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Archive | From the Pulpit

Shhh! Quietude

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

This winter is truly one to be remembered; we have been given weather at record or near-record levels. But if we only remember this winter for snow, wind, ice and cold, we may be missing out on something even more unusual… quietude. Quietude is defined as “a state of stillness, calmness and quiet in a person or place.”

As I am writing this, there is a stillness in this room, away from the hustle and bustle of what I have become accustomed to as a normal day.  Yet outside, the wind and snow are anything but calm and still. The contrast between outdoors and indoors today leads me to believe that all too often I shortchange myself with all the commotion, noises and hubbub that I surround myself with in life.

I speak for myself today, but I am also confident that even though quietude is something we are generally uncomfortable with, it would certainly be a pleasant place to visit more often for everyone.  It is true that sounds can be a comfort, I’m thinking of the words we exchange in verbal communication, or the sounds of a wonderful piece of music being played, and the sounds of children playing. The prophet Isaiah wrote in God’s word, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (Isaiah 32:18; New International Version). This pretty well describes a desirable state to be in when we communicate with God.

That scripture paints an ideal place to be, but that isn’t something we will ever experience 24/7 in this life. This isn’t to imply that we can’t visit there occasionally. When we have a choice, we would choose quietude over noisiness when we want to have a conversation with someone we really want to hear from. It is God’s desire that we know he is with us, and if we desire his presence and assurance, we need to be where he speaks, that by avoiding distractions, we can confirm his voice.

While I look outdoors today, it certainly doesn’t appear to be a picture of quietude, and still here on the inside I am at peace, inside from the winter storm, but also inside myself even though life is still making quite a stir.

Some noise is imposed upon us, especially in public places, and yes there are times those noises can be enjoyable, even comforting as we are assured we are not alone. But we can also know that we are not alone in quietude. “He says, be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  The Lord almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:10-11 NIV).

We should be about devoting ourselves regularly to times of seeking God in silence and quietude. “I say this because I know what I am planning for you, says the Lord, I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future” (Jeremiah 29:11 The Inspirational Bible).

Did you hear that?

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Do you want to be successful?

TheSpringsPastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs

 

 

Do you want to be successful? Successful at work, successful in your relationships, in your marriage, as a parent, successful in life? We all want to be successful. I’ve never met anybody who wanted to be a failure in life. The problem is we often define success the way our culture defines success. Our culture tells us if you want to be prosperous and successful, you need to work hard. If you work hard and rise up the ladder and push it to the grindstone, and if you’re willing to do what others won’t do, you will be successful. There’s nothing wrong with working hard; the only problem with working hard in order to be successful is that you can work hard at the wrong thing. You can give your life to something that you shouldn’t give your life to. You can spend all your time doing something and the thing you’re doing isn’t the thing that God created you to do.

Our culture also tells us if you want to be prosperous and successful you need to make a lot of money. Again, nothing wrong with making a lot of money, but the trouble with gauging success by the amount of money you have is that there is always someone who will have more. Besides that, you can lose your money at any moment. If you tie success to money, and the money goes away, your success is gone. And beyond that, you can’t take your money with you when you die anyway. So if success is based on how much money you have, and you leave it all behind when you die, then at the end of your life you haven’t been successful. A lot of people confuse wealth with success. You can be wealthy and be a failure at life. Your net worth is not the same thing as your self-worth. The two don’t go hand in hand.

But our culture tells us if we work hard and make a lot of money will be prosperous and successful. We’re also told if we want to be prosperous and successful we need to invest well, we need to live in the right neighborhood, we need to drive a certain car, we need to have a particular look, and we need to know the right people. And again, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but the problem with saying that good investments, and a nice house, and a name brand shirt equals success is that you can have all of those things and still miss the point of why you are here on planet earth.

What if success is something different, and what if the path to success is something altogether different?

After Moses died, God tapped Joshua on the shoulder and said, “I want you to be my replacement for Moses. This would be the ultimate test of Joshua’s life—to see whether or not his leadership was sufficient for the task that God challenged him with. Do you think Joshua wanted to be a successful leader? Of course he did, just like you want to be successful. In Joshua 1:8 God told Joshua how to be successful. He said, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (NIV).

God says if you want to be successful you need to know My Word. That’s not what I would have guessed. I would have thought He would have said, “Joshua, if you want to be prosperous and successful, if you want to take the Promised Land, if you want to defeat all your enemies, you will need to be the strongest and have the best weapons and work really hard, and work over time, and invest well, and meet the right people and make the right connections.” But that’s not what God told him.  God said, “If you want to be successful don’t let My Word depart from your mouth, meditate on it day and night, and be careful to obey everything in it.”

