How Was Your Christmas, Really?

So, how was your Christmas? Was it all tinsel and holly? Was it nothing but cookies, presents, perfect family photos and eggnog?

For many it comes and goes like a freight train leaving a mess of emotions, some really grand, some very ugly and some a mix of both.

Family drama can ruin good intentions and the kids who never got the memo to behave perfectly on Christmas day can frustrate parents to no end. Now that that’s over, what’s next?

It’s time to just breathe. Breathe and remember that whether your holiday celebrations turned out exactly the way you planned or not (it probably didn’t) God is still faithful.

Don’t blame Him for the messed up and broken lives around you, including yours. Let these moments of mixed emotions remind you once again of exactly why He came in to the world and why we have Christmas in the first place. Remember the stability the Gospel brought to your broken heart when you first trusted in Jesus, and how you knew your life was in His hands forever. Remember the family drama, frustration and turmoil happening in the world at the first Christmas. God brought His Son into that world to be the light and hope we needed at exactly the right time.

He’s well aware of the messiness, the struggle and the heartache that remains since that day. He’s not forgotten about you.

As you transition this week to the new year, focus on this; God has a plan that can never, no matter what, be thwarted or changed.

For those who love Him, who love Christ as King and Savior and Lord, you can rest assured that He is working all things together for your good and His glory! Keep pressing on towards Christ and remembering that you’re living for eternal things, not the things of this world. The success of your life, your kids lives, the lives of your family, distant relatives and friends is not in your hands.  He has a sovereign will for you and them.

Perhaps next Christmas will go better. But maybe not. That’s not really the point. What matters is that you trust Him with persevering faith, a faith that He brought forth in you because of His faithful love for you.

When It’s Hard To Be a Patient Parent

There are many challenges to parenting. Some of the challenges are innate. What I mean is that it just comes with the territory. Every parent knows there will be days of exhaustion in the battle to teach our offspring the rights and wrongs of this life. Even just the common decency of pleases and thank yous, chewing with one’s mouth closed, and not interrupting one another is often like trying to teach a little puppy to use the bathroom outside instead of on living room floor. The repetitive lessons and talks are happening, and in fine fashion I’m sure, but still, there’s “pee on the carpet” just about every day. “How many times do I have to tell you…” Ever said that? Every parent has. And unfortunately only God knows that number.

That brings me to the point of this blog. The issue of repetitive parental discipline is real and will always be a part of daily life until the day our sweet, wonderful, gifts from God are matured and moved out. I’m convinced that the greater lesson in this issue, though, is not their obedience, but our patience with them. Here’s the crazy part. I know that you agree. The reason I know is because you feel it in your heart of hearts every time you have to say the same thing for the zillionth time and lose it. I know because I’ve done it. I, just like you, have raised my voice in frustration, got angry and said things I wish I hadn’t. I’ve had to repent, say sorry and come clean with the fact that my attitude was the issue more than their disobedience, or at least equally the issue.

Be patient, fellow parents. It’s the heart of Jesus. The principle is at the root of the gospel. If we’re to be gospel-filled homes then we need to pray harder for this that most things. When we pray for patience, though it sounds very specific, it’s also very broad. Think about it. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. And if patience can be mastered in us through our submission to Christ and His word, then imagine what else will flow from this.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Galatians 5:22-23a

There it is, folks. That word, patience, stands out like a sore thumb doesn’t it? Even those best at it will admit he or she needs more if it. Our patience in the Spirit, flowing from us in the most unlikely and often maddening situations, putting out fires of wrath and laying the groundwork for God’s Spirit teach our children through us. I imagine we would all like to see these fruits.

So the next time you give a repeated lesson to your teenager or say the same thing you just said 2 seconds ago to your kindergartner, remember to preach this to yourself. Remember the patience of Christ through the years and years of your just not getting it. Even this very day He is showing patience toward you and absolutely never does he show unnecessary anger. What do we do when we fail? And we will fail. We remember that Jesus, who never rudely interrupted His mother, never back-talked His Father and never so much as thought a sinful thought, died in your place to make you righteous in Him. You are covered by His grace, the very grace that you and I have been called to walk in and that supplies us strength today.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Stop comparing yourself to others. God has made you as you are. No, you can’t blame God for your faults, but when it comes to whether you see yourself as valued, loved, successful or useful, God has designed you to reflect Him with your gifts, your personality and your life. God has given you sufficient strength through His Spirit and through the truth of His Word for these things. So, here are three dangers of comparing your life with other people.

