Monthly Archives: December 2008

Questions Not Resolutions To Consider for 2009

The New Year is rapidly approaching!  Many of you are doing what I have often done about this time of year; sit down, pen in hand, and make a list of resolutions for the new year: lose 10 (or 20) pounds, walk three miles a day (or at least some), eat more veggies, read more books, clean out and straighten up the basement …you know the drill.

But this year is different. As I reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the year that lies ahead, I do not feel compelled to write my usual “to do” list. Instead of stressing over the scale or the messy basement, I find myself smiling and reflecting on some of the funny things our church children have said or remembering the funny things some our church children have done that made me laugh so hard my sides hurt.  I have thought of some of the things our church families have endured or are enduring that have made me cry tears of pain in prayer for them.

And when I think about the future, I’m not dragging out the calendar and formulating a plan of action like I used to do. Instead, I find myself patiently waiting to see what God will do in our lives this year. I guess you could say I am finally learning to be content. And with that contentment has come a new appreciation for the everyday things in life.

I guess we make these New Year’s Resolutions with an inward desire to become better people.  Yet usually, at least for me, I am left with less than satisfactory results. Then, each year brought discouragement because by the time Valentine’s Day arrived; I had either forgotten or had already broken my sincerely made commitments.

I am realizing that becoming the person I want to be may take a long time. Making and breaking resolutions does not seem to be the solution. How can we begin this life-changing process? I wonder. I think being honest with ourselves and facing up to our shortcomings might produce better results.  I think if we stop making New Year’s Resolutions before or as the New Year starts, but begin to contemplate more each day of the New Year What God desires of us, we might, by God’s transforming power, become more the person we should be. 

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up and get our bearings. For starters, here are 10 questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God:

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?

In addition to these questions, here are 21 more to help you “Consider your ways.” Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.

  1. What’s the most important decision you need to make this year?
  2. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?
  3. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?
  4. What habit would you most like to establish this year?
  5. Who do you most want to encourage this year?
  6. What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?
  7. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?
  8. What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?
  9. What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
  10. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
  11. What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?
  12. What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?
  13. In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?
  14. What’s the most important trip you want to take this year?
  15. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?
  16. To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?
  17. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?
  18. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?
  19. If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?
  20. What’s the most important new item you want to buy this year?
  21. In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?

The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year, you will be more likely to remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t considered the question.

If you’ve found these questions helpful, you might want to put them someplace – in a day planner, PDA, calendar, bulletin board, etc. – where you can review them more frequently than once a year.

So let’s evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage” (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things let’s also remember our dependence on our King who said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

(I would like to give credit and thanks to the Don Whitney an associate professor of spiritual formation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of Simplify Your Spiritual Life (NavPress, 2003). This is where the information for these questions came from.)

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What Will You Name the Baby? Jesus

Matthew 1:18-25 (KJV) 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Isaiah 9:1-7 (KJV) 1 Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. 2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

As we enter the Christmas Holiday Season, we should be filled with joy and celebration. Yet, psychologists tell us that the number of people suffering from depression and other emotional troubles increases during the Christmas season.  Our text here in Isaiah tells us of people walking in darkness, living in the land of shadows, and we know death often brings despair.  But he tells us that light hath shined upon them.  And nothing lightens the heart and brings joy like the birth of a child.  What will you name the baby? Some parents choose old family names. Others simply pick things they like, combinations that sound good together. My dad told me a little story about how he came up with my name.  He and mom wondered what they would call me.  I am not sure I was expected, but he said he was walking into the hospital after I was born and stepped on a piece of gum.  The gum was sticky, the situation was tricky, and he named me Ricky.  Others lift names out of mystery novels or other books they are reading; or TV show personalities. Names don’t mean as much in our culture, as they do in some others. Native American names often attempt to describe the essence of a person’s character. Nobody ever accused Sitting Bull of being a wimp! The Hebrews believed your name told the world something about your nature and family heritage.

That’s why Christ is given so many names. There are so many things about him that you and I need to know Messiah means “the anointed one.” Jesus means “God saves.” Emmanuel means “God with us.” I like the names the prophet gives Jesus here in Isaiah, though. They focus on what Jesus means to people like you and me. We feel a lot of the time as though we walk in darkness, don’t we? So let’s listen in a new way as Isaiah names the baby.

I.  His name will be called Wonderful Counselor. Handel’s “Messiah” and the King James Version of the Bible notwithstanding, there’s no comma between these words. They’re one term. Jesus is a wonderful counselor. He knows just what to do, and he knows when and how to do it.

The truth is that many of us spend much of our lives wishing for a wonderful counselor. When you or I have a problem and seek help from a friend or a minister or a psychologist, what we really want is someone who can understand our situation and accept us, warts and all, and care about us as we decide what we need to do. The Christian counselor, Scott Peck, says that’s exactly what a good counselor does. Good counselors accept their clients with all their problems just as they are; they build a trust relationship that clients experience as grace and that allows them to face the truth about themselves and their world and begin to get well. So does a good pastor. So does a good friend.

The good news here, though, is that even if you and I don’t have anybody else in our lives we can count on, we can count on Jesus. If you walk in darkness, he will be your wonderful counselor. He knows you and me so well that he always tells us the truth. He loves us so well that he never stops listening, never gives up caring and hoping and calling you and me to a better life. He is always available. And yet he respects us so well that he always leaves the choices strictly up to us. His name is Wonderful Counselor. Even beyond that, though, if you and I will work with him, he will accomplish whatever you or I need done.

II.  His name is Mighty God. In all the Old Testament, this is the only clear reference to any human being as a God. Not only does the Messiah know what to do and how to do it, Isaiah tells us, he has the power to get it done. Several years ago Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland starred in a movie called Ordinary People. They played a suburban Chicago couple trying to cope with the death of a teenage son. Mary’s character just couldn’t go on. It was too tragic.

