Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Hi Friends!

Each year I look to give some Christmas gifts that I hope people will remember for years to come - sometimes I will receive a couple of gifts like this as well - gifts that for lack of a better term I started calling several years back...Classic Christmas Gifts!

But here's the thing - I believe THE CLASSIC CHRISTMAS GIFT was born of a virgin centuries ago and is named Immanuel - the name alone means more than any other gift I could possibly give or receive - this gift literally defines classic for all humanity.

The reality of "God with us" in the person of His Son Jesus is a life-changer - receiving this gift reroutes our destiny from hell to heaven - it is a gift we will not just remember for a couple of years but for eternity.

My thought this Christmas is that I need to come up with a new word for all other gifts but Jesus - if Jesus by definition is THE CLASSIC CHRISTMAS GIFT - then my best efforts of home-made and store-bought gifts might be better called wanna-be's.

But the more I thought about it I came up with this - hopefully whatever wanna-be's that I give or receive this Christmas will allow others to see "God with us"- in that spirit all gifts this Christmas can be classics after-all.

A meal made and delivered to a widow...

A toy train bought and shipped to an orphanage...

A pair of wool socks in a stocking for my spouse...

A movie with our children in the warmth of our home...

A list too long to print with the increasing spirit of Immanuel...

Jesus says "it is more blessed to give than to receive" - so as good as it is to have "God with us" it is even better to re-gift Him - to that end if you have received Him and then give Him away your Christmas will be classic...at least by my definition.

Matthew 1: 22-23 says - All this took place to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet: ''the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Immanuel" - which means - "God with us" - JESUS IS THE CLASSIC CHRISTMAS GIFT!

Receive Him and Re-gift Him and have a Merry Christmas!

God's Peace,

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Focus '15 - Be Ready - Entry # 13

Hi Friends,

I Thessalonians 5:18 was written to the church and says, "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Notice two things if you would: 1) Christians are told to give thanks in all circumstances not for all circumstances and 2) Christians are told to give thanks in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 5:17 was written to the church and says, "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to the Father through (in) him."

Several times each day I greet others and others greet me - often times I ask them or they ask me an introductory question - many times the question is "how are you doing"?

When you hear that question this holiday season - look to answer it by saying "I am thankful" - or "I am thankful in all things in Christ Jesus."

That is my prayer for the church - for us to show and tell one another and for us to show and tell the world - that we are thankful in all things in Christ Jesus.

God's Peace,

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Focus '15 - Be Ready - Entry #12

Hi Friends,

Fall is my favorite season for many reasons - a primary one being the brilliant contrast in nature that is best explained by the nature of our Creator - God is so many things with a primary one being He is so very colorful - this season causes me to appreciate that more fully not only in plants and trees but in His most treasured creation - His creation of all people of all races and all nations.

I have many missionary friends who serve Jesus around the world - two of these friends recently sent me prayers that are recorded in the Scriptures asking me to join them in praying these prayers for their ministries - specifically asking me to pray that they would be fully used of God to reach and teach the lost about our great Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

I have posted the prayers below - if you would please join me in praying these prayers for all people - pray specifically for missionaries in different parts of the world who are sharing the gospel with others - pray that the people they serve would see the colorful nature of God and be drawn into relationship with Him.

I believe Jesus is coming again soon and I want everyone to be ready for His return - pray for all Christians to not only be ready - but to be used of God to help other people to be ready for the return of His Son Jesus.

May this Fall be a season that reminds us that our great Creator is among many things most colorful - the very best picture of that will be the one where people of all races are praising Jesus when He returns for His church - my prayer is that we will do all we can possibly do in the name and power of Jesus to add to the beauty of what will be the best of all pictures!

Thanks and God's Peace,

“And now, GOD, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.”
Psalm 126:4-6 (MSG)

 “Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me,
and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”
I Chronicles 4:10 (NIV)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Focus '15 - Be Ready - Entry # 11

Hi Friends!