Here is true success in life: To stay in the Word of God until we find the will of God so that we can walk in the ways of God. God has a different way of defining success than we do. We define success in what you have, what you achieve, what you own. God doesn’t define success that way. The Scripture makes it clear that God defines success in different ways—right living, peaceful relationships, being in harmony with God and other people. That’s success in God’s eyes, and it is only found through knowing and living the Word of God.  My encouragement to you this week is to spend some time in God’s Word so you can be successful in the things that truly count.

 

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Keeping Warm?

Courtland-Oakfield-United-Meth

Pastor Robert Eckert

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

 

 

King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm” 1 Kings 1:1 (New Revised Standard Version).

The character of King David in Hebrew scripture is an enigma. He becomes a hero while still a child and grows into a “man after God’s own heart.” As his life draws to an end, however, he sinks into a winter of discontent. His condition has less to do with physical age and more to do with regrets. The wunderkind of courage, poetry, and conquest turned out to have feet of clay.

Driven by lust he plotted and successfully pulled the strings to accomplish the death of a man whose wife he had taken for himself, only to experience the gut-wrenching grief of seeing the child, who was the product of his illicit union, die in infancy.

Having led his armies to victory after victory establishing and securing the borders of ancient Israel, he is then disqualified by God from building a temple because of the wars he has waged and the blood on his hands.

Ruminating on moral failures and setbacks is a sure way to bring a chill to our souls that is difficult to overcome when guilt is undeniable and remorse is relentless. Imagine the bitter glare on David’s face when an insensitive attendant asked, “keeping warm?”

The Bible also tells a story of resuscitation when the prophet Elisha bends over a child lying dead on a mat “putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands.” As life returns to the boy “the flesh of the child became warm.”

It’s reminiscent of the account of the advent of humankind recorded in the second chapter of Genesis, where God is said to have “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”

God, the breath of life, eye-to-eye and hand-to-hand contact, they add up to warmth.

Trying to stave off the cold of this unforgiving winter we’ve been living through? You know what your mother told you … layers. Trying to stave off the cold of the unforgiving memories of past mistakes? Try layers of breathing in God’s grace, upon layers of honest connections of the heart with people you love, upon layers of offering yourself in service to the needs of others.

 

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Sharpening one another

Pastor Jim Alblas

Pioneer Christian Reformed Church
Cedarfield Community Center

3592 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs

In Acts 18 we meet a group of Christian people named Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos. This trio is a highlight for any Biblical reader not just because they had some pretty cool names but also because they teach us a very important and practical lesson. Aquila and Priscilla were a married couple that were very helpful to Paul in his work as a Christian missionary. They most notably worked together in the city of Corinth promoting the name of Jesus Christ. Likewise, Apollos was a valued ministry worker who we first learn about through his ministry efforts in the city of Ephesus. Apollos was described as a learned man with a thorough knowledge of the scriptures who spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately. 

However, when Aquila and Priscilla made there way to Ephesus and heard Apollos speak, it says that they invited him to their home to explain the way of God more adequately. That’s kind of shocking because he already had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. Someone in their position might be a little intimidated to extend such an invitation especially with the credentials that Apollos boasted. However, both Aquila and Priscilla knew that there were things that Apollos needed to be strengthened in and felt it important to help him with these. Perhaps what’s even more shocking is that Apollos was willing to be tutored by this couple. Someone in his position might be too prideful to accept such an invitation, but instead he welcomes it. Apollos recognized that he didn’t know it all, and looked forward to becoming even more learned about Jesus.

What Christians today can learn from this is the importance of sharpening one another. Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. People in the church should always be asking two questions: first, who can I help to draw closer to God? And secondly, who can help me draw closer? No matter how long or short we’ve been in the church, there is knowledge, insight and spiritual growth that others can help us with, and we can help them with. There should be no pride, no doubting our ability to help others, just sharpening. This is what we see from the trio in Acts 18 and look what happens as a result. Apollos goes on to the city of Achaia and was a great help to the believers there and vigorously refuted the nonbelievers. He was strengthened by the sharpening that Aquila and Priscilla offered. Later on, we also see Aquila and Priscilla start a church in their home. Its not just being sharpened that helps, but when we actively sharpen others, it puts a charge in us too.

