gospel nuggets

rick warren

Rev. Rick Warren
GET TO KNOW YOUR CREATOR

“The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way …. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” 2 Corinthians 6: 12-13 Message

This time of year, we all have many important tasks to get done. We’ve got year-end reports to write. We have holiday meals to plan. And, of course, we have gifts to buy.

But you have something much more important to focus on this Christmas: developing a personal and growing relationship with Jesus.
Why should you get to know Jesus better? There are at least two very important reasons:

First of all, Jesus made you. The Bible says, “Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is — nothing exists that he didn’t make. Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind” (John 1:1-4 TLB).

You have the opportunity to not just meet the Creator of the universe but also to meet your Creator. You’ve heard people say, “When in doubt, consult the manual.” Knowing Jesus is even better. If you want to know how to get the most out of life, why not get to know the One who created you?

Secondly, Jesus opens up your heart to enjoy a life of purpose, peace, and power. A relationship with Jesus secures your place in Heaven, but it does more than that. God promises a life of purpose, peace, and power to all who know Him.

Knowing Jesus in a personal way changes everything about how you live. Purpose, power, and peace are just the beginning of what God wants to give you in this life.

Unfortunately, most people are living in such a tiny, insignificant way because they’ve filled their lives with meaningless activity.

As Christmas approaches this year, think of the innkeeper who didn’t make room for Jesus on the first Christmas. His actions didn’t keep Jesus from being born. His actions didn’t stop God’s purpose in history. It just hurt the innkeeper. He missed the privilege of housing the Son of God at his birth.

The same is true for you. If you don’t take the time to get to know Jesus, you miss the opportunity to know your Creator. You miss the opportunity to have the purpose, peace, and power that only comes through God’s Son. You miss his purpose for your life if you never make room for him.

TALK IT OVER

How can knowing the One who made you impact how you live your life?
In what specific areas of your life do you want God’s power, peace, and purpose?
What are the meaningless activities you fill your time with that keep you from getting to know your Creator.

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living devotions

ernest reading pose

Rev. E. Anderson
THE MASTER’S TOUCH
Senior Living Ministries

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” — Matthew 5:14

Fritz Kreisler, the world-famous violinist, earned a fortune with his concerts and compositions, but he generously gave most of it away. So, when he discovered an exquisite violin on one of his trips, he wasn’t able to buy it. Later, having raised enough money to meet the asking price, he returned to the seller, hoping to purchase that beautiful instrument.

To his great dismay, the beautiful instrument had been sold to a collector. Kreisler made his way to the new owner’s home and offered to buy the violin. But the collector said it had become his most prized possession and he would not sell it.

Disappointed, Kreisler was about to leave when he asked, “Could I play the instrument just once before it is consigned to silence?” Permission was granted, and he filled the room with such heart-moving music that the collector’s emotions were deeply stirred. “I have no right to keep that to myself,” he exclaimed. “It’s yours, Mr. Kreisler. Take it into the world and let people hear it!”

Sadly, many Christians have been consigned to silence when it comes to sharing the gospel. Yes, they’ll attend church and volunteer for committees, but they are noticeably absent when it comes to taking the message of salvation to the world. Don’t sit on the shelf collecting dust. Take the gospel into the world and let people hear it!

PRAYER CHALLENGE

Ask God to show you how you can get off the shelf and take His message of hope into the world!

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leadership factors

ianwilliamsRev. Ian Williams
QUALITIES FOR LEADERSHIP

Exodus 4.1-2: Moses protested again, “Look, they won’t believe me! They won’t do what I tell them. They’ll just say ‘The Lord never appeared to you.’” Then the Lord asked him, “What do you have there in your hand?”

Suppose God gave you the job of leading an unruly, disgruntled, angry, uncooperative and complaining group of His people. Some of you are already saying, “Well, He did, they are in my Church!” Yes, you may have a few that fit this description, but Moses had millions! Despite this, he successfully accomplished one of the most significant ministry tasks in all of history – leading Israel out of bondage in Egypt, to the threshold of the Promised Land.

When God calls us into leadership, he usually starts with familiar tools, giving us a ministry that looks a lot like what we’ve been doing all along. The leadership role he calls us to, may not even seem spiritual or significant at first glance.

