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Persistent Peace of Christ

It is foretold that Messiah will be Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end…”

We believe Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning Messiah. What about him being the Prince of Peace?

At Jesus’ birth the angels proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14, NIV)

Has Jesus brought us peace? There appears to be a glaring contradiction, even in what Jesus said about himself.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34).

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. rom now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.” (Luke 12:51-52)

Certainly, in our world this is the case, isn’t it? Families are divided over politics and religion. Christians are disregarded, disrespected, or hated when they follow Jesus’ actual teaching. So, how is he the Prince of Peace? Let’s look further at what He said to his students.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

(John 16:33, NIV84)

The Peace is In Christ.

In the world we will have trouble. As we observed a moment ago, following Jesus may increase the trouble you face in the world. Notice, the angels proclaimed that peace would come “to those on whom his favor rests.” The secret to Jesus’ peace is to put faith in his unmerited favor or grace, and trust Him to take care of you. When He is genuinely your Lord, then He is in control. Nothing will happen in your life that your Lord is incapable of handling, and giving you the wisdom, courage and perseverance to go through. In the passage surrounding this verse Jesus has promised to send the Holy Spirit to stay with his disciples. In fact, he promised the Holy Spirit would live inside them! When you have the presence of God within, you have the power of God to go through any circumstance with peace and confidence.

This isn’t to say you will be able to control all of your circumstances. In fact, the need to control everything will rob you of peace.

You cannot control everything but you can control yourself!

Ever feel like you’re out of control… and you just can’t seem to get it back.

Good news for believers is that self-control is a direct result of being indwelt & empowered by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Realize you cannot control other people, but you can control your reaction to them.

Realize you cannot be in control of the world and many of your circumstances, but you can determine how you will respond and act.

You cannot control everything but you can pray to the God who created the heavens and the earth.

The world is fallen and many people are in rebellion, so a lot of bad things are happening. Maybe you’re afraid something bad will happen to you! Rest assured God is on his throne in heaven and is in ultimate control.

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19)

Invite the LORD into your current situation and intercede for others, even if don’t believe or trust Jesus.

God changes things when we pray & trust him to work.

First and foremost God changes me when I pray. He gives me peace when I pray.

“Be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer and petition with Thanksgiving make your requests known to God and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Jesus promised that if we believe when we pray we can move mountains. So, yes, God can and sometimes will change circumstances when we pray. But we must trust him to move.

The peace of Christ is not freedom from conflict;

at least, not coming from others. Certainly, you and I as followers of Jesus are not to be staring fights with people over our opinions or the faith. We are taught to “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV84)

We are taught to “speak the truth in love,” (Eph. 4:15),

which doesn’t mean to add, “but I love you,” as a tagline to your diatribe against someone’s lifestyle or opinion.

The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say, the conviction about when and how to say them, and anointing to make you effective (Mark 13:11, John 14:26, 20:22, 1 John 2:20 & 27)

The peace of Christ is not the absence of challenges

As long as you’re in the world, you will face trouble. There will be obstacles. There will be trials. Jesus will not remove all your struggles because you need to overcome them by relying on His Spirit in order to become more like your Lord.

We are promised that God will make everything work out for our good and his glory!

“All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

We have to go through the difficulty and overcome to become. God’s primary goal is to make you like Jesus, friend.

“For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (and sisters) (Romans 8:29).

Those of us who practice weightlifting know that through resistance we become stronger.

You will be tempted. Instead of crying for the Lord to take the temptation away, learn to rely on him and resist!

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to people. God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but will with the temptation provide the way of escape so that you may endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

We are promised total victory when we fight the good fight of faith.

“If God is for us who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)

“But in all these things we are overwhelmingly conqueror through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37)

The Peace of Christ means I have nothing to fear and no reason to be troubled

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The world offers superficial answers, outright lies and temporary solutions to help you with fear, stress, anger and other emotional challenges.

Let me be clear:

Panic is Satanic.

God doesn’t inspire panic or the kind of terror that leads you to cower and run away. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but that is deep reverence not terror.

Faith brings the presence of God. Satan is the one who thrives on fear and drives you to panic. Panic means you feel vulnerable and without the ability to control some real or imagined circumstance. Admit you have not control, then. Give control to Jesus. TRUST the LORD! Pray. Sing songs of praise. Get on your face and worship the Living and True God.

