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Archive for December, 2008

Romans 8:28

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Long before Dick Bowley was diagnosed with Leukemia God had a plan.  Before the beginning of the heavens and the earth God is his infinite wisdom saw a great man of faith being told some difficult news from his doctor.  Fortunately for Mr. Dick Bowley this same great God had a plan.  His plan was to make his brother Don Bowley his bone marrow donor match.  I saw Dick for the first time just this past week since he had been diagnosed and received treatment for Leukemia at a Georgia Tech/LSU Chick-Fil-A bowl breakfast event.  My heart was overcome with joy as he approached me and we embraced there in the hotel lobby.  I then met two of his sons, and his brother Don whom he told me was going to donate bone marrow to him.  It gave me great joy to think about how God is at work on our behalf for our good and his glory long before we even know there is an obstacle ahead of us.  God’s plan to make Dick and Don Bowley brothers was one of great significance and purpose.  He knew to make them a perfect match when it came to their bone marrow for the sake of Dick’s life.  I bet as the two of them were growing up seating around the dinner table one evening Dick never turned to Don and said, You know Don I’m glad your a perfect bone marrow donor match for me.  That is one of the beauty’s of God’s providence, the things and events we don’t see coming He does. Psalm 33:11 reads    11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.  Our own plans and dreams change so often in accordance with our circumstance, not so with God, He has established His own from before there was breath, or life, or time.  God is always at work for His beloved.  He is good in all His ways and His plans are perfect even for imperfect people.  Dick and Don Bowley were never perfect as brothers to one another, but thanks be to God he made them the perfect match.

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            Thoughts on what Jesus wants from you and me in 2009

 

Luke 9:23-27

 23And He was saying to them all, “(W)If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

 24“For (X)whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

 25“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and (Y)loses or forfeits himself?

 26(Z)For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

 27“But I say to you truthfully, (AA)there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

 

Each year it’s the same thing as soon as Christmas night ends the countdown to New Year’s begins.  The magazines in the grocery store, the book stores and even the one’s in our very mail box’s tell us the new year can to be our best ever, and it usually comes with a three, five, seven, or ten step plan.  And year after year the most popular New Year’s resolution slogan across the front of every magazine seems to read “New Year New You”.  Even my beloved Runners World magazine sold out this year by putting that grossly over used theme on its cover.  Now I’m not against New Year’s resolutions, I will sit down with my wife very soon to discuss our goals and dreams for the coming year hopefully different from the ones than last year.  New Year New You is not a bad slogan, it’s just not enough.  The real question is, according to the Bible what does Jesus want from you and me in 2009?

While I was training for my last marathon in the fall of 2006 I was out for a run and listening to a sermon by my favorite preacher John Piper on my I Pod when he said something I will never forget.  I don’t recall the text he preached that day (though I’m quite sure it was from Romans) but he said something that would serve as my personal goal for the rest of my earthly life.  He said what does Jesus want from you?  He wants all of you all of the time!  That’s it I thought to my self.  Never had it been so clear to me that what Jesus is looking for in me. It was not just all of me some of the time, but all of the time.  If you and I were honest we could all likely admit to compartmentalizing our lives sometimes.  We are so good and attempting to make divisions or dichotomies when it comes to the different parts that make up our being. We are all spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional beings (to over simplify if I may), but the truth is the four aspects are closely connected and can not for any reason be separated, no matter how hard we may try.  If we have physical problems it will affect us emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.  If we have spiritual problems it will affect us in every other area of our being.  And if we experience great personal triumph or victory in one area of our life it will affect the others.  Truth be told we may have different aspects that make up who we are, but they are all connected whether we like it or not.  And we might have different parts that make up our being, but these parts all work closely together to make up our being and can not be separated or divided.

So does Jesus need a new you in 2009?  Does Jesus need as Joel Osteen’s books are titled, Becoming a Better You, Your Best Life Now, Love Your Life, (seriously, how many ways can you really say the say thing)?  No, what Jesus wants from you in 2009 is you, all of you.  Submitting to His Lordship is all about giving up the rights to our lives completely (Luke 9:24).  Jesus wants us simply to be more like Him in this New Year, he doesn’t need better people, He wants godlier men and women for service and sacrifice.  I think it is great if we resolve to become fitter, happier, smarter people in the New Year, but more importantly we need to become more Christ Like above all else.  We need to commit to pray more, study the word more diligently, share our faith often if not always, fight sin, encourage the downcast, restore the repentant, be good stewards of our time and money, help those in need, all to the glory of God through the name of Jesus Christ.  2008 is a new year and in many ways a fresh start, so lets start as Wes Yeary would say “by making today count”.  And let’s build upon and learn from our triumphs and defeats from previous years. 2009 can indeed by the best year any of us have ever had, and it’s as simple as becoming more like Christ by giving Him all we have.          