The encounter between God and Moses is full of spiritual truths for leaders that are worth reflecting upon:

FAITHFULNESS COUNTS

God calls us to keep on doing what we’ve already been doing. Leaders are not necessarily more gifted than others, but they are less inclined to give up.

GOD SEEKS A WILLING ATTITUDE IN US

Scripture reveals Moses’ great reluctance to assume the role of deliverer of Israel, but in spite of his fears, he obeyed the call of God upon his life.

GOD’S POWER COMES UPON AN OBEDIENT HEART

In Moses’ eyes, his staff appeared to be just an ordinary staff, but in the hand of God it became something powerful and even life changing. From these verses onwards, Moses’ staff was central as God guided Israel out of bondage. Each time an account mentions the staff, God is saying, in effect, “The common becomes significant when my power comes upon it”.

GOD USES PREPARATION

What we’ve been doing is preparation for what we will be doing. Moses (born an Israelite, raised an Egyptian, reunited with his captive people) was uniquely qualified through his life and preparation, to lead his people out of bondage. In the economy of God, no time is ever wasted.

God provided Moses with authority and a supportive team, to enable him to take on the significant ministry challenge of leading Israel out of slavery and bondage!

Moses was a reluctant leader that grew into a relevant leader…. so what’s in your hand?

Don’t allow your reluctance to stop you from being relevant and revolutionary – LIVE BIG.

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just a thought

aaronlinford

Rev. Aaron Linford
HOLY HABITS

Jesus followed the religious customs of His day (Luke 2141,42), making Himself subject to God – established tradition.

He also exercised the holy habits of attendance at the House of God (Luke 2:16) and of prayer (Luke 22:39). The beloved Luke, whose Gospel reveals Jesus as THE SON OF MAN shows how our Lord, while subject to the limitations of humanity, yet maintained His spirituality by the scriptures, by prayer and by fellowship – three vital elements of true Christianity.

We need the daily intake of “the sincere milk of the Word” (1 Peter 2:2) to sustain us; the daily exercise of prayer to strengthen us; the regular meeting with God’s people to encourage and enlarge us.

The persistent act will soon become a habit, and such holy habits are not mere “religious ruts”, they are “means of grace” that minister to us and by which we minister to others.

To know the Bible is to know more of God; to “pray without ceasing” is to draw closer to God; “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb 10:25) is to enjoy fellowship with those who love God as we do. Let us develop holy habits: they are good for us.

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illustrations that light up life

ernest reading pose

Rev. E. Anderson
THE PLAGUE OF MEDIOCRITY

Miss Jones, an elderly spinster, lived in a small Midwestern community had the distinction of being the oldest resident of the town. One day she died, and the editor of the local newspaper wanted to print a little cap: commemorating Miss Jones’s death. However, the more he thought about it, the more he became aware that while Miss Jones had never done anything terribly wrong (she had never spent a night in jail or been drunk), yet she never actually done anything noteworthy.

While musing over this, the editor went down to have his morning coffee and met the owner of the tomb establishment in the little community. The tombstone proprietor stated he had been having the same problem. He wanted to put something on Miss Jones’s tombstone besides just her birthday and death date, but he could think of anything of significance that she had ever done.

The editor decided to go back to his office and assign to the first reporter he came across the task of writing up a small article suitable for both the paper and the tombstone. Upon returning to the office, the only fellow around was the sports editor, so he gave him the assignment.

They tell me if you pass through that little community you will find the following statement on her tombstone:

Here lies the bones of Nancy Jones, for her life held no terrors
She lived and old maid, She dies an old maid,
No hits, no runs, no errors.

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miracles and healing testimonies

amandandstevevarty

Amanda and Steve Varty
LIFE’S NOW RUNDERFUL FOR ME!

A WOMAN who had barely walked in nine years was miraculously healed in a church service -5- and has now completed a10k race.
Amanda Varty suffered from ME and had been bedridden for the best part of a decade.

She struggled through life and could only manage two steps with the help of her husband, Steve. She often used a wheel chair and had to quit her job.
But after attending LIFE Church, Bradford, everything changed. Her story has also inspired the launch of a Christian music album.