As most of you who read this blog know - our Fall Sermon Series from the book of Revelation is in full swing at Connections Christian Church - I continue to pray this study will be used by God to increase our faithfulness to Him and ministry to others in His name.

Jesus said, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown" (Revelation 3:11) - in other words no matter the intensity or the type of storms that come to us while living on earth - the crown of eternal life is assured to all who hold on to Him until He returns.

May your heart overflow with humility, gratitude, and joy for Jesus - hold on to Him and never doubt for a second that He loves you and He cares for you - remember the eternal crown of life He has for you in heaven is the one He died on the cross of Calvary to give you while on earth.

You are valuable, forgivable, special, and significant to Jesus -  you are a unique and precious member of His family and you have a unique and personal crown in His eternal kingdom - hold on He is coming soon!

God's Peace,

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Focus '15 - Be Ready - Entry #10

Hi Friends!

Many of the messages I hear each day wreak of loss - the world we live in is headlined with despair and discouragement and death - turn on the local news for thirty minutes any day of the week and routinely the first report is of someone hurting another in a way that maims emotions and destroys joyful living.

Aren't you tired of the chaos?

Wouldn't you like the headlines to change?

The message of the church is radically different than the mire in this world - it is a message about the MAN who WINS in the END by bringing people from every race and nation into a spirit of eternal unity where there is no pain, heartache, sorrow, tears, or death - the MAN is Jesus Christ and His message to the world is "Behold I am coming soon!" (Revelation 22:7).

If you are looking to live above the dissension in our culture and bless people of all races and nations with peace and goodwill  - I invite you to tap into a study from Revelation that we will be sharing at Connections Christian Church this Fall - if you cannot attend and would like a down-loadable recording of this lesson series please email me at jeff@connectionscc.org

One day soon the headline of world wide news will be Jesus is back - that is why our goal for all people is to connect to our loving God and each other through a relationship with Him - tap into that relationship and be a difference maker in our culture by bringing the light and love of Jesus to your part of the world.

My prayers for you to that end.

My prayers for the church to change the headlines to the good news of Jesus.

God's Peace,

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Focus '15 - Be Ready - Entry # 9

Hi Friends!

I have been reminded anew in recent days that the way we do life has much to do with the way we choose to see the world - I think the picture above that my daughter took last summer while on a mission trip to Mexico illustrates this well - notice there are multiple ways to see the same scene depending upon the segment of a lens you choose to use or not use.

As Christians we are blessed in Christ with a unique way to do life should we choose to do so - the Bible teaches that when we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord (see Acts 2:38) that we are given the unique lens of His Spirit - notice in the Scripture passage below what every scene in life can look like when we choose to live in the Spirit of Christ.

"With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2 MSG).
The fateful dilemma of seeing the world with shades of darkness - has been eradicated through the death of Christ on the Cross for our sins and His victorious Resurrection from the grave - because Christ has been-there-for-us and is here-for-us we have a unique way to do life that changes the way we see the world should we choose it.
I confess I need to choose that way more consistently.
What of you?
My desire is to consistently choose and to encourage other Christians to consistently choose to operate in the new power that is available to us in Christ - like a strong wind that magnificently clears the air - the Spirit of Christ cuts through the tyranny of any darkness we see in the world should we choose to operate in the power of Him being-here-for-us.
Operating like this is not for the timid - it is not that it requires an abundance of rule keeping but it does require that we consistently choose to love God above anyone or anything and that we also consistently choose to love our neighbor as ourselves - in doing so the promise of Christ is not that everything will always turn out nice but that everything will always turn out to be true.
The sun on the other side of the shades pictured above is always the sun no matter how you choose to see it - the same is true of the Son of God who came to this world to give us a very unique way to do life - it is not by our own might and power but by His power living in us and through us should we consistently choose it.
A new power is operating in Christians.
Will you consistently choose to use it?
Should you answer yes to that question the way you see the world and do life will be one where there are no idols between you and God - a life where your love for God and others is consistent with the love Christ demonstrated for you and for all people of all races in all parts of the world - a life that should take you to a neighbors drive-way and might take you to the streets of Mexico and beyond.