ONE: It divides the body

You may not want to hear this, but comparing yourself to others could actually make you the cause of divisions and factions. Paul instructed the Church of Corinth not to act like a dismembered body but to see every part of the body as one that is necessary, no matter its function. When you compare yourself to someone it’s like building up a brick wall between you and that person, a person you’re supposed to function with and for, for a common goal. It would be as silly as if the foot could say to the head, “Because I’m not like you and can’t do what you can do I’m not important.” It’s absurd. But if that could actually happen, imagine the chaos that would ensue in your body. A depressed foot. A puffed up head. Other members suffering as each member loses track of its true function.

Internalized comparisons start by eating away at your own peace and then turn into bitterness that spreads through the church causing even more division and destruction. As a part of Christ’s body through faith you don’t have to compare yourself to anyone. You are a unique, intentionally designed and crucial member of Christ’s body.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.” – 1 Corinthians 12:14-16

TWO: It Distracts You from Christ

In Ephesians 2 Christ is described as being the Head of the Church, His body. Later in chapter 4 Paul describes the body as a network of joints and ligaments all connected together and joined to their supply, which is Christ, the Head. It’s such a wonderful picture of order and growth as we imagine each part of the Church living and breathing for one common goal, maturity in Jesus. That’s the focus. Learn from the Head, grow up in Him, receive life, worth, value, direction and purpose from Him.

But if we go back to Paul’s analogy of the Church in 1 Corinthians and see that it’s possible for the members to start comparing and dividing, what’s happening is we’re, in a sense anyway, disconnecting from the Head. We’re getting distracted. And there’s probably not much the Devil enjoys more than a Christian who is distracted from Christ and His mission. Measuring our level of success in ministry, life, marriage, parenting and so on, by comparing ourselves to others is counterproductive. It stunts growth because we’re not looking to the source anymore. We’re not looking to Christ. Remember Paul’s words to the Ephesians and put your efforts towards “growing up in every way to Him who is the Head”, rather than comparing yourself to someone you weren’t designed to be.

Ephesians 4:15-15 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

 THREE: It’s Not the Gospel

Sinners who cannot save themselves or do enough good to earn their forgiveness are condemned already and will spend eternity apart from God. But God, long ago in eternity past, chose to save His people who had sinned against Him by one day becoming a human in the person of Jesus to suffer and die in their place and become the only sufficient payment for their sins. That payment, received by grace alone and through faith alone is the only basis on which a person is justified before God and made righteous in His sight. All those redeemed by the sacrifice of the Lamb will forever be with God. It’s all because of Jesus. That’s the Gospel, or at least one way of describing it anyway.

In light of that truth, picture one of the redeemed living a life that finds its worth in whether he or she stands up to the successes of others or not. Imagine a man or woman who has been justified before God and accepted fully on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice then believing that he or she is not valuable because they’re not as busy, talented, outgoing, smart, funny, hospitable or musically inclined as the next person. What does that say about the Gospel? It cheapens it.

Preach the beauty of this Gospel to your heart and rest in the finished work of Christ. You are accepted, loved, valued and commissioned for His glory and uniquely gifted for that end. Find freedom in not having to perform for God, or anyone else. That’s not the Gospel. Let everything you do, every motivation to serve your family, your neighbors and your church, flow from the unearned and unconditional love of God.

Relating to Peter is Not Enough

Most people can relate to the Apostle Peter. His tenacious, spontaneity attracts the wild at heart. He was quick to speak and slow to listen just like so many of us. He often found himself in situations that could have been avoided if he simply kept his eyes on the glory of Christ. All of these things make Peter such a relatable person. But there’s a danger in finding comfort in relatability alone. We need more. We need victory. All of us do. And Peter, though it took a while, eventually learned to find His victory in Christ. God transformed him from a faithless, rebellious, betrayer to a gracious lover of people and a powerful witness for the glory of the Gospel.

Walking and drowning

We’ve all heard it. Jesus walked on water. But that’s easy for Him. He’s God. But He’s not the only man in history to do so. Peter had a moment when in the midst of a ferocious storm he set his gaze on Christ and stepped out of the boat onto the sea. Jesus was all he needed in that moment. In his mind there was no storm, only the Lord of glory that bid him come. But something happened. He began to focus just for a moment on the surrounding difficulty and sunk beneath the waves. His mistake is clear to us now in hindsight. Yet still, we all do it time and time again. We relate to Peter here but that’s not where we find strength.

