Ask the right question this Christmas!

Sometimes it’s all about asking the right question. The Gospel of Matthew records Herod’s interaction with the magi in chapter two. Verse 2 sets the stage, as these travelers ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Herod’s reaction shows that he was obsessed with where he could find this person the magi were seeking. His go-to for knowledge was the Jewish scholars. Since these magi were looking for a Jewish king, it was logical to check with the Jewish authorities, and there were probably none better than the Jewish scribes They would have been well-versed in the Old Testament, Jewish literature and history.

Which leads us to an important point that Matthew really wants us to get from this story. If you want to locate Jesus, you have to have the Scriptures. We don’t know how the wise men got their information that there was this king coming. God is telling us that we don’t need to know that. It’s not important. What is important is they could only go so far without the Bible. They were, in fact, lost. That’s why they were in Jerusalem.

If you understand and apply this, it can be very encouraging. The Messiah was so close—Bethlehem was less than 6 miles away, but they couldn’t see that without the Bible. Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? A shrewd king and some brilliant Jewish and Gentile scholars met together to answer this question, but they would have been clueless if it weren’t for the Word of God.

Matthew wants us to clearly understand that the most reliable source for finding Jesus is the Bible. And God was very gracious to show them the answer. It’s a very comforting truth that the Lord will lead us to Him through the Bible. All their wisdom and political power wasn’t as important as the Word of God. They were lost without the Word and I think everybody is.

Now Herod is preoccupied with the question: “Where is this king of the Jews?” For the magi, however, what really drives them is the question: “Who is this King?” And that, ultimately, is the right question to ask. What if Herod had asked the scribes, “Who?” They might have read more from Micah 5:

2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times…3 when she who is in labor bears a son…He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be our peace.” Micah 5:2-5 (NIV)

The simple truth is that when we find Jesus Christ in the word of God, we find more and more beautiful things. Like it says in verse four above, He will stand with us. He stands beside you, closer than you know, as close as the word of God. He shepherds his flock. We are to live securely because of his greatness. There is a peace of heart and mind that comes from faith in Jesus. The prophet Micah saw nothing that could break His peace.

Herod didn’t seem to find this, but the wise men did. When we goes further to find Jesus through the Word, we will be amazed at the gifts of peace and blessings that he brings into our lives. This is why the wise men went on their way rejoicing. They found the gift of Jesus. God’s great goal is that His Son be known and worshiped.

Over and over, the Bible piques our curiosity about just how certain things happened. How did this star get the magi from the east to Jerusalem? The irony of the magi is that we could ask all sorts of marginal questions about the magi and about the star, but not ask the most important question: “Who is Jesus?” Find him in the Word. Make him the King of your heart and let his rule give you peace. Let your life be a testimony of who he is.

Have a blessed Christmas,

Pastor Shawn

How Do You See God

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)

Jesus was talking with the religious leaders one day and they asked him about his teaching. They were asking Him about following God and being faithful to God. You see they were taught, as it says in your Gospel reading from Mark:, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” They couldn’t figure out, however, how Jesus fits into that command.

And of course, they accepted the command to: “Love their neighbor as themselves.” You can remember the story of the good Samaritan, because they really wanted to know, and define exactly who “a neighbor” is. You see, they wondered about the Gentiles and maybe the tax collectors and other people that they thought were unclean.

So, Jesus told him in John chapter 5, verse 39: “you study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life, but these are the very Scriptures that testify about me.”

At the beginning of the Gospel of John, John makes it very clear that Jesus himself is the Word of God. In John chapter 1, verse 14, we have, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

Jesus is saying to us, if you look at the Bible and you only see Moses you’ve missed it. If you look at the Bible you just see a bunch of rules and commandments, you missed it. If you look at the Bible, and you just see principles for living, how to be happy and joyous or how to be prosperous, make money, or how to be healthy or whatever, you missed it. But if you see Jesus, you got it!

As Martin Luther taught, you will see Jesus reaching out to you, loving you, caring for you, speaking to you, guiding you as you read its pages through the Spirit. You’ll learn and inwardly digest the words. And not unlike anything that you inwardly digest, that’s healthy for you, it’s going to strengthen you in the love of Jesus Christ.

