Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jesus' Black Sheep

Jesus' Black Sheep

"But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick…For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.'"  (Matthew 9:12, 13b)

Jesus loves "bad people."  This is really brought out in the Christmas story.  To whom did God send His angels to first to invite them to come and worship the newborn Savior and Lord?  The shepherds. 

In those days, shepherds were considered crooks and liars, and in many cases, they were.  They couldn't even be witnesses in court because of their notorious reputations.  But God chose shepherds to be His first witnesses of the Savior, and they were so thrilled when they saw Jesus that they glorified God and went out to tell everybody about the Messiah's birth.

God loves the unrighteous, those who know through and through that they're not good, because they're the ones who see their need for a Savior.  Jesus said, "It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." 

You're not going to go to the doctor if you think you're perfectly healthy, and you're not going to go to the Great Physician, Dr. Jesus, if you don't see that you are incomplete, and that you need God's forgiveness and presence in your life.

The fact is, most of us think we're good.  According to a George Barna poll, 83 percent of Americans believe they are basically good—more than four out of five!  The Bible says that God created us very good, and there's still a potential for good, but we fell into sin and rebellion from God.  Without Christ, we're all black sheep in our attitude toward God.  We're not lily white sheep—not one of us—we're not even grey sheep. 

We're black sheep without Jesus, who is "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29b).  God's perfect sacrificial Lamb was crucified for our sins on the cross, and by receiving the risen, living Lord Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven and restored in love to God.
In front of a church in Germany there stands a stone lamb.  As the story goes, a roofer slipped and fell off the roof of the church to the ground.  It was a long way down, so his fellow roofers knew he would be killed, but when they got to the ground, they found him unhurt.  A lamb had been grazing below and the man had fallen squarely on top of it, crushing the lamb to death.  The man was so grateful that he made a stone memorial of the lamb.

I am so thankful that God provided a lamb for me to fall on.  Our fall into sin has been a long way down, but praise God He has given us a lamb to break the fall. 

Have you fallen squarely on the lamb yet?  Your sins have.  Why not put your full weight on Him and trust Him today?

"As it is written: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.'”   (Romans 9:33)

(Sent by permission from Pastor Wayne Taylor;

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tidings of Great Joy

"Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people'…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!'" (Luke 2:10, 13, 14)

This time of year it's so wonderful to hear the Christ-filled verses of Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Holy Night, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing filling the malls as we go Christmas shopping. 

Carols about Jesus' birth literally transformed Christmas in seventeenth century England.  The winter holidays had become so raucous with drunkenness and rioting that decent citizens were afraid to leave their houses, so in 1644, the English Parliament passed a law forbidding the celebration of Christmas. 

Gradually, carols about Jesus became popular, and many began rejoicing at Christmas time with worship and praise.  Christmas was proclaimed legal again—another good reason to keep Christ in Christmas!

When the angel sang the very first Christmas carol to the shepherds, he said, “I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”  Joy is "chara" in Greek—meaning cheerfulness and delight—and is the root for "charis," or God's amazing grace.  In giving us Christ, God gave unspeakable grace, His unmerited love and blessing.  This is the most joyful gift we can receive.

The angels brought the shepherds “tidings of great joy" (Luke 2:10), literally  "mega joy," and when the wise men saw the star, "they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy" (Matthew 2:10).  In other words, the wise men were "vehemently shaking and trembling with joy!"

Today our world is desperately seeking joy.  We want to be lighthearted and carefree because there is so much pressure, stress, and heaviness around us.  Often we think joy comes from having more money, but if that were true Donald Trump would be a model of joy. 
Seneca once gave this advice, "To be happy, add not to your possessions, but subtract from your desires."  Quite possibly our pursuit of riches is the very weed that is choking out a joyful relationship with God.

Jesus told us to rid our hearts of these time-robbing weeds that keep us from Him.  This Christmas, remember that true joy doesn't come from things, it comes from a deep, dear friendship with Jesus. 

"...Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls."   )1 Peter 1:8b, 9)

"And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.'"  (Luke 12:15)

(Sent by permission from Pastor Wayne Taylor;

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Incredible Peace

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!'"  (Luke 2:13, 14)

The night Jesus was born was a night of incredible peace.  First of all, there was universal political peace in the Roman Empire.  After centuries of ethnic fighting and wars of all kinds, Rome's power and control had grown to the degree that for a short time all was quiet throughout the empire.  It was a very appropriate time for the Prince of Peace to be born.

Jesus' birth was announced to lowly shepherds out in the fields in the stillness of the night.  Maybe this was one reason they were the first ones chosen to receive this glorious announcement.  The shepherds weren't so busy, noisy, and distracted that they couldn't hear.  They were quiet and alert.