Spirit and Flesh

Peter was sure in what he believed. Or so he thought he was. As Jesus huddled with his twelve in Matthew 16 he asked a simple question. “Who do people say that I am?” After a round of answers Jesus focused in on Peter and asked it to him personally. “Peter, who do you say that I am?” “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Bingo! What a glorious confession of truth. Jesus blessed his words as a holy confession that did not come from human intellect but from the Father in Heaven. In fact, these words were so good that Jesus instructs the future Church as a whole to be built upon that very confession, and in so doing not even the gates of Hell will prevail against it. But once more it all came crashing down for Peter when in the next moment Jesus began to speak of the necessity of His death. Peter denied it. Jesus replied, “Get behind me Satan.” Ouch! Behaviors worthy of praise and rebuke only moments apart. Something each of us can relate to.

Commitment and Denial

Finally, in Luke 22 Jesus warns Peter that a day is coming soon when the Satan will sift his life like a baker sifts wheat. Peter won’t have it. Sensing that what Jesus truly meant, that he would be tempted to deny the Lord, Peter says, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” But Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Sure enough, the record shows that while Jesus made His way from the garden of Gethsemane to the Jerusalem courts to be tried he denied His Lord three times. Could there be a darker day? It hurts to be betrayed. But it also hurts to be the guilty betrayer of a man who came to die for that very sin.

Victory is Better

By now we can see that even with just these three examples of Peter’s life we can all relate. But what we need is a Victor and a Savior, not just someone to relate to. And that’s exactly what we see in Jesus. When Peter sunk in the water after taking his eyes of the Lord, who was the one to lift him out? Later Jesus rebuked Peter for refusing to believe in the necessity of His death, but we never see Him writing Peter off completely. And when Peter denied the Lord three times, a sin we’d all rather leave off our own lists, we know that Jesus remained with him through it all with a plan to restore his faith and use him to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Peter’s hope, his Savior, his Victor was Jesus. He sinned often, but learned to repent often. He fell regularly but learned to lean on Jesus in order to stand again. Sin often beset him, but Jesus took that sin to the cross and nailed it there so that real victory and hope could be found. It’s good and often comforting to relate to Peter, but it’s not enough.  Look to Jesus for strength. When you fail, and you probably will often, He will restore you.

Luke 22:31 – 32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”



What’s So Special About St Patrick’s Day?

Did you know St. Patrick was not a native Irishman?

He was born in Britain, captured at age 16 by pirates and taken into captivity for 6 years. This is when he first knew Christ.

The Lord used this time of slavery and hardship to draw him to saving faith.

He later went back to Ireland as a missionary and Church planter; personally baptizing thousands, converting sinners both rich and poor with the preaching of the gospel of grace.

Yes, he was a saint, but his sainthood was not achieved by religious works. By genuine belief in the Gospel of Grace; the imputed righteousness that comes through faith, Patrick was transferred from darkness to light and set on a God-given mission of making disciples for Christ.

What’s so inspiring about St Patrick’s Day? The Spirit’s work of grace to take a man from captivity and weakness to faith and trust in Him. And in that place of trust and faith God can use a person to shape the course of even an entire country.

Today, think what God might do with you as you lay your life down, pick up your cross and follow hard after Jesus?


Want to know more about St Patrick?

Here are a couple resources.

Loving God and People is Living the Gospel

They are the greatest commandments in all of the Bible, yet sadly they’ve almost become cliche. Love God and love people. Over complicate it and we’re no better than the self-righteous Pharisee who knows nothing of grace. Over simplify them to the point of ignorance and we might as well stop calling ourselves Christians. They are a must, but they’re not meant to be a burden. There is a beauty and a balance in these two commands, summing up all of the Scriptures into two statements that teach us what it means to live to God’s glory.

Love God

We all crave to love and be loved. God created us this way. To love is to express often what words cannot describe. Love goes beyond words into selfless action. To love is to act with the deepest affection for someone. Because love is a universal language it’s easy to tell when love is genuine or when one is merely giving lip-service. It’s also not to be confused with lust, which is always out to self-satisfy.

When God created us He did so out of the purest love in the universe. Everything he does is perfectly selfless. Everything that flows from Him does so for His own glory, which is right, since there is nothing higher. That’s why He made us.  To love Him and bring him glory, and in so doing, fulfill our purpose.

When God penned the ten commandments and gave them to Moses there were two tablets. On one was recorded the perfect standard for man’s behavior towards God, and on the other was written the standard for how man should treat his neighbor. Both tablets contained impossible tasks. It wasn’t that He wanted us to fail, but that we needed to see that the standard was impossible to meet in our own strength. For all the failed attempts to keep the law, He provided a sacrificial system that would be ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. His innocent life would be taken in place of the guilty to atone for sin. God’s justice would be satisfied and the guilty who trust the sacrifice are set free forever.