Confusion comes from the Father of Lies

If you’re confused, it is not God. The spirit of confusion comes from the Father of Lies. “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21). God has made himself clear in his Word. He has a purpose for you. First of all, to make you like His Son Jesus. Are you completely committed to Jesus? If not, that is the real source of your confusion. God wants to reveal specific direction for your life. How will you know what it is? Commit yourself completely to Christ. Align your will with God’s. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Seek his kingdom above your ambition or profit. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

You’ll know what to do when you’re willing to do God’s will no matter the cost. “If anyone is willing to do His will that person will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own” (John 7:17).

Depression is of the devil.

Depression may result from frustration and internal anger over your circumstances or relationships.

It may be a response to loss. Ultimately depression is a lack of hope. The devil has told you that you’re unworthy of God and His love. OR he has made you believe that you deserve better. Either way, tell the truth to yourself, and to God. You ARE unworthy, whether you think so or not. None of us deserve God’s love. None of us has earned the right to be forgiven. None of us have lived a perfect life.

God offers grace to the undeserving

Grace is unmerited favor. God chooses to look your way, listen to and answer your prayers. Why? Because of What Jesus did on the cross to buy your forgiveness. Once you admit you’re unworthy, you’re in the perfect position to receive God’s love. He chooses to love you. It is in his nature.

Hope is renewed when we find and put our faith in God’s promises

God has offered us many promises in which to place our hope.

Let me remind you of the promise I believe God offered us last week Lifewell

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” (Zechariah 9:11–12, NIV84)

It is because of the blood of Jesus that God offers this, not because we deserve it.

You have been set free of your depression, your panic attacks, your fear. That is the promise. Believe and it will be!

Whatever the devil has stolen, God will restore two-fold or more! That is the promise. Believe it and receive it.

There are many more promises I believe God has made to me for this church. As you are willing to receive them, I will continue to deliver them.

But don’t wait for me. Search the Scriptures. Put your hope in God’s promises. Put your trust in Jesus. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Be at peace!

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Jesus is the Reason… for Everything Good

My message for Christmas Eve 2017 as delivered at Lifewell Church in historic downtown Garland.

Six Symbols of Christmas

Christmas is all about Jesus. He is the reason for the season,
and for everything good in the world.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.”
(Colossians 1:15-17).
And we who believe should live our lives for him.
“Whatever you do in word or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though him.”
(Colossians 3:17)
Tonight I want to tell you about the Symbols of Christmas.

You see, they’re all about Jesus.

1. Christmas Carols
What is a /Carol/? “a song, especially of joy.”
May have begun with St. Francis of Assisi a 12th century monk who established the Franciscan order. Pope Francis is named after this saint.
However, long before Saint Francis believers are encouraged by the Apostle Paul to “Let the message of Christ live in you richly. Sing songs hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord, with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). We’re also told not to get drunk but to be filled with the Spirit, “speak to one another with songs, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19).
The best Christmas carols are worship songs.
O, Come Emanuel captures the longing of advent and our desire for the Lord Jesus to return and save us from this fallen world.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is about the magi who came t see Jesus. Listen to this line
God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day
to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray
O, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.
O, tidings of comfort and joy.
/*Christmas carols were my first praise and worship songs.*/
I memorized that long before I became a Christian, but after I gave my heart to Jesus the words jumped out at me.

2. Christmas Tree
Garland, wreaths = evergreen, eternal life.
During his ministry Jesus was in the Temple during Hanukkah and said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:28).
Greenery was used for celebrations in winter as early as the Roman times. Like many pagan symbols and celebrations Christians converted the evergreen understanding it to represent the eternal life the Son of God gives. Martin Luther brought boughs into his house and placed candles in them, believing it looked like the starry night sky. He had a Christmas tree and sang carols to his children.

The evergreen also reminds me of something that never grows old. In the Psalms we are promised that the Lord, “fills all your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (103:5). The eagle is used as an analogy because it is strong, lively and soars above the mundane earth.
Give your life to Jesus and you’ll be youthful and ever green!