This is a lifetime adventure of living God’s salvation. Living a life of love in Jesus Christ, through Jesus Christ in the Spirit and through the Word. Please don’t get sidetracked with all the times you’ve might not have done that; where you’ve failed. It’s only the devil in your flesh that would want to distract you in such a way. We need to look to Jesus. He’s given our lives back to us to live them for Him. He is patient loving and kind and most of all, he is forgiving and encouraging. That’s what God looks like; that’s the way that he wants us to see Him; and, and that’s why he took on flesh and blood in Jesus.

So, as a word of encouragement, to look up to and follow Jesus, check out this video entitled, “What Does God Look Like.” As the expression goes, “a picture tells a thousand words.” God bless you in living a life of love in Christ. May the Lord help you to love ever more in Christ.

Living in the Light of Christ

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:8‑20 (NIV)

So as you think about these verses from Ephesians consider; one, it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to you like a map program in your car, giving you the guidance that you need. And two, it’s Christ’s way of witnessing to the world through how you live. This is what Jesus is getting to when He says: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.” Matthew 5:14-15 (NIV)

Paul gives three, very helpful examples for us to see what it’s like when the Holy Spirit is guiding us as we walk with the Lord.

  1. It’s going to affect the way that we talk to others. The text says, “addressing one another.” Our God can change the way that we speak to others. It’s a powerful promise that we can trust God for. God gives us peace and love to speak to each other in ways and words that come from His Spirit. So, if you’re challenged in this area, personally or perhaps with the family situation that you’re in, take heart, the Lord wants to help you. The Lord understands who you are and the situation that you’re in, but He also wants to speak into that situation, if you’ll let Him. Here’s a video that shows one man’s dealing with speaking to others: Leave_a_Legacy.mp4
  2. The Spirit changes the way that we talk to ourselves, “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Singing praise to God makes you strong in faith. “O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love” (Psalm 59:17, ESV).
  3. Then, with that in mind, the guidance of the Holy Spirit speaking to us affects the way we talk to God. The text says, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Isn’t it wonderful to know that God in Christ has made a most amazing promise to believers? Jesus said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34, CEV). The reason why Jesus could say this is because He is Lord of all. We give thanks, because we trust God. He will keep us and His Spirit will strengthen our character because He is love.

Journeying through James, 2:25–26 – How Rahab the Prostitute Was Considered Righteous

“In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:25‑26 (NIV)

First, we need to ask, “Who is Rahab?” Grab your Bibles and go to the Old Testament book of Joshua:

“Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove. He instructed them, ‘Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.’ So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.

But someone told the king of Jericho, ‘Some Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.’ So the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab: ‘Bring out the men who have come into your house, for they have come here to spy out the whole land.’

Rahab had hidden the two men, but she replied, ‘Yes, the men were here earlier, but I didn’t know where they were from. They left the town at dusk, as the gates were about to close. I don’t know where they went. If you hurry, you can probably catch up with them.’
(Actually, she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them beneath bundles of flax she had laid out.) So the king’s men went looking for the spies along the road leading to the shallow crossings of the Jordan River. And as soon as the king’s men had left, the gate of Jericho was shut.”Joshua 2:1–7 (NLT)

The backdrop is that Joshua is leading the Israelite army from one victory to another. They are in the process of fulfilling a promise given to their ancestor Abraham 450 years earlier.

What Rahab did in trusting God was more important than who she was: a gentile prostitute, who wouldn’t have been accepted in Israel (Leviticus 19:29).

Look at the powerful confession that she makes (from Joshua 2:8-13, NIV):

“Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, ‘I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.’”

For Rahab personally, who God is and what He did captivates her heart and mind. You can see this in her testimony: She loves God more than life itself, because if she got caught, the people of Jericho would consider her a traitor! Also, notice that she loves her family, which is a good, godly trait.

Everybody else in Jericho is blind to any hope in God. The people in Jericho knew what God had done, but unlike Rahab, they do not act like believers.