A heavenly host of angels spoke to the shepherds with words of peace.  In other words, this peaceful proclamation came from a military troop!  In Greek, the word host literally means "army."  They were God's Angelic Air Force Choir, singing of world peace through Christ, our only hope for true peace.

Do you and I take time to be quiet, yet alert, before the Lord?  Or are we continually caught up in the busyness and noise of this world?  Psalm 46:10a tells us, "Be still and know that I am God."  It's amazing the peace and strength God can give us when we quiet our hearts before Him and reach out in faith to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Where is there real peace on earth?  In the hearts and minds of those who are letting the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, rule within.  Jesus wants to bring His blessed peace to our hearts.  By dying for our every sin on the cross, the hostility between us and God has been defused. 

How do you receive the peace of Christ?  By letting His presence come to rest in your life by faith.  Jesus promised, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neith neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).

From Pastor Wayne Taylor, Calvary Fellowship, Mountlake Terrace, WA

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Sign of the Manger

"And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."  (Luke 2:12)

When God sent Jesus Christ as a gift to the world, He didn't want anyone to miss it.  So He gave signs to confirm Christ's birth.  One sign was that the baby would be born in a manger.

A manger is literally a feeding trough for beasts.  This was Jesus' first bed, a place where pigs, cows, horses, and sheep were fed.  Jesus didn't have a nice oak crib with a Simmons Beautyrest mattress.  No, He slept in a stone trough, the kind used in Palestine at that time.  His first resting place was a cold, hard, dirty manger.  The angel gave a very specific sign to help the shepherds identify their Messiah.  Not many babies have an animal feeding trough for their first crib!  I don't know of any, besides Jesus.

The manger has spiritual significance because it illustrates Jesus' purpose in coming to earth.  Our hearts can be just like that feeding troughunclean and oftentimes cold and hard like stone.  Even so, our spiritual hearts hunger to know God.

Human hearts are not only unclean, but often beastly.  We have a fallen and sinful nature, but that's why Jesus came.  God the Son became a man to die for our sins and bring forgiveness and new life with God.  When we repent of our sin and receive Jesus Christ, we discover the greatest Christmas gift of all: God's love.  Oh, how restless and disquieted our hearts can be without Christ!

Augustine said, "Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." 

Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).  Your heart, like that manger, can be a place of rest with Jesus.
(Sent by permission from Pastor Wayne Taylor;

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Daily Christmas Encouragement

(Devotionals by Pastor Wayne Taylor)

Ministry of Sleeping

"Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.  And he called His name Jesus." (Matthew 1:24, 25)

Wouldn't it be great to have a ministry of sleeping?  I'd like the Lord to call me to that kind of ministry.  Unfortunately, God doesn't call us to a ministry of sleeping, but He is calling us to a ministry of resting.    

It's so easy in today's world to be burdened with anxieties and insecurities, and to be stressed out with all our busyness and expectations.  Christ the Great Shepherd wants to give you the rest that David found in the Lord when he said, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters" (Psalm 23:1, 2). 

There is incredible rest, peace, security, and fulfillment in trusting your life to Jesus Christ.  "For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His" (Hebrews 4:10).  Christ gives His rest to you as a gift when you trust Him. 

When Jesus died on the cross, "He said, 'It is finished!'  And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit" (John 19:30b).  "Bowing" is the Greek word used for resting your head on a pillow.  Jesus was resting in the finished work He accomplished.  Thanks to Jesus' great work on the cross for our sins, God is fully satisfied.  You can rest in Him today.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."   (Matthew 11:28) 

(Sent by permission from Pastor Wayne Taylor;

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Immanuel ~ God with Us

Daily Christmas Encouragement

(Devotionals by Pastor Wayne Taylor)

Immanuel ~ God with Us

"And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins…'Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.'"  (Matthew 1:21, 23)

At Christmas we celebrate the miraculous birth of God the Son in the form of a man.  Think of it, God became a man!  The name "Jesus" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name "Yeshua" or "Joshua."  Jesus' name is actually a contraction of two wordsJehovah and Shuameaning "the Lord is our Savior."  Immanuel literally means "with us is God."  At the Incarnation, God came to be with us in the person of Christ, who is the perfect, eternal sacrifice for all our sins.

In creation, we see God above us as transcendent.  In the moral law, we see God against us as judge.  But in the Gospels, we see God with us as Immanuelour Savior, friend, and King. As Immanuel, God joins Himself with His people.

I love the story of the grandfather who sees his grandson jumping up and down in a playpen, crying at the top of his lungs.  When Johnnie sees his grandfather, he reaches up with chubby little hands and says, "Out, Grandpa, out!" 