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Last year, the Friday before Thanksgiving to be exact I returned home to my wife after an evening out at dinner and a volleyball game with my brother and some Tech athletes.  Tenly was already in bed, but she was waiting up for me.  Her waiting up for me is not unusual(she cant sleep unless I am in the bed with her) what accompanied her was.  There next to her on the bed was a present wrapped for me.  I wondered what this could be.  Had she though of me out shopping?  Perhaps a new sweater for sweater season.  No, no the contents I would come to find within that package would be much more valuable than a trusty sweater.  I quickly opened the gift, reached in and pulled out a tiny red pajama outfit that red “Baby’s First Christmas”, along with a pregnancy test that was colored blue.   I immediately asked her if blue meant boy?  Then I asked, “are you serious?”  She said yes.  You never know how you might act/react in a large scale life event like the news of mother with child.  I was certainly not prepared for that news when I arrived home that evening.  Tenly being pregnant would have been far from my mind.  In that moment, the moment of monumental, life changing news I felt two things like never before, joy and peace.  My heart was warmed in a way that only the eager expectation of  being a father could bring.  In the  midst of all the excitement deep within my now wildly beating heart was the peace of God.  I was ready to be a father.  This time of year we celebrate a birth of a far greater baby than mine and Tenly’s, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Joy and Peace He brings are far greater than what I experienced at the news of Perry.  His Joy means we have a savior whose love is more satisfying than the sins we we once were consumed by.  His peace grants us peace with God through himself and life sacrifice, and rules our hearts though the economy, friends, and our own bodies fail us.  Jesus is the all satisfying joy and ever present peace all humanity has longed for.  This year is Perry Rose’s first Christmas, and on Christmas night we will dress her in the pajamas I opened from Tenly last year.  Then we will pray, and thank God for our gift and daughter.  And even more we will thank God for the gift of His Son who born a baby would grow to be a man who would change the course of history by his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave.  A baby’s first Christmas is special, but it would be nothing without Christ.

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Luke 2:13-14 KJV

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

            Can the birth of Jesus really be good news for all men?  Well the answer is simple yes and no.  The birth of Jesus is the greatest news in the history of humanity for all who will bend the knee to his lordship, receive his atoning work on the cross as payment for their sins, and repent of their sin and turn to Christ.  But what about all those who refuse to bend the knee to Christ, those who refuse to submit to his Lordship?  Well the answer for them unfortunately is the gospel is not good news in fact it’s the worst kind of news.

            For every man or women who is willing to commit the greatest sin of all, the sin of self sufficiency (the sin of denying Christ as savior and Lord) the birth of Christ does not bring them peace nor goodwill.  Listen to the words of the apostle Paul when writing on the two effects the cross can have on any given individual;   18For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18 NASB).  For those that are unbelieving, relying solely upon themselves, the cross according to Paul is “foolishness” and they are subsequently perishing at that same moment.  But for those who are being saved by Christ the cross is life, it is as Paul said “the power of God” to change lives!

                        My boss at GT Derrick Moore likes to say “in order to have the peace of God one must first be at peace with God”.  Well I know this much, the Bible is very clear that the only way to have peace with God is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  And furthermore all those who are not at peace with God through Christ are at odds with Him and therefore acting as enemies against His work and Himself.  Most of us probably grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible and heard the portion of the Christmas narrative many times “and on earth peace, and goodwill toward men” Luke 2:14b.  In my New Testament class last semester with Dr. Cook from my seminary I learned the more accurate translation for that verse is “peace on earth to men of goodwill” Luke 2:14b.  The NASB and NIV more accurately translate this passage   14“Glory to God in the highest,
         And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” NASB

   

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. NIV

 

The peace God is then truly for all men, all men that bend the knee to sovereign and supreme Lord Jesus Christ. A man/woman of goodwill can only be described as a  person who has a relationship with Jesus according to the Bible.  As for all those that have not or refuse to receive Christ as savior and Lord, well the joy of Christmas and the birth of Christ can offer no true comfort or peace.  Let us pray for those we know personally who do not yet believe that this Christmas will be their best, and all because they finally experienced the peace of God through Jesus Christ.  Then as the favorite Christmas song sings then truly would “their days be merry and bright”.  