Friends when we consistently choose to do life in the Spirit of Christ others in the world will be lifted from the tyranny of darkness into the magnificent light of the Son of God who is always true - my prayer for you and for all who choose Christ as Savior and Lord is that the world will see that we are Christians by His love - His love being-here-for-us and operating-in-us in all that we say and do.
God's Peace,

Friday, June 26, 2015

Focus 15 - Be Ready - Entry #8 - Pray for God's Sufficiency

Dear Friends,

As our nation celebrates a birthday and we give thanks for the freedom we enjoy - I ask you to join me in a prayer covenant with churches across America - believing God desires to heal our land.

Sadly - the recent egregious murders in a South Carolina Church and that of Cincinnati Policeman Sonny Kim who was killed in very close proximity to our church building - remind us that relational crisis has become more of a rule than an exception in our country.

Psalm 34:18 NKJV says  - The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit - would that America again have such a heart and spirit that only comes through repentance from sin and unity in faith and prayer.

The Bible says we reap what we sow - and culturally we have sown moral relativism into the hearts of our finest treasures - by teaching America's children that it is acceptable to abort life and redefine marriage without regard for the moral authority of Scripture.

As America listens to voices in the public square - may the voice of the church be the clarion bell that restores responsibility for unity of the spirit in the bond of peace that is available only through the Son of God - Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

In Christ the Bible says there is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female - there is oneness in relationship with Jesus Christ - oneness that cannot be obtained through laws of the land that define the lowest acceptable standard.

In Christ there is the law of unconditional love for God and one another that defines the highest acceptable standard - the standard by which God created all men to live - the standard by which He sacrificed His own Son to bring us back to that life in Him.

My prayer is that all Americans and especially those Americans elected to lead our nation as one nation under one God - would fall to their knees and repent of sin - and then rise up with a renewed commitment to sow the seed of Christ in our nation afresh.

When the seed of Christ is sown - the Bible promises a peace that passes all human understanding will guard our hearts and minds - would that all communities in our nation be integrated again by His seed of unconditional love for life and authority.

I leave you with a quote about God's Sufficiency - the quote was rendered in days past by Dr. Billy Graham - "Happy are they who mourn the inadequacy of self, for they shall be comforted with the sufficiency of God."

Please join me and others in churches throughout America as we celebrate our nation's birthday - may we continue to give thanks for the freedom we enjoy - may we also mourn the inadequacy of self and seek the sufficiency of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

God's Peace,

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Focus 15 - Be Ready - Entry # 7

Hi Friends!

Many years ago I joined with some of my teenage friends and shared in a ministry called Vital Connections - we sang gospel music anywhere the opportunity presented itself - on one occasion we sang at The Ohio State Fair which is a testimony that nothing is impossible with God!

Connections have always been vital to my life and that is especially true in the church I minister with that bears that name - the Bible teaches that only by being connected with Christ through faith can anyone have eternal life with our Father in heaven - and only through a consistent connection with Christ can anyone have authentic power for living.

Summer 2015 we will be studying the New Testament book of Colossians at Connections Christian Church - the Apostle Paul wrote this book to combat errors that had come into the church through the influence of a pagan culture - and also to show the church they have everything they need in Christ to have a right relationship with God and one another.

Collosians 2: 8-10 says, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority."

Cultural Relativism or Christian Truth?

False Idols or the Supremacy of Christ?

Many or One Vital Connection to God?

Join us this summer as we study a book written to the church by an Apostle years ago where we will answer those questions and many more with respect to today - properly understand all the questions raised in this book answer the errors from the hollow and deceptive philosophies of the world in which we presently live - they answer the question "Jesus is Lord because?"

I pray you will enjoy this lesson series and your summer!

God's Peace,

Friday, May 8, 2015

Focus 15 - Be Ready - Entry # 6

Hi Friends!