  1. God noticed the sincerity of Rahab’s faith. God brought the spies to her! That’s providence. Jericho was a big city, yet the Israelite spies ended up in the home of the very person in all that big city who was prepared to help them: One whose occupation made her home an easy access point for outsiders getting into Jericho, and whose state of heart of mind made her ready and willing to give up everything to follow God and join his people. God’s hand was at work in all of this.
  2. God miraculously strengthened her faith to boldly approach them. She didn’t know what the two spies would do. Would they honor their word? Would the Israelites really save her and her family? What would the future hold? How would she make money? Where would they live?
  3. She chose to act on what she believed. Be like her! It starts with filling your mind, as she did, with who God is and what He does. Do that! Consider how marvelous and awesome the Lord is; the more we are aware of His grace, His power, and His presence in all things, the more acting in faith becomes natural to us.
  4. Be ready to be used by God at the right time. Jesus bought you with His blood. You are to be used by Him for God’s glory and as a blessing to others. Rahab started a new life through faith. She became part of God’s people (Joshua 6:22–25) and even part of the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

It all starts with seeing, through the Spirit, how beautiful God is and how sure His promises are. Rahab came out of Jericho and lived her life for God by joining his people; it’s time for us to come out of Jericho and live our lives for God by following Jesus. This is a matter of practical action and daily life, so here are some everyday examples of what this may mean. They’re just examples to get you thinking, and may apply to your situation or not; the bigger question is: what is Jesus doing in your life, right now? Where and how does He want you to stand in faith for Him?

  • If you want to be married, or if you already have a husband or wife: Have you hidden in your heart what God says about marriage and relationships? Pray that God would fulfill His will for relationships in your life. The sacrifice of Christ’s blood has made us worthy to ask for such things (Hebrews 4:14–16). And you, personally, choose to live as a man or a woman of God, putting him first in all your relationships, with his Word as your guide to what that looks like.. You can be confident knowing that whether you feel like you’ve succeeded or not, God, for Jesus’ sake, won’t forsake you. Also, boldly and patiently believe that God will work His good will in your spouse. God can do anything; how far are you willing to trust Him?
  • Are you needing a better job? Ask God to give you work that will glorify Him, making the best use of the life that He’s given you as a gift in Christ (Romans 12:1-2ff.). The Lord Jesus taught: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT).

Patient persistence – waiting on God – is more important than immediate answers. God knows what you need and how to build up your heart and faith as you wait for His answer, and you can trust that the will of Him who created you with your unique talents and skills is to use those talents and skills in a way that will bring joy and blessing to you and those around you.

Journeying through James, 2:17-20 – Works Change Lives

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:17‑20 (NLT)

I am really glad that we’ve decided to build a new fellowship hall. Now is the time to pray and think about how God will use it. Naturally, that made me think about good works. I started doing online devotions from James when the COVID pandemic started, and next few verses of James, that I am going to focus on, are about good works.

James is writing to people who are confused about the importance of good works. To help get that point across he refers to the demons. Why? What do they have to do with understanding how faith and good works go together?

The point is this: works change lives. That’s a fact. This is what God wants you to know. The demons know this. That’s why they work so hard at what they do. Their efforts lead countless people away from Jesus Christ. They are organized and work hard.

Every good thing you do, kind word, helpful deed can change someone’s life. That’s a powerful and simple truth. Maybe you’ve been praying for something or someone for a long time and you don’t see any good results. Your prayers, for example, don’t seem to be working. At other times, choosing to forgive, being kind, or being helpful can be really hard to do.

We’re not able to see how God is working in all of these situations, but He is. And by faith, Jesus wants you to see that your life can have a greater purpose. It is hard, because people might not recognize the good works that you do, but God does. He’s given us reason to hope that our good works can change lives.

We don’t have to cower and fear like the demons do. Christ has died for our sins and he has given us back our lives to live for him. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV).

What all this means is that God wants us to be the type of people who are concerned about what sin and the demons seek to destroy. Ask the Lord to show you what he has given you to do. Ask the Lord how you can be an example of his love. It’s awesome that the Lord asks us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We’re not able to see how God can use the good works we do. That’s for him to know. We are to know that what we do can change lives.

Let’s Seek Him, Hosea 6:3

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:1‑3 (NIV)

Let’s take a look at these words of Hosea’s prophecy. The section in particular is just verse 3 from Hosea 6:1-3.

It says, “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

In the Hebrew text, the word that is translated “let us acknowledge” is used very seldom in the Hebrew Old Testament. It harkens to an expression that Jesus said a number of times in the Gospels. He told us “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew7:8; see also Matthew 6:33, Luke 11:9-10, Luke 12:31, John 5:44).

As dependable as the sunrise is in the morning and the seasons changing year after year, is the Lord willingness to come to us and share the good knowledge of His love and care and glory that he has for his people. What the Lord is encouraging us to do, even from Old Testament times, is to seek him; search for him and the text adds the words “press on or pursue.”