So when it comes to being a Christian and living for God we do so out of a sense of freedom. We’ve been set free from the bondage of sin and freed up to live for what is supreme. Loving God is not hard, it’s impossible because of sin. But with sin dealt with at the cross we’re truly free to give to God what He deserves, our everything. When we do we find satisfaction in fulfilled purpose and rest in the fact that even though we know we’re not perfect, a perfect Savior has done the impossible for us.

Love People

The first command flows immediately into the second. And you cannot have one without the other. On the second tablet of stone given to Moses we find what would seem to be logical requests. Don’t kill, don’t steal, obey your parents, don’t desire what belongs to your neighbor, and tell the truth. But the problem lies in the heart. As much as we might be able to fool the world into thinking we’re pretty good people, in our hearts we fail daily. According to Jesus, to hate is to kill and to even look with lust at someone is an adulterous act. We’re hopelessly lost and without the Gospel of grace we’re all doomed.

Jesus not only loved God perfectly, but He loved people perfectly. Every word, thought and act was one of perfect love and justice. Even His anger was perfect, teaching us that loving people doesn’t mean to simply tolerate what they’re doing. Jesus ate meals with sinners and tax collectors, came to the defense of prostitutes and advocated for the widow. He gave of His time without complaint and labored in prayer for those around Him. He truly loved people. But the ultimate fulfillment of this second great command came at the cross. He did there what we could never do for anyone. Laying His life down at the altar, He shows us that to love others is to do for them what they truly need, even when it costs us greatly.

Christians are called to love everyone, even our enemies. Much of the world even knows instinctively that love should be shared across borders, between the world’s ethnic groups and with those who are weak, oppressed and hurting. But only Christians can do what God is requiring because it is only the Christian that has the indwelling Spirit of Christ living through them and empowering them to love. Loving people God has made is an act of God. When we join Him in that we are loving Him.

It’s the Gospel

The Gospel can also be summed up with these two commands. God loved so He gave. God, out of his perfect being and for His own glory, loved His enemies and died for them in order to do for them what they could never do and bring them to Himself. When we look at these commands now, to “Love the Lord with all you heart, soul, mind and strength” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself” We’re doing so with an understanding the God makes it possible. God set the example of how in Jesus. Through His death He dealt with our failures. Through His resurrection He gives us victory. And through His ascension and the pouring out of His Spirit He gives us the power.

There’s no doubt that we cannot do this as well as we’d like every day. Don’t let it be a burden. Don’t just let it be a slogan. See the power of God through the indwelling Spirit, a power that is promised to all who are His through faith.




Condemning-Sin vs Sin Condemned

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4

What God did

The law had it’s purpose. It revealed the holiness of God to Israel. It revealed that the human heart is sinful and desperately wicked at its core impulse. It pointed man to a perfect Law-giver, a standard too high to achieve in human strength. But what it could not do, what it was never intended to do was save a soul.

“the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” Galatians 3:23-24

What did God do for us that the law could never have done?

-He fulfilled the righteousness that the law demanded.

-He became the atoning sacrifice for law breakers.

-He condemned those very sins which the law revealed in us by nailing them to a cross.

Sin is Condemned

The Christian is not condemned any longer. He cannot be, for Christ, though innocent, was condemned, accused as guilty and nailed to a cross. Instead of crushing lawbreakers the Father sent His Son to be judged in our stead and bear the wrath that was owing us. The law required perfection. The wage due to sinners was death. And Jesus satisfied both.

No more condemnation

No more guilt.

No more bearing the weight of our own sin.

The unbearable burden has been lifted off.  Christ’s perfect life has been given and the Father is fully pleased. Jesus stood in our place to set us free from the law which bound us. We are free to live by the rule of the Spirit, and not by the flesh any longer.

Walk in The Spirit

“it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God” 

We now walk according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh. And though it is a daily struggle and a long journey of learning what this fully means to crucify our flesh, the reality is the same. Every born again Christian walks according to the Spirit. It’s a blood-bought reality. You cannot one day have the Spirit indwelling you and the next day not. You cannot one day stand guiltless because of the final work of the cross and the next day be guilty again, as if Christ’s work wasn’t sufficient to fully save you. We all battle with remaining sin and fleshly impulses, but if your faith is in Jesus who justifies and forgives, then the ruling power within you is the Spirit. He will help you as Jesus promised He would.

God did what the law, because of human weakness, could never do. It’s a finished work that brings eternal freedom. The Spirit is indwelling you through faith. He is your strength, your help and your everlasting peace, for it is the Spirit who points you back daily to the work that God did in sending His Son to be and do what we, nor the law, nor any other man could ever have done alone. In Christ, sin no longer condemns you. Your sin has been condemned.



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