I don't know anyone who wakes up in the morning and begins their day looking to lose - I believe we are hard-wired by God our Creator with an intrinsic desire to win - to live a victorious life that honors God and blesses others!

  • What keeps us from that?

  • Why are neighbors lacking relationship?

  • Why are nations lacking righteousness?

The word is sin - the Bible (Romans 3:23) says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God - at the heart of our neighborhoods and our nations are people who have adopted a belief system that says winning is about self at all costs.

God in contrast says winning is about others at the cost of self - God demonstrated this on the Cross of Calvary when He allowed His Son to die and pay the penalty for the sins of humanity - even though His Son was sinless and owed no one anything.

In Christ that same selfless attitude is available to all who trust Him - the discipline of denying self daily and following Christ consistently is not for losers - it is for winners who understand victorious living is about honoring God and blessing others at the cost of self.

  • How do we gain that understanding?

  • Is there a shortcut to victorious living?

  • Is there hope for our neighborhoods and nations?

Spend a few moments just now considering the legacy of Jesus Christ - I am confident you'll be overwhelmed with a renewed realization that victorious living is not about a single individual - it is about the relationships that a single individual has with others.

  • Do you want winning neighborhoods?

  • Do you desire winning nations?

  • Will you choose to live for that?

To live victoriously is to live like Jesus - no individual in history gives us a better example of winning relationships in neighborhoods and nations - changing those begins when an individual chooses to lose self as Jesus did to live harmoniously with God and others.

  • In Christ we choose to love all and hate none!

  • In Christ we choose to include every one and exclude no one!

  • In Christ we choose righteousness in individual and all relationships!

In Christ winning relationships come at the cost of self-interest - everyone wins when we choose to love and include everyone in the family of God our Creator and His Son Jesus Christ - do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

God's Peace,

Friday, March 27, 2015

Focus #15 - Be Ready - Entry #4

Hi Friends,
The Bible tells us (read James 2: 14-25) that faith in Jesus Christ without works is dead being alone - that faith alone is not sufficient for our relationship to be alive with God in Christ Jesus - the Bible says the devil has faith in God but is not working for God - the devil believes in God but his work is opposed to relationship with God.

Why do we work for God? - it is not to earn salvation through our works but to demonstrate our gratitude with grace for being saved from sin and death by the work of Christ alone - to follow Christ is to not only believe this truth but to do what He says to do with grace and gratitude for what He has done for us.

Most everyone who reads this blog has professed faith in the work of Jesus Christ - but are you doing what He asks you to do? - are you motivated to do what He asks you to do by grace and gratitude for what He has done and is doing for you?

A resurrected church is alive - it is a church that is deeply committed (read Matthew 28:16-20) to carry out the great commission of Jesus Christ to seek and save the lost - the motive of a living church to seek and save the lost is grace and gratitude for what Jesus has done and is doing in our lives.

The devil believes in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus but the devil's work is opposed to the work of Jesus - the devil is a great example of how faith in Jesus without works for Jesus results in a dead relationship with God - a relationship where one is eternally separated from God.

If the church is to have abundant life in relationship with God - we must increase our faith and our works in the person and power of Jesus Christ - (read Matthew 7:21-27) Jesus said wise people not only listen to what He has to say - wise people do what He says to do and live to tell the story of what He has done and is doing.

Easter is an awesome time to renew our faith in Jesus Christ - it is also an awesome time to renew our works in the person and power of Jesus Christ - faith without works is death sealed in a tomb and separated from God for eternity - faith with works of grace and gratitude is an open and empty tomb.

Faith with works of grace and gratitude in the person and power of Jesus Christ is a church that is alive and growing - it is a church that will never be separated from God because it is alive and growing in eternal relationship with Him - it is a church that lives to celebrate the open and empty tomb of its Savior and Lord.

Happy Easter and God's Peace,


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Focus '15 - Be Ready - Entry # 3

Hi Friends!