Let us be like Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos—not too afraid to sharpen others and not too prideful to be sharpened.

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Stone Soup

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC, 65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC, 13600 Cypress, Ensley Township 

 

You may have heard the story of Stone Soup in one form or another. A poor man or peddler comes into a village and goes door-to-door asking for food. At each house he is turned away with the occupant saying that they only have a small portion of potatoes or carrots or something else, never more than one thing and never much. The man goes to the town square and starts a fire under a pot of water into which he places a stone. As the townsfolk come along and ask what he is doing, he says he is making stone soup. The people offer the small items they all have and soon the whole community is sharing in a pot of wonderful soup made of all their bits. In a way, that is how we take care of each other even today.

We, in the faith community think (for the most part) that this is a good way to do things—together. There are many small churches in the area that do all they can for the community they serve. But when we get together and pool our resources, we can do so much more. And it doesn’t stop there. The same works for individuals.

Churches are asked often to help those who are struggling and what a great blessing it is when a number of individuals who have no ability to give monetarily to a church are willing to give of their time and talents to make a difference for their neighbors in need! So much is accomplished by these wonderful people! We may not have a lot to give, but what we do have can make a huge difference in the lives of our communities.

How often have you heard or said yourself “I’m only one person, what can I do?” The truth is—a lot! None of us knows everything—despite what my uncle claims about himself! But we all know something. I used to work in construction and it took an awful lot of us to put together a building. Electricians, heating people, plumbers, carpenters, and the list goes on. If we had tried to do the job alone, we would never have finished and if we had, well… I’m not sure I’d want to live in it! But all of us together made something that will last a long, long time. The same is true of all of us.

Together we can make a difference that will last a long, long time. Helping those in need in the name of Christ makes a difference in the world. And that is what we are supposed to do. Just remember that when you do something for someone else out of the goodness of your heart and in the name of Christ, you are not alone! God is with you and so are all of us who are brothers and sisters in Him.

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Community Building…Building Community?

Solon-Center-WesPastor Tom Holloway

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs (just north of 19 Mile)

 

Community Building and Building Community—are they one and the same? They are the same words for sure. But do they mean the same thing? I hope that our answer in Cedar Springs is “Yes.” A community building is a place where a community would come together in a physical space that is common.  A physical space where the needs of the community are both felt and met. In order for this to happen, or course we need to first build a sense of community.

The “church” often feels this tension, too. When I say that I go to church at “such and such” church, for me that church is (Solon Center Wesleyan Church), to you it might be a different location. But when we say that we are going to church, does that mean that we go to a physical location that has an address? I’d say both yes, and no. For us at Solon Center, our physical location is at 15671 Algoma Ave, yet when we leave that place we are called to “Go be the church” to the communities, schools, workplaces and families we represent. That is what is so great about the church; it can be a location where we worship and do the things of God, and it is also a place from which we are sent to do the work of the church.

When the church loses focus on what they are called to do, they get off track.  When the church becomes so much about us and our own needs, we forget what we are called to do. The Great Commission spells is out:

Matthew 28:18-20: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

A building that we call church is a great thing, and I am very proud of how warm and friendly our building is, but it is nothing without the people. Just look at all of the empty church buildings in Europe that have become nothing more than museums. When we fail to meet the needs of our community, our halls will grow dark and empty.

Right now in Cedar Springs there is great enthusiasm for a “Community Building” to be put together to meet the ever-growing needs of an ever-growing community.  Even now people are working hard just to find out what our community needs so that we can not only survive, but we can thrive. We have a vision for a building that will enhance the great things already taking place in Cedar Springs, and that will also take us to the next level. I’m sure that all of the details will be coming out soon to answer all of the questions that the community must have, but you can know for sure that our primary goal is not to just build a “Community Building,” but rather to “Build the Community” of Cedar Springs. I love these words spoken to the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 33:3: 3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’”

When a community comes together united in their goal, and united in their love for their community ahead of there own personal interests, there is no end to what God can do.  We are called to be the church in our community, which means putting the needs of others ahead of our own. We as a community are called to see the needs of our current generation as well as the needs of future generations. Hang on—it’s going to be a great ride!

 

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Hearing the Prophets (Read Amos 5: 21-24)

cs-united-methodistPastor Mary Ivanov

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

Each year when we remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), I’m amazed at the work he did as a servant of Jesus Christ. In just 39 years, his prophetic voice and tireless work for justice for all left a profound impact on our country and around the world.