These are words of great passion and give us an idea, not that the Lord is difficult to find or that He is hiding himself from us, but He wants us to passionately, with all our heart acknowledge His presence and good hope for us in Christ.

You see, this is the hope and acknowledgement that is hidden from the hearts and minds of unbelievers. It is however the strength, the song and the eternal hope of those that follow Jesus Christ, our precious Lord and Savior.

For it was Christ himself who said, “I am the door” (John 10:9). Since we have such an open door to enter God’s loving presence, should we not ask all the more for anything and everything (e.g. John 14:13-14)? And lastly, should we not all the more ask the Holy Spirit to remind us (Luke 11:13, Romans 8:14) of the access that we have to our Heavenly Father (Hebrews 4:16); not to mention, to remind us constantly of how much God wants to enrich our joy in Him! (Luke 12:32-34)

For further study related to this: Look up and meditate on how your everyday life can be an expression of Ephesians 3:14–21, finding your satisfaction in experiencing and sharing Jesus!

Go Boldly to God’s Throne

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15‑16 (NIV)

Go boldly to God’s Throne. What a privilege Jesus has won for us. We have immediate access to God He gave Himself as a living sacrifice so we can draw near to the throne of God with bold confidence. He made it possible to for us to have a personal relation with our Heavenly Father! We are His dearly loved children because Christ has taken away that which separated us—our sin. We come as children through the open door. Our God is ready to lavish His mercy and grace upon us. Rather than focusing on our frailties and unworthiness, let us look to Jesus who is our High Priest that understands our weaknesses. He was tempted just as we are, but He chose not to sin. He was the Lamb of God without spot or blemish and in His present-day ministry He makes intercession for us. The Holy Spirit gives us understanding and assures us that Jesus Himself is our access into the presence of the Father Jesus is our confidence and we speak to our Father without reservation. In His presence, we can speak openly and be honest with ourselves and with Him without fear of judgement. There we accept His mercy to help us in times of distress, and accept His grace to overcome temptation.

Journeying through James, 2:18 – Keep the lights On

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” James 2:18 (NLT)

When we lived in Sierra Leone, one of the things that was very different was living without electricity. The oddest thing was that the town we lived in had electrical lines; the infrastructure was there. We had fixtures and lights built into our house. Technically, we did have lights, even though they never shined. This helps me understand what James is talking about when he says, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

It was rare in the town we lived in, but when the electricity came on, it empowered us to be able to do many good things. Picture your good deeds as lightbulbs shining. Jesus taught, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).

My prayer is that God would graciously empower us to shine with the love of Christ. In other words, it’s great to have the lights, but it’s really obvious and a blessing when they are powered on.

Journeying through James, 2:15-17

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:15‑17 (NIV)

I am a fan of slapstick. I’ve watched the Three Stooges, and the picture that James describes reminds me of one of their slapstick routines. They’re in a sinking boat, and one decides to help by drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat to, “Let the water out.” In others words, if someone could really say, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” and think they’re showing compassion—their faith is sunk. The poor person would just stand there and think, “Really? Seriously?!”

James is talking about bare essentials here: food and clothing. Stuff that someone needs to stay alive. This verse is not really about charitable giving; the real issue is more serious. If someone really acted like this, it would reveal that they aren’t listening to God, or worse yet, don’t really know Him. The apostle John, for example, wrote: “Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God” (3 John 11, NLT).

What we can learn from this is an appreciation for the opportunities that God brings into our life to bless others. We can ask God to help us understand that everything we have is a gift from Him. He gives us the privilege of sharing.

Journey through James, 2:14

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? James 2:15 (NLT)

Let’s say that someone you know needs you to give him a ride. This person is having an emergency. You have a car, but, with a dead battery, it’s not taking anybody anywhere. Let’s say that your car was given to you, too. Some guy gave it you because he loves people, and he figured you’d use the car to bless others. The idea is that our faith in Christ has a purpose to it. It is living—because Jesus lives. It works. It is good for something. If faith from Jesus Christ comes into one’s life, but brings no tangible blessing to others, it differs fundamentally from the faith that Jesus and his apostles demonstrated.

Our Regular Fall Voters' Meeting was held on November 14, 2021. Please contact the Trinity Office if you would like a copy of the minutes. We'll update this link next when we have details regarding our upcoming Regular Spring Voters' Meeting. God bless you and may the Lord continue to bless our ministries!