Amanda said: “I was there, holding Steve’s hand, and we were praising God. And as I did that, strength came into my body, I sat upright and I remained sitting upright for an hour and a half. “Then I realised that I was holding my arms in the air in worship. These were arms that couldn’t normally lift a fork to my mouth.

“There was an eight-month period where, when I was in church the strength would come into my body, but the moment I left church, the strength would drain away. I am so glad I persevered because in April 2012 I went into church, I was prayed for and I got out of my wheelchair and I walked!”

Amanda – a keen dancer before her illness – always dreamed that she would dance with Steve again.

She added: “We literally, when we used to pray every day, we would picture that we would dance together. Dancing meant so much because it was everything that being bed-bound wasn’t. it was full of life and energy and joy.

“I managed to struggle to worship service at church, and as I began to worship God, this amazing energy filled me. I pushed the walking frame aside, and then I began to dance!”

Amanda hasn’t used her walker since that day, she dances regularly in church and even completed the Belfast 10k in June 2013.

After the miracle. LIFE Church released an album ‘Dance again’, which was inspired by Amanda’s miracle.

Songwriter and campus pastor matt Hooper said: “One Sunday we looke across to where Amanda sits to see her jumping up and down, dancing, having left her walking frame behind. She was just dancing around, jumping up and down, you know, really going for it!

“We were just in bits! That was just another example of God’s healing in her life and how she had contended for that healing and now she was beginning to see it.

“I know Amanda mainly as her pastor. I knew that she was in a long-term battle with illness. Several of us had prayed for her, and I knew she was engaged in a long-term fight.

“As we got to know her, we got to know her tenacity, resilience and faith. She’s an incredible positive person. She’s got a great marriage and she’s an incredible lady; very unassuming. We knew that some of our church leaders had prayed for her and prophesied health and well-being over her – and she was standing on those promises. Then we looked across to see her jumping up and down”.

For Amanda, the meaning is simple, hope-ful one: “When everything looks so hopeless and it looks like this going to be for the rest of your life and what is happening right now feels unbearable, just believe in a God who can turn any circumstance around. Now, hope is a much easier thing, because I’ve seen God come through.

“When I believe for the scabs on my face to heal, that is easier than it was in early days because I know how faithful God is and I know that truly, truly, nothing is impossible for Him”.

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goepel nuggets

rick warren

Rev. Rick Warren
DON’T MISS JESUS AT WORK

“If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” (John 4:10 NLT)

Right now there are TV and radio waves all around you. If you had a tuner, you could see what’s on those waves. But just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t real. You’re not just tuned in.

That’s what it was like in Bethlehem on the night of the first Christmas. Despite the fact that Bethlehem had an inn with the sole purpose of taking care of travellers, there was no room in that inn for undoubtedly the most significant family of travellers in Bethlehem that night.

This Christmas, don’t miss an important parallel of this story to our own hearts. Your heart was made to hold God. You were made by God and for God. Until you understand that, life will never make sense. Unfortunately, we fill our lives with other things. We invite other guests into our homes. Our heart is filled with other ideas, interests, values, loves, and commitments.

Our lives are so full that we’re not even aware when Jesus shows up around us. God shows up in our lives all the time, providing opportunities we never thought we’d get, in the midst of problems we didn’t know we were going to have. But often, we just don’t see Him.

This happened in the Bible all the time. Jesus would show up and talk to people who never realized who he was. In the book of John, Jesus was sitting by a well when a woman came up to him, looking for water. She didn’t recognize Jesus. In fact she got in a religious debate with the Son of God! Then Jesus said, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to , you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (John 4; 1ONLT). But the woman didn’t recognize Jesus.

God is at work all around you — not just during Christmas but also throughout the whole year. Is it possible that you or the people you love are missing him?

TALK IT OVER

Why do you think we miss God even during the Christmas season, when people seem more open to him than any other time?
What are some ways you’ve seen God at work this week?
What change can you make in your Christmas routine that will help you see Jesus throughout the season.

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gospel nuggets

rick warren

Rev. Rick Warren
THE GOOD NEWS OF CHRISTMAS
“There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us.” (1 Timothy 2:5 CEV)

Christmas is all about good news. But it’s not the good news of special gifts. It’s not the good news of a big meal. It’s not even the good news of spending time with friends and family.