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What do God, the Media, and Government all have in common? Each want you to depend on them. The media i.e Fox, Cnn, Msnbc, Cbs all want your time as a viewer. How do they get you to watch their broadcast? By reporting the news, hardly. Each media outlet has an agenda, a slant, a chosen take on the story. Often times it involves doom and gloom reporting. News sources can turn just about any story into a crisis. Think about it, if there is no crisis, no conflict, no struggle, no desperation, why would you watch the news? Most people would find simply listening to the facts reported boring. Whether it’s terrorism, the economy, the bird flu, or war (all real threats, I’m not trying to be-little or ignore reality in the least), news people are going to convey a message of little hope to the general public. When was the last time you turned on the news and heard, “a relatively quite day in the world”,  “good news just keeps coming in or, “this is such gret news”? In much the same way I see our country shifting from our long standing “by the people for the people” approach to government and it’s relationship to the people, to save us, help us government. Every where you turn these days somebody is looking for a bailout. Corporations, companies, and people alike are asking government to save them from the economic crisis. This is a slippery slope we are on. One in which the people no longer see government as servants to them, but as their source of dependence, well being, hope. If the leaders in government can get people to depend on and look to them for guidance, then they can accomplish much of what they desire. Late president John Fitzgerald Kennedy famously said, “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”? Oh how far removed we seem to have drifted from those powerful words spoken just a few decades ago. I will be honest, there is not much hope in government, never has been, never will be. What am I saying, am I against government, against democracy? Absolutely not! We live in the greatest nation in the world when it comes to government. I wish all nations lived in the type of democracy we have today where we enjoy the rights and privileges of worshiping who and how we choose, attending the schools we desire, marrying the person we want to, and speaking our minds without fear of punishment from the powers of the land. It is important to remember that in our nations great heritage is was people that made the government, and not the government that made the people. Our great fore-fathers drafted the great constitution for this great land. And the premise of that great declaration, was the character of God himself. Many of our founding fathers were devout men of God, who themselves desired to see a nation and a people that would worship and honor God through democracy and freedom. This also means the right not to choose to worship the same God as many who outlined the constitution did. What those same men saw back then I fear most have lost sight of today, and that is the need for complete dependence on God. That is why I say my hope is not in government, but in Christ. When I pray for our country, our people, our troops, I pray to God, not government. I ask God for wisdom, understanding, strength and help. A lot of people are talking about how bad the economy is right now, and I understand the nature of the time we are in. I work for a non-profit religious organization. The first place people usually cut their spending? Charitable donations. I and my co-laborers are supported and funded completely by individuals who choose to give on a regular basis to our ministry. The funding we have received for the year is way down. We are a critical point financially. Yet at night I call on God, no my government for help. I pray to the God who “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50 :10) to provide for our every need, and I trust that no matter what he will make a way. That is God’s design that we all would understand our need for him. And now just in a financial sense, but more importantly in a spiritual one. God desires that we see our need for Him as the only source for salvation and eternal life(John 3:16) How is this possible? Only through the one whose birth we celebrate in just over two weeks, Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  While much negative news is being reported everywhere by seemingly everyone, there is good news and he goes by the name of Jesus( Romans 1:16). My prayer for us all during these seemingly uncertain times where the threats of crashing economy’s, terrorists, war, and disease are real, we would not despair, but exemplify great faith before the world. And may we hold fast to our one true security Jesus Christ for salvation and all things. Remembering our trust can never be in anything including the dollar, but only in the one who is able to save us from troubles now and those which would destroy the soul forever (Romans 10:9). Praise be to God who unlike the news , or the economy does not change every day, but is the same always(Hebrews 13:8) and you can depend on that!

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Thoughts on the question everyone keeps asking, but what are they saying?

Shoppers

LUKE 2:8-12, NIV     

 8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

  

I’m at Publix just the other day and I hear it for the first time this year form the cashier to the lady behind me, “are you ready for Christmas” Now I know what she is asking, have you got all your shopping done, is your tree up yet, and by the way how many holiday parties will you be attending.  Now don’t get me wrong I’m not opposed to Christmas trees and decorations, holiday parties, or presents, I love them all but do these things help us get ready for Christmas?  I believe they certainly add to our holiday joy, but they are not what Christmas is all about.  