3. Creche or Nativity Scene
Of course Jesus was born in Bethlehem and there wasn’t any room for him at the Inn or in the guest room of any home. That’s why Jesus’ cradle was a manger, or feeding trough. But the Nativity Scene with animals, shepherds and wise men is actually another creation of Francis of Assisi! He loved animals and they used live ones in the first Manger Scene.
“On Christmas Eve 1223, in order to ‘Set before our bodily eyes … how he [Jesus] lay in a manger,’ Francis and his companions worshiped in a cave near Greccio, Italy, surrounded by the traditional oxen, sheep, and donkeys.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/christmas-traditions.html

4. Santa Claus
His original name is Nicholas, and a long time ago he was actually the Bishop, or Senior Pastor of a church in a city called Myra, which is in modern Turkey. Nicholas loved Jesus and he loved to give. The first gifts he gave were gold coins. He wanted to help three poor young girls get married, so he secretly slipped bags of gold through their window at night. One story says that some of the coins fell into their stockings as they dried above the fireplace.
Now you know why children sometimes get gifts in their stockings.
There have been many churches and cathedrals named after Nicholas, and the Catholic church recognized him as a saint. When you say “Saint Nicholas” really fast you can see how his name got changed to Santa Claus! What you need to remember is, Saint Nicholas really loves Jesus!

5. Christmas Presents
Why do we give gifts at Christmas?
It’s simple, really, God gave his son, and that inspires people to give.
The three Wise Men travelled 900 miles from Persia, modern Iraq, just to honor the newborn king. They gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Saint Nicholas gave those three young ladies the money to get married and has been known as a gift-giver since.
There’s just something about grace that prompts us to give.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)

6. Christmas Lights
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness” (John 8:12).
Jesus is not like a spotlight blinding you, but a beautiful light leading you to heaven. We follow Jesus and live our lives like he lived his: unselfish, giving, and caring for other people. If we follow his example we can’t go wrong. But we don’t always follow Jesus, do we? That’s why we have to believe in him and receive him in our hearts.

We put our faith in Jesus and his love for us. We believe he was born in a stable, grew up and lived the perfect life we’re supposed to but don’t. He is the perfect Savior who took our sins upon him. The Bible says: “He who knew no sin became our sin,” then he died on the cross to pay their price because “the wages of sin is death.” And as a result we who are believers “become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus conquered sin and death and rose on the third day. That’s what Easter is about. Without the resurrection of Easter we probably wouldn’t want to celebrate Christmas. You and I would still be slaves to sin, subject to death. But Jesus is alive, so we can say, “Death where is your victory, where is your sting!? Jesus offers you the greatest gif of all: eternal life! He will come and live in your heart. All you have to do is believe in him, call out to him, invite him. Jesus said, “Look! I stand at the door and knock, if anyone will open the door, I will come into him and we will dine together. Invite Jesus into your heart, then follow the light of the world, who lives in your heart.

What are you all about?
Is your Christmas celebration really about Jesus, or something else? Is your life all about Jesus, or someone else? Why don’t you make a change tonight, and really put your faith in Jesus. Start living your life, so that: “Whatever you do in word or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though him” (Colossians 3:17)?

Six Miracles

Parthenogenesis is a virgin birth. This doesn’t happen among mammals in nature. However, with intelligent assistance a female mouse was genetically engineered to give birth to its own offspring without the involvement of a male.
Humans cannot naturally do this. However nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37).

What’s a miracle?
/Miracle/ means something exists or occurs supernaturally, above and beyond nature. In other words, a miracle means something didn’t just happen, or come about naturally.

1. Existence.
“Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does anything at all exist?” -Leibniz
The fact that anything at all exists is the first miracle.
Existence didn’t just happen. Nothing cannot cause or result in something. “From nothing, nothing comes.”
Something, or Someone has always existed, and whomever or whatever that is, is by definition a miracle, since it is beyond the natural world in which we exist.

2. The Universe
For those who conclude as Carl Sagan did, as the Greeks did, that the universe is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be, the argument that existence is a miracle might seem foolish, but I believe the question is still, why? Why does the universe exist? They would respond that it is just a “brute fact,” and feel smug and comfortable that the “why question is a foolish one,” as Dawkins states. Yet many of us are still asking this very human question. Moreover, the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe has far and away the best and most prolific evidence, and it demonstrates that the universe began to exist 13.7 billion years ago. The universe is a miracle.

Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its existence. The best explanation is that the universe was brought into existence by a personal Creator, who existed prior to it. Personal because only a person is capable of freely making something happen apart from a prior cause. God is a personal, infinitely powerful, unimaginably intelligent being who, by definition has always existed. God is the uncaused cause of the universe, and everything else that exists.

3. Life.
Evolution as an explanation for the origin of life is ridiculous. In the same respect as nothing cannot result in something, so non-life cannot produce life. Ironically, evolution is a poor explanation for the origin of any species. The infamous Miller-Urey experiment that every high school student is shown as proof that life began to exist as a result of natural causes fails to prove anything. Miller intelligently designed the experiment, using elements that he already believed would produce an amino acid. That’s an example of design, not chance. Additionally, Miller was wrong about the composition of the early earth, so an amino acid couldn’t have been produced the way he demonstrated. Finally, a single amino acid is not life. It is a long, long way from amino acid to viable protein, and much further to even the simplest single celled organism.

Biochemist Doug Axe demonstrated in an experiment published by Cambridge University’s Journal of Molecular Biology in 2004 that the likelihood of a single viable amino acid resulting from sheer chance would be 1 in 10 74th. To give you an idea of how ridiculous those odds are, consider that there are 10 65th atoms in our galaxie.

The belief that life could come into existence without apparent cause, is called /spontaneous generation/ People once believed that this happened all the time. For instance, mold seems to spontaneously appear and grow on a pile of damp rags sitting in the corner of a room. This was a very unscientific conclusion prior to knowledge of microscopic organisms. Yet, if we are to believe that evolution is the explanation of the origin of life, we’re forced into the same farcical understanding. In reality, life is a miracle. It came about as a result of something or someone above and beyond nature. Life was (and is) created by the same God who made the universe and the earth.

4. Consciousness.
We take for granted the reality that we are conscious beings. You are more than a body, you are a self. You don’t have a “me”; you are a me. You perceive qualities, not quantities. Not all life is conscious life. Self-awareness is not something that arose naturally via some sort of evolution. There must be something else present within a living organism to make it personal and conscious. That something is a non-corporeal essence, which some call soul, but would more accurately be understood as spirit. Human beings are both self-conscious and God-conscious, because they have been given a spirit from God and like God’s own. We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). God breathed into us and endowed us with a supernatural component that enables consciousness (Gen. 2:7). It is the spirit that makes us aware of our own thoughts. The spirit is like a mirror, reflecting the mind and the self. “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his inmost parts” (Prov. 20:27)
The spirit is like a phone, communicating God’s voice, but via intuition rather than spoken words.
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”
(1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV).
God’s Spirit knows his thoughts and communicates them to us as God wills.
“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us”
(1 Corinthians 2:12 NIV).
The soul is conscious, earthly life. The spirit is subconscious and capable of communing with God and receiving eternal life. I understand God’s revelation via His Spirit who communicates with my spirit, once it is revived through the new birth.

This is miraculous, supernatural, not natural.

5. Incarnation
You might be wondering what all of this has to do with Advent. The Christmas story centers around the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God who became a man. That is called the incarnation, and that is what Christmas is actually all about.
“although he existed in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God as something to be held onto, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant and being born in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
Jesus’ mother, Mary was a young, unmarried virgin. The virgin birth is foolish in the eyes of those who do not believe in God or the miraculous. However, once you see that existence, the universe, life and consciousness are all miraculous you will likely find it quite easy to believe in the possibility of the virgin birth, which is necessary to bring about the incarnation of the Son of God. The God who created everything can certainly create within a virgin’s womb the sinless body of his incarnate Son.
The Gospel of Luke testifies that an angel visited the Virgin Mary. This was a supernatural messenger from God. When Mary asked how she could become pregnant, the angel replied: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God… For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35, 37).

6. Resurrection
The baby born in a manger grew to be the sinless man who died on the cross and rose from the grave. Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead,” and the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” When you and I confess our sin and put our faith in Jesus who conquered sin, death and hell, we are given a new status as God’s children and a new hope as those who will follow Jesus through death to eternal life. That is the greatest miracle for us!
So, will you believe today? Will you put your hope in God’s offer of eternal life in Christ. Do you have hope that one day you will rise from the grave like Jesus. You can. If you only believe. That is the hope I offer you today.

