to boldly proclaim Him in the New Year.

In the Name of Jesus we pray,Amen.

With the time that we have I’d like to take a bird’s eye look at the celebration of Christ’s coming,birth, and heralding that lies before us in the coming months. When we celebrate Christmas rightly, it comes with preparation. If Christmas is an annual event in your life you might be tempted to accept it as the crowning of the Consumer Price Index rather than as the fulfillment of prophecy that Christ is here…

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Don’t miss Jesus for the Manager

Touching a Hurting World

Touching a Hurting World

Dear Friend,

As we think about Christmas, pictures of angels, wise men, a baby in a manger, and other images come to mind.  How we long for the peace on earth spoken of by the angels at that first Christmas.

The reality of this Christmas this year is anything but peaceful.  In fact, the reality we are presently facing more closely parallels that described in Rev. 12 than what we see in the first chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

While Matthew, Mark and Luke describe the nativity events on earth, Rev. 12 tells us what is taking place in heaven as the Christ Child is born.  Verses 7-10 state, “and war broke out in heaven:  Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in Heaven any longer.  So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world, he was cast to earth, and his angels were cast out with him.  Then I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven, “Now salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ has come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God, has been cast down.”

Realizing what was happening in Heaven while the first nativity scene was unfolding on earth helps us to put things in perspective as we read both the Bible and the daily news events.  It helps to understand why this Christmas…

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Touching a Hurting World

Why We Need the Disturbing Voices of the Protestors

Why We Need the Disturbing Voices of the Protestors

Dear Friends,

As many of you know St. Louis is presently sitting on a powder keg. After the killing of Michael Brown, Aug. 9, 2014, by Officer Darren Wilson, people are taking to the streets expressing their anger in growing numbers. While this happens many in the church are praying for peace in their neighborhoods, not understanding that something much greater is needed and that is repentance resulting in justice.

The fact is there can be no peace without justice and there can be no justice without repentance. For that reason Jesus said over and over, “repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Repentance is a powerful theme throughout the Bible. It is not just about the admitting of wrongdoing but also committing to making changes that prevent further harm.

The Scriptures are filled with cries of the suffering, who are the disturbing voices in our affluent society. If we truly listen, these sounds of suffering can break through our walls of indifference enabling us to become the salt and light that Scripture speaks of. As discomforting as it may be…

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Why We Need the Disturbing Voices of the Protestors

Something to Give

Something to Give

God gives each of us gifts right in that place where we feel weakest and most empty. All of our trials, understood rightly, can be used by God to transform us into people of worship and service. I have a friend who called me just yesterday, and his particular trial is physical, emotional, and spiritual. For many years he has struggled with his particular form of mental illness. He’s a very knowledgeable man, used to studying biblical history and theology. But his daily prayer is for God to simply help him cope with the trauma going on in his brain. He gets migraine headaches that cripple him for hours. He has panic attacks and anxieties that I can hardly understand. He has fitful periods of doubt, hurtful, mean-spirited, angry thoughts about God and bitterness toward people that eat at him.

I have stood beside him as he walked through a near suicidal period, followed by a hospitalization and then release after his decision to stop taking his medications. And as I listen and stand with him now, I realize that for my brother in Christ, every day is a testimony to me of the enduring grace of God. I ask him how…

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Something to Give

Traveling the Highway of Life

Traveling the Highway of Life

Dear Friend,

The sun had just set, and darkness was spreading itself across the horizon as I approached the southern part of Dallas on highway 35. Suddenly, as if scattered by some truck weaving from lane to lane, large concrete blocks appeared on the highway. They looked like they were 2 ½ feet high and 2 feet wide. Although I swerved to avoid those in my immediate lane I knew impact had been made but was not aware to what extent.

As I moved down the highway I witnessed numerous disabled vehicles on the side of the road with their drivers standing outside their cars examining them.  Finally, after driving approximately fifteen miles, I pulled into a service station where I examined my own vehicle.  It was then that I noticed that a large plastic piece under the front bumper had been torn loose. Since it was a Sunday evening with no repair shops open all I could do was shove the detached piece back into place and continue on my journey throughout the night. Once I made it back to Missouri that piece was dragging to the point I had to remove it.

What I had encountered defied all human logic. My little car sits only six to eight inches off the ground. It was like the Hand of God, or a dozen angels, had literally lifted my car and myself up and over this obstacle with just the front belly of the car scraping the concrete block.