Christmas is about the Good News of God’s love.

The Bible says all of us are lost without God. We’re directionless. We’re without protection. Our potential eternal impact upon the world is unrealized. We’re without real joy. Our eternity in Heaven isn’t secure.

The Good News about Christmas is that God sent Jesus to seek and save the lost. The Bible says, “There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us” (1 Timothy 2:5 CEV).

If you’ve ever spent time in church, you’ve likely heard the word “salvation” many times. But you may not know what it means. The word is like a diamond; you can look at it from many different angles.

Jesus came to rescue us. We can’t solve all of our problems on our own. Without Jesus, we’re trapped in the expectations of others. We’re trapped in living for the approval of our peers. We’re trapped in addictions. We’ve tried to change over and over again, but we don’t have the power needed to escape.
Jesus came to give us that power.

Jesus came to recover us. We all long to recover parts of our lives that have been lost. Without Christ, we long to recover our strength, our confidence, our reputation, our innocence, and our relationship with God. Only Jesus can do that.

Jesus came to reconnect us. Many people think that God will scold them if they come back to him. But God isn’t mad at you. He’s mad about you. Jesus came to Earth on the first Christmas to reconcile us to God, to give us harmony with him again.

Jesus came to Earth to give us the gift of himself. Too many of us celebrate his birthday without accepting this free gift of salvation. It goes unwrapped year after year after year. That’s not smart! You were made by God and for God.

Until you understand that, life will never make sense.

This Christmas, open up the most important present you’ve been given: a new relationship with God through Jesus.

TALK IT OVER

Which of the above facets of salvation has been the most important in your relationship with God? Why?
How can you “unwrap” God’s gift of Jesus this Christmas? In what ways can you tell others about this gift?
What can you do to better celebrate Jesus’ birthday?

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great stories

ernest kitchen

Rev. E. Anderson
THE KNOCK AT MY DOOR

Claudia Leaman

At first I didn’t listen. Finally I did.

I could hardly believe what my older brother, Hal, was saying to me. His suggestion was ridiculous, absurd – he wanted me to get down on my knees and give my life to God! I was shocked and repelled. My brother had become a Jesus freak! It was the last night of my weekend visit with him in Cambridge, where he was studying‘. We were sitting in his apartment, on the rollaway couch that served as my bed, discussing religion. He. Could have chosen ‘a touchier subject, for I had recently decided that I was an atheist. I was just eighteen and a few months earlier had started college, leaving home for the first time.

I tried to explain to Hal the way I felt. ‘Ever since I can remember,’ I told him, ‘I’ve gone to church and Sunday school just because it was the thing to do. But now that I’m in college, I realize that I never thought any of it out for myself. I can’t justify my old beliefs to myself or to the kids in the dorm. I think I’ve been an atheist all along.’

‘Barb,’ Hal said slowly, calling me by my family nickname, ‘God is still there. All you have to do is ask him into your life.’

I had noticed in “Hal a new kind of strength and assurance, and I admired that — but then I had always admired Hal. Ever since I was seven and my father died, Hal had been special to me, helping me with my lessons, giving me books to read. Now it seemed that if I couldn’t trust Hal, there was no one I could trust.

Hal kept telling me what he thought I should do. Finally, just to please him, I did the last thing I ever pictured doing on a visit to my brother. I went down on my knees and repeated the words he ‘suggested: ‘God, please come into my life.’ Nothing happened. I only felt awkward and embarrassed. After a short while I got up. Hal embraced me and said good night. I was grateful that he didn’t ask me how I felt.

When he left the room I began to cry. I cried all night and most of the next day. Because I could no longer understand Hal. Because I was confused and alone.

The next time I saw my brother was a few months later at a family gathering. He made a point of talking to me alone. ‘How do you feel about accepting God into your life?’ he asked.

‘It may be all right for you,’ I blurted, ‘but not for me.’ Hal could see I didn’t want to be questioned about it.

For ten years we dropped the subject, and I tried to put the experience out of my mind. During that time I graduated from college and began my acting career. I fell back into my old, half-understood ways of occasionally going to church. But I never quite knew why or what I was looking for there.