7. A Transformed Life.
Will you be the 7th miracle? Believe in the incarnate, resurrected Christ. Pray and call on  him to save you now.

Fasting for Advent?

We normally think of the holiday season as a time of celebration and feasting. In the history of the Christian church, however, the days leading up to Christmas were spent in contemplation, prayer, repentance and fasting. It is the time of Advent, which refers to the coming of the Lord. Jesus Christ came as a baby in a manger, and that is what Christmas is about. However, the resurrected Christ promised to return in a Second Advent to bring justice to earth. Are we ready?

In light of all the darkness and evil going on in our world today, I believe it is time to return to the age old practice of observing Advent as a time of reflection and repentance, and this may include fasting.

The truth is everyone has thoughts or desires, which, if acted upon, would be destructive to self and others. If we do not learn to say no to these inborn incessant urges when we are young, then we wind up dead, in debt or in prison before too long. We are conditioned to say yes to our whims from the time we are tiny via an array convincing consumer ads. Our economy surges when we splurge and buy what we are persuaded we want. In addition to this, we are taught that virtually nothing we do is really our fault. We are victims of time and chance and genetics, to say nothing of the people who have scarred us emotionally and psychologically. I need to eat comfort food to feel better; I need to buy myself something; I need to escape by playing my video games, trolling the internet for ever more interesting porn, watching countless hours of television or movies. Entitlement is a destructive mental illness because it is the excuse keeping us from saying no to ourselves.

Jesus said that unless we deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow him we cannot be his disciples. Christianity in our time has followed the consumer culture by presenting a Jesus who wants to boost our sagging self-esteem, and enable our sense of entitlement by providing us with anything and everything we ask for in prayer. We are promised that we can receive whatever we ask for, but Jesus said, “if you abide in me and my word abides in you, then ask whatever you will and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). He also instructed his followers to ask in His name, which means asking by proxy for the kinds of things and with the kind of faith Jesus himself would. This is not self-interested asking. The only way to get to the place where we are asking like the Son of God is to become like the Son of God, and the only way to get there is to deny ourselves and be filled with the Spirit of Christ.

This denial of self is a cognitive process that involves seeing ourselves differently. It involves realizing a mysterious metaphysical reality: I have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). This cannot be a theoretical understanding only, or even a remarkable personal revelation into the teaching of Scripture. The Apostle said, “I die daily.” Thus, it is a daily, even moment-by-moment, recognition that the old person of mere flesh and blood is dead. The old me is a false self. I am a new creation in Christ. My life is now hidden with Christ in God. I need to deny the false self and affirm the true new me.

Self-denial requires faith that results in self-discipline. Without faith we likely will fail to continue in the discipline. After all, why should I deny myself what I desire? Moreover, without assistance from outside myself I remain captive to the tyranny of “me,” even while seeking to deny certain desires or perceived needs. Therefore, faith in Christ is essential to self-denial, both as the reason and the power to deny the self. This is much stronger than so called “will-power.”

I confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the Lord has commanded that I deny self. In fact, he stated plainly that I couldn’t follow him until I do this (Mark 10:34, Luke 14:26-27).  To assist me in keeping this command Jesus has died on the cross, risen from the dead and sent His Spirit to live within me. The Holy Spirit connects me to Christ’s death and resurrection. Now the spiritual reality is: I have died; my old life is buried; a new creation has been resurrected. In order to make this truth a reality in my experience I must believe and continually discipline myself to act upon that faith. Certain spiritual disciplines may aid in this practice.

For thousands of years people in many different religious traditions have practiced fasting. Consider the following examples of people who fasted: Confucius, Plato, Aristotle and Hippocrates (father of medicine).  In the Bible we find Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel and Esther fasting in the Old Testament. In the Mosaic Law

Israel is commanded to fast once per year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27). In the New Testament Paul the apostle and Jesus fasted. Such eminent Christian leaders as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards also fasted. Why?

There are many reasons and benefits, but in keeping with the teaching above I have observed the following truth. Fasting teaches me to say, “no” to me. It is denying something that I need, usually food, in order to focus on what I need more: God and his truth. Jesus was tempted by the devil to end his 40 day inaugrual fast miraculously by turning rocks into loaves of bread. The Lord quoted Deuteronomy: “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4 & Deut. 8:3). There is something, or rather Someone, more important in life than me.