During the past week as I have encountered unexpected obstacles scattered across the highway of life, I have often thought about this experience on highway 35.  When it looked like a crash was certain it was so easy just to panic or radically turn to miss the obstacle or problem to the extent I crashed into someone by saying or doing something I shouldn’t have.

It is for that reason I couldn’t afford to just read II Timothy 1:7…

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Traveling the Highway of Life”

Dealing with Anger

Dealing with Anger

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Anger is like a toxic waste.  Sooner or later it will come out.  When anger is turned inward, emotional exhaustion manifested as depression is often the result.

Eph.4:26, 27 gives us some very valuable steps for dealing with anger.  It states: “In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

The first step in dealing with anger is to be honest and not deny your anger.  People usually relate to anger in one of two ways.  They are either intimidators or enablers.  The intimidator uses anger to intimidate, while the enabler keeps it all inside until an internal explosion has taken place.  Intimidators destroy other people with their anger, while enablers or internalizers destroy themselves and destroy other people by denying that anger exists when asked about it.  Eph.4:26 says: “Be angry but do not sin.”  In other words, you must be honest in admitting that you may be angry, but you may not have all the facts and, as a result, your anger may be on the wrong basis.  That is why Jesus said that if we had anything against anyone, we must go to them, one-on-one, and sort out the facts.

The second step we are given in verse 26 is to not sin in our anger.  We are not told never to get angry, nor are we told to feel guilty over our anger.  Instead we are told to not sin when we are angry. . .

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Dealing with Anger”

Naming Our Illusions

Naming Our Illusions

Dear Friends,

Each person is of extreme value and worth to God. There are no inferior human beings, for we are all His daughters and sons. Our texts today challenge us that there are people who cannot speak up, who cannot protect themselves, who are not protected. The Word of God challenges us to receive the truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for those people whose back is up against the wall. But are we, his people, willing to number ourselves among those who are wall-bruised?

Jesus proclaims freedom to the captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and Jubilee this year. Are we ready for all that? God is close to the broken hearted. The question is, are we close to the broken hearted?

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father,

We humble ourselves before you and come eager to hear from you. We thank you for freedom, for deliverance, for protection. We know that there are many who are less free, who are still bound, who need a voice, and the deliverance that all your children should enjoy. All that we need comes not from any earthly person or government, rather it comes from you. We pray your Kingdom come, your Will be done here on earth in us.
In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

What is sin?. . .

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Naming Our Illusions”

Starting the Day with the Inspiration and Wisdom of Two Powerful Letters

Starting the Day with the Inspiration and Wisdom of Two Powerful Letters

Dear Friends,

A few days ago I woke up feeling weak, worn, and weary. If that wasn’t enough, I discovered that while I was sleeping, a spider had bitten me on my right wrist.

It was one of those days where I had felt beaten even before I had climbed out of bed. I knew I couldn’t just lay there allowing a dark cloud of depression to settle over me, so I got up and grabbed my Bible and turned to the book of Ephesians.

This was actually one of two letters written to the church of Ephesus. One, the Book of Ephesians was written by Paul and the other by Jesus, is recorded in Rev. 2:1-7.

I didn’t have to read any further than verse 3 of Ephesians 1 to start getting my deflated, depressed spirit pumped back up again…

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Starting the Day with the Inspiration and Wisdom of Two Powerful Letters”

Dream The Impossible Dreams

Dream The Impossible Dreams

Dear Friends,

As we get older, disappointment after disappointment can pile upon each other until we become so disillusioned we are incapable of dreaming. As a result we start living in a hopeless rut called life. Such an existence has little or no expectations. Such a rut is actually a grave with both ends knocked out.

The reason we often lose our ability to dream is that somewhere along the line we have allowed our learning to be a result of the retaining of negative experiences or unmet expectations rather than a focusing upon the good and the positive.

Paul in Philippians 4:13 said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This involves by God’s grace allowing the Holy Spirit to help us rediscover the idealism of youth and at the same time learn from our mistakes without being paralyzed by them. Jesus emphasized the need for a childlike faith that dared to believe in spite of the obstacles or disappointments.

How do we go on living in a world intoxicated by its lust for power without becoming disillusioned to the point where we no longer dream or have hope? God’s response to this world that is intoxicated by its lust for power, is…

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Dream The Impossible Dreams”