I, like Charlie Brown believe Christmas has gone commercial.  What if someone asked if you are ready for Christmas and you replied, yes I am in fact ready to usher in the Son of God, the Christ child in to this world by celebrating his birth and eternal reign on DEC. 25th. Imagine the funny look you might receive, but that is precisely what Christmas is all about, the birth of Christ.  Take away the tree, the parties, and the gifts and you can still have Christmas.  Take away Christ and all you’re left with is a tree, a party or two and some presents, but no Christmas.  You can’t have a true Christmas without Christ.

I’m not trying to be a scrooge here.  Those that know me well know I take great pride in putting up Christmas lights each year (I am known to some locally as an exterior illumination professional).  I also go out into the woods and cut down the worst looking pine tree I can find and decorate it with lights just like Charlie Brown.  I love everything about Christmas, but most of all I love the Christ of Christmas.  I just get a little annoyed with all focus on the “stuff” that surrounds Christmas.  Christmas will always centrally be about one thing, the birth of Christ.  At church on Sunday one of the worship leaders prayed that in the midst of all the “hustle and bustle” (the most over used and my least favorite around Christmas term) we would remember Christmas is about Christ.  Well allow me to say this, if we are too busy to remember Christmas is about Christ that doesn’t say a whole of us as Christians.  We will always make time for the people and things we deem most important.  If Christ is important He will be central in our Christmas time, and if he is not, well he should be.  After all this baby was no ordinary babe, He is the Son of the living God, the Great I AM, The king of the Cosmos, the First and the Last, the Lamb of God, and our Savoir and Friend.

So friends may this be your brightest and best Christmas ever.  May the joy of our Lord Jesus bring you the greatest amount of satisfaction this Christmas season.  Let us all join together and pray that God be honored and glorified with how we celebrate the birth of His only son.  And when you are out and about this holiday season at the mall, at a holiday party, or just run into some friends and they ask you the most often asked holiday question “are yall ready for Christmas”? Answer, we are always ready to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.         

 

 

 

 

 

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Anyone who knows me well knows this, I love The Charlie Brown Christmas special.  I watch the it every year on TV as well as video.  Even since the days of my youth I have gone out into the woods that stare at my parents North Alabama home, and with my younger brother cut down the weakest and loneliest of all the young pine trees.  We then take the tree back home, secure it in the ground and place lights on the tree for all to see.  This year, my parents even bought me an official Charlie Brown Christmas tree to put in my house.  The Charlie Brown tree is a beloved Stewart family tradition.  The Charlie Brown tree would be nothing however without Linus.  Charlie Brown finds himself frustrated with the commercialization of Christmas and asks the question “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”  Linus ready with an answer replies, “sure Charlie Brown I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” 8In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.  9And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;  11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  12“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,     14“Glory to God in the highest,  And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:8-14). “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown”, Linus concludes rather simply.  It is the climatic moment of the story.  Finally Someone tells a downcast and disturbed Charlie Brown where to find the the true meaning of Christmas.  It wasn’t in the Christmas cards, nor the neighborhood lights competition, not in the Christmas play, or even the un-loved Christmas tree.  The true meaning of Christmas was found in the Word of God as recorded in the Gospel of Luke.  The good news of Jesus, born of a virgin, revealed to lowly Shepard’s, the light of the world, the long awaited Messiah.  In a season filled with so much hope it’s a shame that so many feel so depressed.  I baked Christmas cookies, put up the tree, decorated the house in and out, bought presents for all my family and friends, went to three Christmas parties, even gave money for less fortunate families, and yet it still doesn’t feel like Christmas.  Every year that unfortunately is the song that is sung by many people during and after the Holiday season.  They mark off every thing on their Christmas list, and leave off the most important of all, Christ.  Christians are as guilty as anyone at doing this.  That is why we need Linus’s among us.  Linus’s that will remind ill focused Christians about celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.  Linus’s that will plead with their lost friends to make this Christmas the first real one they have ever celebrated by receiving Christ as Savior and Lord.  Linus was there ready with an answer for his friend Charlie when he got the Christmas blues.  Do you have an answer ready for your co-workers, friends, and family members, when they confess dis-stain and emptiness during the Christmas season?  Will you make it a point to tell one lost person the true meaning of Christmas this December?  That after all is the greatest gift of Christmas,  Jesus and eternal life.  I am praying the only Christmas message the lost world hears is not from a blanket toting animated child named Linus, but from the lips of people they know and love, people like you and me.

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