He was a Christian pastor like my colleagues and me, but I cannot imagine what it was like to lead and work for racial equality for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rev. Dr. King is commended for his “I have a dream” speech, but he was much more than a dreamer. He was a doer. He lived his faith in Jesus Christ who came for all. He suffered for his faith. He was a prophet.

One way that I’ve heard prophets defined is that they seek to tell us where we are, tell us where God wants us to be, and they drive God’s Word in between. Rev. Dr. King’s legacy continues to draw us back to examine ourselves and our world and see where we’re still struggling to love one another as Jesus Christ loves us.

Rev. Billy Graham was a friend to Rev. Dr. King and participated in the civil rights movement. In a sermon, Rev. Graham said, “Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. Christianity is not a white man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people; He belongs to the whole world.” Rev. Graham’s words are powerful as we celebrate the message of Christmas: that God comes in Jesus Christ for ALL the world.  In late December my family and I visited Washington, D.C. and were able to visit the memorial dedicated to Rev. Dr. King. It is a beautiful space surrounded by many of Dr. King’s quotes. One of the poignant for me is, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Throughout the Old Testament, we find “justice” and “righteousness” paired together, in the Psalms and throughout the Prophets.  And Amos is no exception. We are called to be people who seek to be righteous (to have right aim before God) and who seek justice (which is concern for the poor and oppressed). The two are tied together.
Early in Amos, chapter 5, God speaks to the people:
“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.”
It’s no surprise that Jesus’ words to the people call us to be righteous and just. In the same spirit of the prophets, he calls us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness…”
There are times when we stray from God’s way, and we are constantly called back to faithfulness. The struggle for righteous living is real along with the work of seeking justice. Each day, we’re called to love and serve God, to live as children of God, as we work to bring even a glimpse of the Kingdom of God right now.

How are you working for God’s Kingdom? Where do you see it clearly?

If you don’t have a church home or have been away for a while, consider getting back to church or trying it out for the first time. I invite you to worship with us at 9:00 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. We share the love and hope of Jesus Christ!

 

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Operation overlord

First-Baptist-church-currenPastor Jim Howard

First Baptist Church

233 S. Main, Cedar Springs

 

On June 6, 1944, nearly 160,000 allied troops stormed the shores of Normandy, France in what is arguably the beginning of the end of German domination of Europe in WWII. Over 12,000 aircraft and 7,000 vessels were involved in the operation. Five divisions of allied troops hit the beaches and three divisions were dropped behind enemy lines. By the first of September, nearly 3 million boots were on the ground, Paris was liberated and Germany was in full retreat!

Most people can only imagine the fear in the hearts and minds of those men who stood behind the ramps on their Higgin’s Boats or stood at the door of their aircraft ready to jump into the darkness! Fear can be a mind numbing and life changing experience…at least it is for most people. For some, fear can become a paralyzing agent, freezing us into inaction. Please understand, in some circumstances, this can be a healthy thing as it may keep us from doing something we shouldn’t. But for many, fear causes them to avoid responsibilities and actions that are necessary in the performance of their duty!

Many years ago, I had a USMC DI who ingrained in us the need to “trust” our training to see us through those circumstances in which you didn’t know what to do or where to turn—wise counsel for any generation of fighting man and woman. God gave us the same counsel long before we had DI’s when He said, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)  In other words, don’t try flying by the seat of your pants, trust the truth…it’ll never fail you.  God never promised to deliver us from the tribulations of life, but He has promised to walk beside us through them, and at times, He will carry us through them (1 Cor. 10:13).  I’m reminded of Psalm 119:105 in which the Lord said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (ESV) God has given us sufficient light to see where we’re going and how to get there…the key is in the word “feet” which denotes action and the word “path” which reflects the objective.

Don’t allow fear to rob you of the opportunity to serve the Lord. Step out by faith and trust Him!  Spend time “drilling” as you memorize and meditate on the wonderful and eternal truths of His Word. Then when the unexpected trauma’s and tragedies of life occur, you will not find yourself paralyzed by fear.

Be cautious of overconfidence as well “…and do not lean on your own understanding.” Most of my own failures come during those times in which I try to function within the realm of my own self-confidence! It’s in these times I need to trust in His truth and His ways even more…and not in my own strength and abilities.

 

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Time

Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

 

As I write these words 2013 is rapidly slipping away and soon 2014 will become reality. I’m sure that many of you share with me a sense of astonishment at how quickly time passes. It seems like just yesterday that we were ushering in 2013 and here we are bidding the year adieu. It is a good time to stop and reevaluate the priority of handling time in the light of God’s Word.