Eating is essential for physical life to continue. Unlike air, or even water, food is something I can limit or go without for an extended period of time without serious health risks. In fact, if done correctly and not recklessly, fasting may actually be healthy for the body. For example, recent studies done with both animals and humans indicate that eating 30% fewer calories results in a longer and healthier life.

Fasting doesn’t have to be limited to food, however. Scripture records this interesting fast of the prophet Daniel during a period of serious prayer and mourning: “I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks” (Daniel 10:3, ESV). So, Daniel kept himself from self indulgence during this time. Later in the passage we see that he had chosen this kind of fast as a way of humbling himself before God to seek understanding into the future plight of his people Israel (ibid. 10:12). The Apostle Paul observed that married couples might abstain from sexual activity in order to focus on prayer. However, he encourages such couples to come back together after a limited time to avoid temptations, which may result from a lack of self-control (see 1 Corinthians 7:5). During the Christian season of Lent some people come up with an activity or indulgence in their lives to give up, which is a kind of fasting.

Here are Five Reasons to Fast.

Fast as an Act of Dedication–  Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted after his baptism and prior to entering into his ministry. Perhaps he did this to gain confirmation and clarity by intensely focusing on God.  By denying the body what it needs most essentially, I am saying that something, in this case Someone, else is more important

Fast as an Exercise of Discipline–  Learn to say no to “me.” All of the temptations were for Jesus to act expediently and egotistically. If Jesus had given in it would not have been an exercise of faith, but, rather, the wildly alternating swings between self-doubt and presumption. My body cries out for food, but I say no. This teaches me to say no in other areas where my flesh cries out. It teaches me to resist temptation.

Fast as an Affirmation of Dependence– Learn to rely on the power of God. Jesus’ first statement in response to Satan’s temptation. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3 as quoted in Matthew 4:4, also John 4:34). I am dependent upon food for survival. I transfer my fundamental dependence from a substance to the Sustainer of life.

Fast to Establish Determination–  Learn to have a tenacious and unshakeable faith. “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21). I fast for a breakthrough, as Daniel did when he needed God to answer his prayer for this people (Daniel 9:3). I fast to prove I am serious, both to myself and to God.

Fast as an Act of Desperation–  Cry out to God in repentance (Joel & Israel, Jonah and Ninevah). A need to hear from God at all costs (Daniel10:2-3 & 21 days of prayer). Repentance may be part of fasting. Joel called a fast for the people when disaster loomed (Joel 2:12, 15). This includes mourning for sin, and prayer for transformation.

Below are some practical guidelines and suggestions for possible fasts.

 

Remember the following principles. 1) If you make a vow, keep it.  2) Choose something that will really require discipline to give up. 3) Giving up what you shouldn’t be doing to begin with is not fasting, it’s obedience.

Consider one several of the following fasts.

  1. Pick a legitimate pleasurable food or activity and deny yourself this.
    1. Why? You are learning to discipline yourself for the sake of Christ.
    2. For example eliminate: candy, soda, dessert, coffee, alcohol, TV, watching or listening to sports, secular music,  talk radio, movies, video games, Facebook, texting.
  2. Fast at least once per week during the day. Eat a light breakfast early and don’t eat lunch. Break the fast after sundown with a sensible supper.
  3. Juice fast for 24 hours. Drink only pure vegetable juice (ie. V8).
  4. Eat no flesh. Abstain from eating meat.

Christ vs. Mithra

Is Christmas just another myth?

What about Jesus. He was certainly an historical figure, but did the church create a mythological version of Jesus as Christ? Did Christianity take over and reinterpret pagan symbols and holidays? Yes and no. Christianity did overtake paganism, and the early church did reinterpret pagan symbols. For instance, the mythical phoenix came to represent resurrection. “The sun of righteousness who rises with healing in his wings,” (Malachi 4:2) is a prophecy from the Old Testament, which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus, and which fit well the winter solstice festival of Sol Invictus in Rome, or the celebration of the Unconquerable Sun.