It is only natural for the grandfather to reach down and lift Johnnie out, but as he does, the child's mother says, "No, Johnnie.  You are being punished, so you must stay in the playpen."  The grandfather is at a loss and doesn't know what to do.  His heart is deeply moved by the child's tears.  But the mother's firmness in correcting her son cannot be taken lightly.  Yet, love finds a way.  The grandfather cannot take his grandson out of the playpen, so he climbs in with him.

That is what our Lord Jesus did for us at Christmas.  In leaving heaven and coming to earth, He climbed in with us.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1, 14)

Sent by permission from Pastor Wayne Taylor;

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Daily Christmas Encouragement
Don't Dismiss Jesus

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows:  After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly" (Matthew 1:18, 19).

Wilbur and Orville Wright made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  For several years, they had tried to fly a heavier-than-air craft and had failed, but on December 17, 1903, they actually flew!  Filled with elation, they wired their sister Katherine, "We have flown 120 feet!  By the way, we plan to be home for Christmas.  Love, Orville and Wilber."

When Katherine received the telegram she was ecstatic and immediately ran down to the Dayton Gazette newspaper editor with the scoop of the century.  The editor carefully read the telegram, smiled, and said, "Well, well, how nice the boys will be home for Christmas."

By not even acknowledging the Wright brothers' incredible flight, that newspaper editor missed the significance and impact of one of the greatest events in history.

That's exactly what happens with many people as we celebrate the Christmas season.  They are missing out on the real significance and impact of what Christmas is all about.  Joseph also almost missed out on Jesus' coming when he planned to dismiss Mary.

The angel Gabriel had appeared to Mary, but evidently Joseph didn't believe her when she tried to explain it to him.  Perhaps Mary's version of her pregnancy was too miraculous and farfetched even for Joseph to believe.  Instead, he was willing to put Mary away by divorcing her quietly, without anyone knowing, because he was a righteous man.  This may seem very admirable of Joseph, but there was no reason for Mary to be put away because she hadn't committed adultery.  She was with child by the Holy Spirit, and God convinced Joseph of that later. 
Often it's hard to convince righteous people about spiritual things.  They don't think they need salvation because they are good, ethical, and moral.  In many cases, these people dismiss Jesus quietly.  They like what Jesus stands for—His love and Christian ethic—but they put Him off as a personal Savior.

You will quietly dismiss Jesus if you misunderstand who He is.  Jesus was and is God incarnate, the perfect and sinless God-man who came to reconcile sinful, unholy man to a sinless, holy God.  We honor Jesus only when we fully realize who He is, and how much we are in need of Him.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich"  (2 Corinthians 8:9)

"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

From Wayne Taylor, Pastor of Mountlake Terrace, WA Calvary Fellowship

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Show Hospitality to Strangers

by Margaret Nichols

From Strong’s Concordance and New American Standard Version:

Alien (1616) – stranger, foreigner, alien, pilgrim, sojourner, guest, visitor

From the root (1481) – basic definition: “to turn aside (from the road)” for the purpose of lodging for the night, to sojourn (as a guest), to dwell (as a stranger). This root essentially means to live among people who are not one’s blood relatives. God directed the Israelites to practice the “Golden Rule” with those non-Israelites who wanted to live among them as proselytes… Because of disobedience, the Jews were exiled in Mesopotamia to sojourn there.

Job 31:32 (Job speaking), “The Alien has not lodged outside, for I have opened my doors to the travelers.”

Romans 12:13, “…contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

1 Timothy 3:2, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” – Qualifications of an elder.

Hebrews 13:2, “…do not neglect to shoe hospitality to strangers…”

1 Peter 4:9, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tell Me The Story One More Time

By Tim Challies
(condensed and adapted by Julie Nichols)

Reading Michael Wittmer’s excellent new book The Last Enemy, I came across a powerful little story that I wanted to share with you. I trust you will enjoy it as I did.

My friend Jeff stopped by the hospital to visit one of his dearest senior saints. Charlotte was in her eighties, but she had been young enough in heart to blossom under Jeff’s ministry.  Charlotte said learning God’s story had changed her life. “I get it now,” she told anyone who would listen. “The parts of the Bible make sense when you read them in light of the whole.  For the first time in my life, I understand how my salvation fits into the larger picture.”

Now Charlotte was dying. She chatted with her pastor about family, church, and the general quality of hospital food, and then Jeff said a prayer and promised to come see her again.

Jeff was minutes from home when his cell phone rang. It was the floor nurse calling from the hospital.  “Charlotte told me to contact you,” she began. “She said that it’s time for her to die. She told me to tell you not to hurry; she’ll wait until you get here.”