During the days leading up to Easter we are going to be looking at what the Bible says about love - more specifically what the Bible says about sexual intimacy - my hope is that we debunk myths, denounce sins, and dial-in the healthiest perspective possible of one of God's greatest gifts to humanity.

The season of Lent is often used as a time to give something up in order to draw closer to the suffering that Christ endured for us - my hope is that this lesson series will cause you to give up anything that is grey in the area of sexual sin - and embrace sexual intimacy in LIGHT of God's Word.

Ephesians 5: 9-10 (NIV) says, “Live as children of LIGHT (for the fruit  of the LIGHT consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the LORD.” 

You may already know what pleases the Lord in the area of sexual intimacy - if so this should be a great and fun review - if not this lesson series should serve to help you unpack some baggage in your life that is more than likely hindering and hurting the best life God has available for you.

I ask for your prayers for my preparation and presentation in this series - the church tends to leave this topic in our schools and theaters - my desire is to be very sensitive and respectfully tactful as we learn more about the gift of sexual intimacy from God's Word as children of LIGHT without shades.

God's Peace,

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Focus '15 - Be Ready - Entry #2

Hi Friends!

Our focus in 2015 is to "be ready" (found faithful) when our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ returns for His Church - our vision is to "connect people to our loving God and each other through a personal relationship with Jesus" - we seek to do that by fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus (see Matthew 28: 18-20).

I deeply desire for us to continue to do that as Connections Christian Church and in praying about that "today" I was drawn to Psalm 96 - some scholars believe this could be a Psalm of David - because it closely resembles David's hymn of praise in 1 Chronicles 16:23-36.

Psalm 96 tells us how to praise God "today" and everyday - we can sing about Him, tell others about Him, worship Him, give Him glory, bring offerings to Him, and live holy lives unto Him - as Christians we seek to do all these things through the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

I encourage you to continue to live and love all people intentionally - reaching out to others with the truth and grace of Jesus who saves all who put their faith in Him from eternal death (eternal separation) from God - continue to be faithful to fulfill the great commission of Christ Jesus.

God's Peace,

Psalm 96 (NIV)

Psalm 96

1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Focus '15 - Be Ready - Entry #1

Hi Friends!

I don't know about you - but oftentimes I am so surrounded by the "here and now" that I fail to reflect on the "then and there" as I should - by the "then and there" I mean that day when we will be in our heavenly home with our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the biggest reasons we have to celebrate redemption from sin in Jesus - is that He promises to return for His church and take us to our heavenly home that He has prepared for us - but sometimes I think we see that as far off and fail to live each day as we should.

In Matthew 24: 43-44 (NIV) Jesus says "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

My conviction is that the church (you, me, all followers of Jesus) must live with an expectancy of His return - as such this is one of my primary goals entering into the New Year - I want the church to "be ready" for the return of Jesus Christ.

I want us to live each day as if we expect the Lord to return that day!

I want us to breathe each breath as if we expect the Lord to return in that breath!

Matthew 24: 45-46 (NIV) Jesus says “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns."

Why would that be good?

Glad you asked!

Verse 48a (NIV) Jesus says "Truly I tell you, he will put him (the faithful and wise servant) in charge of all his possessions."

That is the opportunity that awaits for the church that is "ready" for Jesus' return!

But what of those who are "not ready" for Jesus' return?

Verse 48 b -51(NIV) Jesus says "But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

This doesn't take much explanation - Jesus clearly speaks to the reality of heaven and hell and says we are either going to "be ready" for one or the other - as such the hinge pin of our eternal destiny is ultimately found in living with an expectancy of our Lord's return.

Every day is to be the Lord's day!

Every breath is to be unto the Lord!

Jesus teaches that the "here and now" should not be centered in personal pleasure and self-promotion and putting others down - the church should live with an expectancy of the "then and there" - where each breath of every day is used to lift-up Jesus and fellowman in anticipation of His return.

Live with expectancy anticipating His return - be ready!

God's Peace,