God has given each of us the same amount of time each day. We each have 24 hours. Each hour has 60 minutes. Each minute has 60 seconds. We are the arbiter of our time. We have the ability to invest or squander this precious gift as we see fit. Moses, in Psalm 90, makes some interesting observations about time that we would do well to consider.

First of all, we need to recognize the time.

“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10) (NKJV)

According to the Bible, the average life span is 70 years. In America, with our advanced medical technology, that average is somewhat higher. In the grand scheme of things compared to eternity, our lifespan is brief. Even though we know this to be true, multitudes live daily as if this life will never end. It would be prudent for us to recognize the time we have been given is precious and never to be regained. We will only live this life one time. As best-selling author Randy Alcorn has written: “Life is merely the lobby to eternity.” Our time on this earth is not about toys, trinkets, and treasures but rather about investing in eternal dividends.

Secondly, we need to redeem the time.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) (NKJV)

Moses recognized the need for the proper use of time. Our time should be used to acknowledge the brevity of time and the need to use our time wisely. One of the tragedies of our days is that so many people live on a shallow spiritual, intellectual and moral plane. Rather than feeding their soul, mind and spirit on stimulating and uplifting books, music, and conversation, they are wasting vast amounts of time on social media, gaming, superficial reality shows, sports fanaticism, and other assorted drivel of pop culture. I challenge you to make a conscious effort this year to limit the wasting of time and instead to make strong efforts to use that time wisely and build up your spiritual walk with God, your personal knowledge of important wisdom, and your relationship with your family.

Thirdly, we need to rejoice through time.

“Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” (Psalm 90:14) (NKJV)

The sooner we find the mercy of God in Christ, and are satisfied with that mercy all our days, the happier we will be! The word “mercy” here refers to God’s love. That love has been extended to all of us. When we choose to accept that love and reciprocate that love with devotion and service, we will find that we can rejoice even when life presses in on us. As the world around us becomes more chaotic, choose to recognize the time, redeem the time, and yes, even rejoice through time. I wish all of you a blessed and happy new year.

 

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What is Christmas all about?

Grace-ChurchPastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

Let me assure you that this is not another anti-santa and presents presentation from a delusional and out of touch Pastor. This is a heartfelt, honest, and open communication from a child of God who realized two months ago that he was no longer amazed like he should be by the Christmas Story. As I sat in my office with the task ahead of me of preparing a sermon series on Christmas, I realized that I didn’t want to preach on Christmas again, because I was sadly unmoved and unimpressed. I prayed that God would open my eyes and help me to stand in wonder at the story of the birth of His only Son. He did, and below is what He reminded me of. (This is a brief recap of 3 weeks of sermons that I shared with our Church. You can find those videos in their entirety online at www.gracerockford.com.)

1.  Christmas is about a Child. Isaiah 9:6,7:  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”

There is this great list in the following verse of all the things that this child will be: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  It’s no doubt this child was special; but let’s not forget He was still a child, He was still a Son. Christmas is about God sending His one and only Son. What love, what mercy, what a miracle! As a father of four children, I would never consider giving them up for the welfare of another. After all, it’s my job to protect them. But on Christmas day, God gave his son up for the welfare of mankind. Christmas is about a child, let us not forget.

2.  Christmas is about a Savior. Luke 2:9-12: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born…”

There are many words that Scripture uses to describe this idea of a Savior. Words like rescue, heal, deliver, redeem, and atone. All of these words indicate that those being saved, have a problem that they can’t remedy. If they could, they wouldn’t need a Savior. Christmas is about God sending his Son to remedy a problem that you and I had and could not fix. The problem of our sin would have most definitely resulted in eternal condemnation unless someone came and rescued us, delivered us, redeemed us. Christmas is all about Jesus coming to do just that, set us free.

3.  Christmas is about a Cross. Galatians 4:3-5; 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…”

This child, that was born to save, could only do it by being crucified on a cross, and thus bearing our curse as he hung in our place. Many times we look at our nativity sets and everything looks so peaceful, but in reality that little baby was born in a manger to be murdered on a cross! Let us not forget that the peacefulness of Christmas will soon be destroyed by the punishment and the death that we each deserved being taken out on the perfect, innocent Son of God.

Christmas is about a Child, a Savior and a Cross.  I pray that this Christmas we will spend time worshipping the one who became a child, in order to be our savior, so that he might bear the punishment and death of our cross!

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