Early in 1977 I found myself in a rehearsal room with the director and cast of Jesus Christ, Superstar. I had a role as one of Jesus’ followers, and we were preparing for a major production. Five months earlier I had played Sonya, also a follower of Christ, in Godspell.

When I got the role in Superstar; I promised myself that what had happened to me in Godspell wouldn’t happen again. Acting in that play, in a local Pennsylvania production, had been one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. Night after night I saw something happen in the theatre that I had never seen before –an audience no longer made up of strangers, but of friends, singing and rejoicing together. But although I felt their exhilaration, I was unable to share it — the gospel narratives that the play is built around just didn’t come alive for me. ‘

Because acting was my whole world, I was willing to do anything to be a better actress – even if it meant going to the Bible to research my role. For the first time, I really read the gospels carefully. Now,» waiting backstage at the theatre, I thought I was thoroughly prepared for the scene we were about to rehearse. ‘
The director, an enthusiastic man, gave us our directions:

‘Jesus has just been arrested. You run to the spot where he was taken away. You look everywhere for him, unable to believe what has happened. It’s as though all your dreams have been shattered — everything you’ve loved and hoped for is gone.’ .

As I began to play the scene, I felt a tremendous sadness rise and clutch my throat. Deeply moved, I burst into tears and allowed them to pour down my face. Everyone thought I was only acting. Afterward another member of the cast came up to me and said, ‘Claudia, that was great! How did you do it?’

‘I don’t know,’ I told her. And I really didn’t. It didn’t occur to me that I was acting out my own deep feelings of loss, fear and loneliness, that the scene in the play was actually a scene from my life.

When the run of the play was over, I returned home to a routine that seemed even emptier and more aimless than before. I spent moa nights in front of the television set wondering why my life had so little meaning.

One cold night in January, restless and unhappy, I opened the Bible. I came upon Revelation 3:20: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him . . and he with me.’ I began to think that Christ had been knocking at the door for a long time, at least since that long-ago night with Hal. Only God could know how to reach me through my desire to be a good actress, a desire that led me to the Bible and finally to him. Suddenly, an overwhelming surge of love and longing and gratitude flooded through me. Once again I went to my knees, this time thankfully welcoming God into my life. At last I knew that my life was complete, and that I was made whole.

About a year after playing in Superstar I saw Hal again at another family get-together. Over coffee, I told him about all the changes that had entered into my life along with Christ. ‘For the first time I really feel I know what’s important. It’s not as if everything has been all roses, but when something disappointing happens – say I’m rejected for a part – I always have somewhere
to turn. I’m never completely alone any more.’

Hal was silent for a while. Then he said, ‘Well, I’m not surprised. I knew you were put in those two plays for a reason.’

We ended that evening with thanksgiving for God’s hidden guidance, for each other and for the role that moved from the stage into my real life: a disciple of Christ.

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message by rick warren

rick warren

Rev. Rick Warren
CHOOSE THE BETTER LIFE

“Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together.” (Revelation 3:20 CEV)
When I was a kid, my mom fed me Spaghettis. I thought it was the best food ever! Then I discovered In-N-Out burgers. I then went from the good life to the better life. Spaghetti were good, but a juicy In-N-Out burger is much better.

You might think you have a good life right now, but if you could have an even better life, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

Unfortunately, what keeps us from grabbing hold of that better life is an irrational sense of self-sufficiency. We think we’re doing fine on our own.

Psalm 10:4 says it like this: “The wicked people are too proud. They do not look for God; there is no room for God in their thoughts” (NCV).

Just like the innkeeper in the first Christmas story (Luke 2), we don’t believe we need more guests. We think we have everything we need.
There’s only one problem with that arrogance: You miss the very reason God God made it so simple that anyone can understand. It’s only three words: Invite him in.
Jesus said, “Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together” (Revelation 3:20 CEV).
Jesus is knocking at your door. Take hold of the better life by letting him into your life. Make him the boss of your life.

It’ll change everything.

TALK IT OVER

In what ways has pride kept you from experiencing God’s better life for you?
What are some good activities in your life that have crowded out your relationship with Jesus?
What does it mean to have a boss in a particular area of your life? What does it mean to make Jesus the “boss” of your life?

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