She didn’t have the strength. Ultimately, none of us ordinary people have the strength. Oh, you and I like to think we can succeed on our own. Our American success ethic and our culture of rugged individualism teach us that we ought to be able to manage life without any help. But the fact is that the more we try to do that-the more we rely on ourselves alone-the more isolated and friendless and powerless we become, the less able we are to get what we want out of life, the more we walk in darkness. The only way to break out of that cycle is to realize that the One whose very name was power itself didn’t try to make it on his own either. He relied utterly on God. He was obedient, even when it cost him his life, because only in perfect obedience is there strength.

Is there perfect strength? “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” Christ told the Apostle Paul. What that means to you and me is that plenty of power to cope with life is available to us, ordinary people. But you and I can’t get what we want from Jesus the way we’d handle a business deal. We can’t wait until we’re able to bargain with him from a position of strength, precisely because that day will never come. Jesus has the power. Only Jesus can give you or me ultimate success. His name is Mighty God.

III.  Fortunately for you and me, his name is also Everlasting Father, and that keeps his power from crushing us altogether. The Bible speaks in pictures, of course, so it’s not really a contradiction that the Messiah is both Son of God and Everlasting Father. Most sons become fathers at some point in their lives. And we’re not talking about “macho male” in the earthly sense but about “heavenly parent,” with all the best qualities of both mother and father. One of the greatest tragedies in our world is so many children growing up without proper fathers. Childbearing outside marriage means many children never live in the same house with their fathers at all. Broken homes mean many fathers are weekend parents at best. Some fathers who live with their children are so busy or so blind or so demanding that they never take time to be proper fathers either. In fact, some people have a hard time relating to God because they don’t know from their own experience what a good father is.

But Jesus is Everlasting Father. You see, even if you or I do know our natural father, even if our earthly father is a loving, kind, nurturing man, even then he is certain to disappoint us sooner or later. Part of growing up is realizing your dad isn’t perfect. If nothing else, sooner or later our fathers disappoint us by turning out to be mortal.

But Jesus is our Everlasting Father, and he is perfect. He never had a natural child, precisely so that all of us could be his children. So you and I can know for ourselves His tender mercy, His constant love, His willingness to believe in you and me, even if we’ve given up believing in ourselves. So He could teach us by His own example just how far a real parent’s love is willing to go. So He could be to us like the father in His own story of the prodigal son. Waiting always, waiting even now for us to come back, pacing at the window, searching the horizon, spotting us as soon as ever we have the good sense to turn toward home, running out to greet us, folding us in His loving arms, rejoicing over us, as though we were the only children He had. Love that never gives up. His name shall be called Everlasting Father.

IV.  His name is Prince of Peace. On the one hand, you and I know what peace is because our world doesn’t have it. Jews still live on Arab land. Arabs still dream of pushing the Israelis into the sea. Death still lurks beside the highway in Iraq, reaching out to grab soldiers and civilians alike. We long for the day when the government will be on His shoulders, when peace in our world will be a reality and not a dream. Carl Sandburg once wrote, sarcastically, “the peace we now see will last until the next war begins, whereupon peace will be ushered in at the end of the next war.” He realized that ultimate peace can never be enforced from the outside while this world lasts. The most all our troops and firepower will ever succeed in enforcing in Iraq is the absence of war. And that is something. In our world it is a great deal. But it is not Christ’s peace.

On the other hand, the One whose name is Prince of Peace offers you and me something else entirely. He offers us His personal government, peace not as the world gives but citizenship in the peaceable Kingdom of God. In His care you discover peace conceived in the innermost corner of your being, built from the inside out to precise individual specifications, constructed human heart by human heart until it fills the world with its health. What is this peace?

One of the commentators suggests we really ought to translate Isaiah’s word for peace as “success-the enjoyment of all of the good things of life.” That’s the gift Christ offers if you and I will have it. He offers us success-the only kind of success worth having: success that isn’t based on money or power or family or appearances or health but success that is your life and my life lived in harmony with the purposes of God. Because that’s what Jesus’ peace is. Jesus wants to be your peace and mine. Living today and every day in God’s will, surrendered to God’s purposes, in companionship with the Holy Spirit: life at peace with God; life at peace with others; life at peace with yourself. That’s what Jesus offers you and me, because that’s who Jesus is. We know because of his name.

Conclusion:

His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Like banners across the sky of eternity, these are His names. For every person who has ever followed Jesus, this is who He has been. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. But the real question this Christmas is still, “What will you and I do with this Jesus?” Will you call him Savior? Will you call him Friend? Will you let him be for you all that He came to be? What will you name the Baby?

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Merry Christmas

  christourfocusonchristmas

 Christmas is a Wonderful time of year! We at Henard’s Chapel Baptist Church invite you to come join us in special worship and celebration of Christ’s birth as we Pursue the Christ and Make Christ our Focus this Christmas!
                                  
                                     SundaySchedule:
9:45 AM – Sunday School / 11:00 AM – Morning Worship
6:00 PM – Discipleship Training / 7:00 PM – Evening Worship
                                Wednesday Schedule:
Adult Worship and Bible Study / New Kids on The Rock Children’s Ministry
                        New Beginning Youth Ministry
                                      6:30 PM
                        Adult Choir Practice 7:30 PM
For help in transportation call our Van Coordinator, Larry Pickering, at 293-0236 / 358-0256 (cell)
Or call the church office at 272-7676  ext.8 and leave a message
Many Times we forget the true meaning of Christmas so I have invited a special guest to share with you what Christmas is really all about and to help you keep Christ the Focus of Your Christmas!

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