Jeff turned his car around and drove slightly faster than Charlotte had recommended. When he entered her room, panting from his swift jog from the parking garage, Charlotte called him over to her bed. She took his hand, looked into his eyes, and said, “Pastor, tell me the story one more time.”

For the next twenty minutes, with a heavy but grateful heart, Jeff reviewed the story that had saved their lives. He told Charlotte about their gracious, triune God who created our world from love and for His glory. He put us here as His “image bearers” to take care of this world on His behalf (see Genesis 1:26-28).

Jeff then described the destruction of the fall and how our rebellion against the one, true, and living God had shattered everything we were meant to be. We were “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

Jeff and Charlotte remembered how God refused to let the world end this way, and He sent His Son to rescue us from sin and death. Our loving Lord was crucified, dead, and buried, but three days later He shocked the world by rising from the dead.

Jesus ascended to heaven where He rules the world and intercedes for us before our merciful Father. He will soon return to make all things new. He will restore our humanity, repairing our relationships with God, each other, and creation. And He will bring joy to the world, far as the curse is found, by abolishing sin, disease, and death. No more tearful goodbyes! Because Jesus lives, we too shall live—with Him, here, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever!

Jeff’s voice cracked and Charlotte’s eyes filled with tears. “It’s true,” she whispered. “I know it’s true.” She turned to Jeff and patted his arm, “It’s time. It’s going to be okay.”

As Jeff prayed beside her, Charlotte raised her eyes toward heaven, and with a serenity that comes from knowing how the story ends, she repeated the words “thank you, thank you, thank you.” By the third “thank you” she had fallen asleep, and on the fourth she was waking up in heaven.

Taken from The Last Enemy: Preparing to Win the Fight of Your Life, 2012 by Michael E. Wittmer. Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Box 3566, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ugly Birds or Precious Children?

25,000 children worldwide starve daily and my government puts thousands of people out of work and even sets aside many more millions of acres of land for an owl, an ugly bird, worshipping the creature rather than the Creator!

We as followers of the Lord Jesus must pray for inapt government leaders and at the same time do all we can to "Deliver those who are being taken away to death." Proverbs 24:10.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

God Rules All History

 by Doug Nichols.
When I was discouraged recently, and praying over the US situation with so many of our political leaders uttering and living in deceit,  my wife Margaret shared with me what she had just written in her personal devotions that morning, “God rules all history (His-story) – the coming and goings of kings and rulers, the rise and fall of empires and nations, the beginning and ending, and usefulness of organizations and missions.”
 “…as I have planned; so shall it be; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand … this is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth and this is the hand that is stretched out over all nations. For the Lord of Hosts has purposed and who will annul it?  His hand is stretch out, who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14: 24, 26, 27).
“Our God rules in the individual lives of people on earth.  In my life …, ‘I cry out to God most, to God who fulfills His purpose for me’” (Psalm 57:2).

Whether individuals acknowledge God or not, He is controlling each or their lives – for righteousness, good, or for judgment.  “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand!’ (Proverbs 19:21).

adapted from August 23, 2012 entry

How Did I Vote and the Welfare of the Country

People ask me who I voted for in the recent US elections.  I simply say, “I voted for you! I voted for the welfare of America.  

I voted for the poor that they would be able to have meaningful jobs and employment.  I voted for low taxes to enable business to flourish to hire more immigrants and others.  I voted for the welfare of America in the world with a strong military.  I voted for the future help and welfare of Israel.  I voted for the rights and life of the unborn. I voted for the poor immigrants that they would be able to have legalization of citizenship and opportunities for employment.  I voted for the sanctity of families that little boys and girls would have a mother and father, a home where the father has meaningful work, and if need be, the wife also.  

I voted for education, schools that have parental influence in the education of their children. I voted not for falsehood, but truth. I voted for proper health care and being able to choose any doctor, and not be strapped with a huge bureaucratic system with long lines and delayed care like Europe and Canada. 

I voted for a balanced budget and no debt so that my children and grandchildren will not be under the bondage of governmental bureaucracy.  I voted for energy independence providing inexpensive fuel for all, especially the poor, as well as providing many jobs.

When I was a child, I thought as a child and, therefore, I thought that others and the world would care for me. I believed in Santa Claus who would give me anything I wanted.  But when I became older, I stopped believing in Santa Claus.  However, I am ashamed to say that most of my country voted for Santa who would give free abortion, free contraceptives, free food, free medical care, free everything, not realizing that suddenly they will be slaves on Uncle Sam’s plantation.

However, as Christians we are to “seek the welfare of the city [the country]” we are living.  To be a light of the gospel in the darkness that people may in repentance and faith, trust Christ and grow in Him to His glory.