When You Think There is No Hope…

By Pastor Steve Disher

Matthew 2.13-15

December 26, 2010

In Matthew 2, we see the magi, the wise men, making their way to Bethlehem, and following the star.

They first make a stopover in Jerusalem to get directions. Undoubtedly expecting Jerusalem to be alive with excitement regarding the birth of a king, they were innocently asking, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  (Matthew 1.2)

Such questions caused no little anxiety for Herod. With the secret intent to destroy the One who might take his throne, Herod sent the magi to Bethlehem, instructing them to, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” (Matthew 1.8)

Two similar statements, two different intents.

Both the wise men and Herod said they wanted to worship Jesus, but the intent of their hearts, the area of our lives God examines, were totally different.

God moves wonderfully and mysteriously in our lives, examining our hearts along the way, seeking to transform those hearts and to turn those hearts toward Himself. When our human hearts have God as our focus, He is glorified. And God will be glorified. With or without our contribution, He will be exalted, lifted up, glorified.

It’s our choice to be participants in His exaltation or to refuse to exalt Him to our detriment.

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He calls you by name

The gospels of Matthew and Luke record the events of angels sent to prepare certain people for the birth of Jesus.

In Luke 1.13, “…the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard…”

In verse 30, “The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”

In Matthew 1.20, “…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

There are two common elements in each of these verses, two components that the Lord encourages us to learn throughout the Bible.

The Lord wants you to understand that (1) you should not be afraid and that (2) He knows you by name. Both of these points are made in Isaiah 43…

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine. (Isaiah 43.1)

The Lord knows you personally, thoroughly and He calls you by your name. He has not forgotten you and you are never ignored. His eyes are forever on you. Therefore, the sovereign God of the universe, is overseeing your life at this very moment. Unless you have deliberately sought to live outside of His perfect will, in sin, you have no reason to be afraid. God loves you; He has redeemed you through His Son; He calls you by name; and, if you have trusted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you belong to Him.

May the knowledge of His presence in your life through Jesus Christ bring you complete peace in every area of your life.

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Your path, your destination

We are all on a journey in life, approaching a destination. For each person, the destination reached will fit the path chosen.

In other words, you choose your path in life and that path will take you exactly where it leads. It’s utterly foolish to think that you can walk a path of godlessness, selfishness and deceit, and end up at a destination marked with godliness, love and truth.

A hellish life will not lead to heavenly rewards.

The Psalmist writes …

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139.23-24)

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A new day with God

As I awoke this morning, I saw a new day dawning, the beginning of a new day. Each day that you and I see is a new day, a gift of God.

There are questions that often appear in our minds. These questions, though sometimes fleeting, must be asked: “Who am I” and “what am I supposed to be doing?”

The answers to those questions will always, always point to the Lord our God. He is our beginning and our end; He is our Creator and Sustainer; and He is our life.

Maybe you are facing difficulties, pain and fears. The devil would like nothing better than to steal your peace, to reroute your faith, to negate your witness and to destroy your life.

In C. S. Lewis’ fictional classic, The Screwtape Letters, we read the words of the demon, Wormwood, sharing insight with his nephew, Screwtape. (In the following paragraph, “Enemy” = God and “vermin” = people.) …

Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in a different way. Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.

God loves you. Don’t let any enemy, whether the world system, the flesh (including other people), or the demons, convince you otherwise.

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Consider the outflow

At the time of this writing, the NC Outer Banks are being battered by the waves and wind of an approaching Hurricane Earl. I do hope and pray the damage will be minimal. We have all seen pictures illustrating the devastating effects of such a terrible force of nature. The power released in a hurricane is 200 times the electrical generating power of the entire world. One scientist estimates that a hurricane can release power equivalent to more than 11,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs (Manuel Garcia, Jr.).

It’s hard to imagine anything on earth more powerful than that. But there is power greater than a thousand hurricanes, a million hurricanes, greater than an infinite number of hurricanes … and that power is inside you.

Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water (John 7.38).’”

The phrase, “rivers of living water,” might cause one to envision a relaxed, pastoral scene with a healthy stream of water moving quietly through the countryside between flower-laced river banks. That’s certainly a nice thought bringing a sense of peace to a troubled soul. But the “rivers of living water” Jesus referred to is the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit moves, He most often does so very quietly, bringing little attention to Himself, but He moves in universe-transforming power.

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Painting the Resurrection

Here is a fascinating look at a mural of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The video is narrated by the painter, Ron DiCianni. If you can, watch the video in full screen and high definition.

Painting the Resurrection

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Our lives display Jesus to the world

As Christians we are to be God lovers and fruit bearers.

In John 15 Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 15.1-2

We know that the purpose of a fruit vine is to produce fruit. But think of this: the fruit that is produced, points back to the vine and declares what the vine is. For example, grapes declare to the world that it’s bearer is a grape vine. This fact is elementary in the field of horticulture, but it carries a far deeper meaning when applied to the spirit realm in which we live.

Jesus used the analogy of vine and fruit to describe Himself. He said, “I am the true vine.” Jesus is the One who supplies the fruit. The fruit borne by Jesus certainly includes Paul’s list in Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5.22-23).

The fruit of the Spirit, produced by Jesus, the “true vine,” actually describes who Jesus is.

It gets better. Jesus involves you and me in His self-describing fruit production!

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Wearing the righteousness of Christ

Itʼs A Wrap” is an interesting little used clothing store on West Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, CA. Filled to the brim and even spilling out onto the sidewalk are clothing and props actually used in movies and on TV sets. The public is invited to browse and buy to their hearts content.

On several occasions I have visited the store but Iʼve never found anything I would care to buy. Many others, however, leave the store with bags of cheaper clothes, bragging rights, and the ability to put on the fame of a star … well, sort of. Fame is not really transferable – but itʼs fun to think about.

The Bible teaches us that many of the characteristics of God are transferable to those who have trusted in Jesus Christ. For example, “… put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4.24 ESV).

Actually, the Bible says quite a lot about wearing the righteousness of God.

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Live life having courage

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14.22-27 NIV)

In that last verse, Jesus literally said, “Be having courage; I Am; be not fearing.”

In these few words spoken to the disciples, the Lord Jesus speaks to us today. His faith-filled Word breathes new life into dying hope; imbues hearts with encouragement; and bolsters resolve even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Jesus Christ is saying to you today, “Live life having courage.” Live your life with an attitude of confidence. Walk, talk and live with your heart filled with cheer, joy, gladness, and rejoicing.

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April 8 – The Day My World Changed

Thirty-seven years ago, today, my world changed.

I grew up in church and I was active in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, camp, worship – you name it. I was confirmed and baptized into the Methodist Church and, later, our family moved our membership to a local United Church of Christ.

I received a lot of exposure to the organized church and to the teachings of the Christian faith … but I didn’t know Jesus.

One day, my girlfriend and I found ourselves sitting in a high school gymnasium, on the top bleachers, listening to Billy Zeoli who was with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I heard an invitation given to come forward and receive Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. In fear I did not move and hung onto my bleacher. But my girlfriend asked me if I would go forward with her.

I did.

When I went forward, I found everything I had been looking for but didn’t know I needed. I found a Person: Jesus Christ. That day, April 8, 1973, my world changed, my life was transformed, and I had true peace for the first time in my life.

Thank You, Lord!

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