There are many today (and they abound on the internet) who prove their ignorance of history, and betray an agenda to discredit Christianity, who would have you believe that Christ is just warmed over Mithra. Early Christians stole the identity of the pagan god Mithra and used it for their Jesus. This is false on almost every level. What follows are facts from an interview of historian Edwin Yamauchi by Lee Strobel.

Writers have claimed that a pagan mystery cult Mithraism is really the basis for Christianity. Actually, this is only one of several mystery cults that popular writers have associated with Christianity. Others are: Attis, Osiris, Adonis and Dionysus. However, the Persian god Mithras who was worshiped in the mystery cult called Mithraism is the closest parallel.

“Mithras… was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25, was considered a great traveling teacher, had 12 disciples, promised his followers immortality, sacrificed himself for world peace, was buried in a tomb and rose again three days later, instituted a eucharist or “Lord’s Supper,” and was considered the Logos, redeemer, Messiah, and “the way, the truth, and the life.”

“How do you respond when people present ancient ‘facts’ like this? What do you do once you’ve been told something like this?”

Mithraism as a mystery religion cannot be attested before about AD 90. “Gordon dates the establishment of the Mithraic mysteries to the reign of Hadrian, which was AD 117-138.”

Mithras was born of a virgin… No, the legend has it that Mithra was born out of a rock.

Mithras was born in a cave like Jesus…The New Testament doesn’t say Jesus born in a cave.

Mithras was born on December 25… Jesus was actually born in the Spring (Lk. 2:8).

“December 25 was the date chosen by Emperor Aurelian (AD 215-275) for the dedication of his temple to Sol Invictus, the Roman god called ‘the unconquerable sun.’ Mithras is sometimes depicted shaking hands with this god. It became the date Christ’s birth was celebrated. In AD 336, the year before Constantine’s death, following the Christian practice of appropriating pagan holidays for holy use.”

Mithras was a teacher with 12 disciples…. No, Mithras was a god.

Mithras’s followers promised immortality…. Inferred, but what’s new? That’s religion.

Mithras sacrificed himself…. He did not. He killed a bull.

Mithras buried and raised…. We know nothing about Mithras death, so there could be no resurrection.

Mithras was considered “Good Shepherd, Way, Truth and Life, Logos, Redeemer, Savior. “No… that’s reading Christian theology into this”

 

Mithras had a Eucharist meal…. Common meals shared in most religious groups.

Was a Mithraic rite called taurobolium the basis for Christian belief in Christ’s blood sacrifice for sins? Taurobolium- initiate was placed in a pit with a grate over it and a bull was slaughtered above allowing the blood to baptize him. It is an anachronism to base Christ’s sacrifice on the practice, since it is first attested to in the Attis cult in AD 160.

“Do you see any evidence that Christianity borrowed any of its beliefs from Mithraism?”

“Not really… they were rivals in the second century and later.”

The Reason for Jesus

Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and he really is. Jesus is the reason for Christmas. But do you know the reason for Jesus? I mean, do you know why Jesus came to earth to be born?

Nobody knows the exact day that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but we do know that a miracle happened over 2,000 years ago when God chose Mary to be the Mother of His One and Only Son. December 25th was chosen as the date to celebrate his birthday long ago.

Would it surprise you to know that Jesus existed before he was born? That’s not true of you or me. Every human being, except Jesus Christ, came into existence inside their mother. But Jesus has always been the Son of God. His existence didn’t begin at his birth. When baby Jesus was laid in the manger, he opened his eyes and looked out upon the world for the first time as a human being. Before that, the Son of God was with his Father in heaven. Jesus came to earth to become one of us, lived a perfect life like none of us, and then he died on the cross and rose from the grave for all of us. God showed his love by sending his one and only Son.

You see, Jesus knows what you and I are going through down here because he experienced human life: happiness, sadness, weakness, weariness, pain, and finally death. He knows what it feels like to be a human being, and he cares about all of us.

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood… it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.”
Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Hebrews 2:14a, 17–18.

Jesus became a human being so that he could take away our sins. Everybody does bad things, and we call those bad things sins. Every time we do wrong we make God unhappy. Whenever you sin, you hurt God, you hurt yourself, and you hurt other people. When Jesus died on the cross, he showed us just how much it hurts when we sin.

If we do wrong we also have to pay for it. If you steal something, then you have to give it back. If you break something, then you have to pay for it. That’s the right thing to do. We also deserve to be punished when we do wrong. If you steal you could go to jail for it. When Jesus died on the cross, he was punished for our sins. But Jesus never sinned! He never told a lie, never stole, never disrespected his parents, never cursed at anyone, or hit anyone. From the time he was born in the manger until the time he died on the cross, Jesus never sinned. That’s why he could take the punishment for all of our sins.
“Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God.”
The Everyday Bible: New Century Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), 2 Corinthians 5:21.

So, that’s why Jesus was born: to show us how much God loves us, and to pay the penalty for our sins. You and I sin, don’t we? We really do need Jesus. We need him to take away our sins and to help us to live better lives. Jesus wants us to live well. That’s one of the reasons our church is called Lifewell. He also wants all of us to go to heaven to be with him some day.

Jesus came back to life after he died for our sins, and showed himself to his family, friends and followers. Then he went back up to heaven to be with His Father. He is alive and can never die again. That’s why we can pray to Jesus, and that’s how we can have eternal life in heaven. The Bible says, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

You see, you are the reason for Jesus.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Why don’t we pray right now and call out to Jesus. Let’s thank Him for being born and for dying on the cross.

Dear Jesus, we love you and we believe in you. You were born in a manger. You grew up, but never sinned. When you were a man you died on the cross for our sins. We believe you came back to life.

Now, you pray. Call on Jesus to save you and give you eternal life.

Jesus, I ask you to come into my heart, take away my sins. I love you and I want to live my life for you.  

Amen.

Mithra vs. Christ

From a published interview with historian Edwin Yamauchi.

“Nothing in Christianity is original” (DaVinci Code, Dan Brown).

Writers have claimed that a pagan mystery cult Mithraism is really the basis for Christianity. Actually, this is only one of several mystery cults that popular writers have associated with Christianity. Others are: Attis, Osiris, Adonis and Dionysus. However, the Persian god Mithras who was worshiped in the mystery cult called Mithraism is the closest parallel.

“Mithras… was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25, was considered a great traveling teacher, had 12 disciples, promised his followers immortality, sacrificed himself for world peace, was buried in a tomb and rose again three days later, instituted a eucharist or “Lord’s Supper,” and was considered the Logos, redeemer, Messiah, and “the way, the truth, and the life.”

How do you respond when people  present ancient “facts” like this?

What do you do once you’ve been told something like this?

Mithraism as a mystery religion cannot be attested before about AD 90.

“Gordon dates the establishment of the Mithraic mysteries to the reign of Hadrian, which  was AD 117-138.

Mithras was born of a virgin… No,the legend has it that Mithra was born out of a rock.

Mithras was born in a cave like Jesus…The New Testament doesn’t say Jesus born in a cave.

Mithras was born on December 25… Jesus was actually born in the Spring (Lk. 2:8).

December 25 was the date chosen by Emperor Aurelian for the dedication of his temple to Sol Invictus, the Roman god called “the unconquerable sun.” Mithras is sometimes depicted shaking hands with this god. It became the date Christ’s birth was celebrated in AD 336, the year before Constantine’s death, following the Christian practice of appropriating pagan holidays for holy use.

Mithras was a teacher with 12 disciples…. No, Mithras was a god.

Mithras’s followers promised immortality…. Inferred, but what’s new? That’s religion.

Mithras sacrificed himself…. He did not. He killed a bull.

Mithras buried and raised…. We know nothing about Mithras death, so there could be no resurrection.

Mithras was considered “Good Shepherd, Way, Truth and Life, Logos, Redeemer, Savior. “No… that’s reading Christian theology into this” Yamauchi

Mithras had a Eucharist meal…. Common meals shared in most religious groups.

Was a Mithraic rite called taurobolium the basis for Christian belief in Christ’s blood sacrifice for sins?

Taurobolium- initiate was placed in a pit with a grate over it and a bull was slaughtered above allowing the blood to baptize him.

It is an anachronism to base Christ’s sacrifice on the practice, since it is first attested to in the Attis cult in AD 160.

“Do you see any evidence that Christianity borrowed any of its beliefs from Mithraism?”

“Not really… they were rivals in the second century and later.”

So, my friends, not everything is as it appears on the internet!