OXYGEN Volume 24Who am I?  What am I to do with my life?  What do others think of me?  What activities should I pursue?  These are all questions that everyone has faced at one time or another in their lives.  People, it seems, are always on a quest to “find themselves” The current trend is to have something to fight for or against; to be most noticed and to stand loud, strong, and proud.  It’s all about being “noticed” either in a relationship, career, or public policy.  What is  most interesting is the enormous amounts of time, energy, and monies all to seek answers to questions that are, at their heart, very simple.

As Christians, our identity should be singular.  It’s not a hard answer because our being, worth, and purpose should be surrounded by those marks of discipleship and servanthood that Christ laid out for us.  It is a quiet and simple answer.  Not one that will sell millions of books, get rave reviews, raise you to the top of the corporate ladder, or gain you a ton of friends and political posh.  It’s not some gregarious act that leads to the masses following you.  Really, outside of a few, rare, high profile people, the masses are just common, ordinary,  unsung heroes operating in the quiet, obedient steps of Jesus.

One of the biggest problems Christians, and non Christians alike, face is that comparison often leads to compromise.  We want to be just like so and so, but that isn’t the life God has for us. However, we fight, claw, kick, and scream to keep reaching for a brass ring that doesn’t fit and doesn’t belong to a Christ One.  The world wants us to be just like them and fight for identity in sex, gender, status, wealth,  etc..  Christ says “My Grace is Sufficient for You.”

How do we know that statement to be true?  Well, let’s look to the life of a very quiet, unsung hero of Faith named Andrew.  He was never a big front runner in the group of Jesus’ followers.  He didn’t make big public speaches before the masses, like Peter or Paul.  He just quietly, and simply, was about the work of Jesus and reaching others with the saving message of Jesus.  You might just say Andrew was a “nobody”.  However, when you look deeper you will see this “nobody” was behind the “somebodies” coming to faith.  Because Andrew was in relationship with God’s word, He knew Jesus.  Andrew was in relationship, one on one face time, with others, he could share Jesus with those he knew and loved.  Andrew was a trend setting, trailblazer of his time.  As often happens with trailblazers they don’t get the glory but you do see the fruits of their efforts.  We can see all of this in John 1:29-42:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. NIV

We can learn much from Andrew and his quiet way of evangelism and witness.  Andrew knew who he was and why he was here.  He was a child of God called to bear witness to the Son, Jesus Christ.  He had a desire to share God.  To reach someone who doesn’t know Jesus Christ as the only Savior of the World, we have to know Jesus and be in relationship with Him.  We have to have a heart that is real, sincere, and filled with desire to see the lost come to faith.  We need to really know people.  That means inter personal relationship time.  It’s not a text message, email, facebook, twitter, or instagram thing.  If we aren’t genuine in our care and approach, we can’t reach anyone.

Another part of knowing Jesus and others is to be in prayer and communication.   On our own, we will never reach a lost soul but in prayer we ask for God’s guidance and wisdom and then in our relationship we communicate our story.  What story?  The simply story, when the moment is right, of what Jesus has done, is doing, and will continue to do for you in this life.  Where your life used to be and where it is now.  How God’s word helps you through the trials and tribulations of this life.  These are easy stories to tell because you know them because they are you.

Andrew, this quiet fisherman of fish turned to a fisher of man, who reached out and shared Jesus so his brother Peter could be saved.  Peter went on to reach thousands but because his brother knew the right answer – Jesus- and shared, Peter became a Christ Follower.  The world might see Andrew as a “nobody” but he was a valuable soul to reach more souls.  Andrew knew who he was and why he was here.  He was a child of God called to bear witness to the Son, Jesus Christ.  He had a desire to share God. You might feel like a “nobody” but Jesus says you are “somebody!”  The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, says “I died for you!”  There is no greater identity or purpose than to be a quiet, humble, servant of Jesus Christ to reach others so that they too can know their sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name.  Go out into the world as an Andrew and rejoice in the only identity that matters – a Child of Christ!

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Do your finances always seem to have you under lock and key?  Do you want to unlock the Biblical keys to financial success and start mastering money instead of your money mastering you?  Join us for the next Financial Peace University Classes that will begin February 16, 2017 at 7:00 PM.  We will meet at 28000 New Market in the Gymnasium/Fellowship Hall Class Room.  To register, please go to this link.  ttps://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/classes/1032731

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THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS DINNER DANCE

Please join us for the 5th annual Prince of Peace Valentine’s Dinner Dance.  EVERYONE is welcome!  This year we are celebrating love on a global scale!  Feel free to wear your native nation’s formal cultural attire to help support our theme.  A delicious strolling international themed dinner will be served followed by a dessert buffet that you won’t forget!  Top the evening off with great music and dancing.  This is a Valentine’s passport to fun that you won’t want to miss and is good for singles and couples alike!

WHEN:     Saturday, February 11, 2017 from 7pm until 11pm

WHERE:     Prince of Peace Lutheran Church Activities Center

28000 New Market Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334

$20/person advanced tickets are required.  

Purchase tickets in the church office or call Laura at 248-553-3380 for further details.  ALL profits benefit local charity.

5The Wise men knew something was different about the star that shone in the night.  They had done their homework, per se, and they intellectually knew all the right things and had knowledge of the writings of the Israelites.  They knew these writings pointed to a king. These scholars wanted to dig deeper and it cost them their time, talents, and treasures.

You see one part that is overlooked often times about the Magi is that they had to leave everything they knew behind.  They left their homes, family, friends, and worldly comforts.  Now granted, they had a caravan but if any of you have done any traveling, you know that there is nothing quite like your own bed and having your own daily lifestyle and routine.  All of that had to be left behind to find the King.  Not many have been asked to leave it all, but I know many a called Pastor and family that have been asked to do so for the sake of God’s calling.  So what did the Wise men find at the end of their journey?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:1-12 NIV

They didn’t find a triumphant kingdom with a strong, mighty man sitting on a throne.  They did stop and talk to Herod but what they found there, though they didn’t know it at first, was a man who’s heart was dark with hatred and contempt for anything or anyone that would get in the way of his power and control.  Herod would stop and nothing to make sure this King of the Jews wouldn’t take His rightful place.  Herod, the one who should have been in the seeking the Lord mode, was as far from it as possible.  The Wise men went to the place that should have known where to find the King but found an empty heart and throne.  A kingdom that had no desire to know their real King.

Things weren’t going as planned for the Magi but what they did we can learn from.  They didn’t let the detours and destruction ruin their quest.  They continued to pursue the Star of Bethlehem to find the answer to the question of “who is this King?”  Once the Wise men found the child at the house with His mother and earthly father, they had to be faced with the fact that the King of the World was a tiny infant.  One with no worldly power, no worldly persuasion, just a humble little family in a lowly habitat.  Nothing fancy, nothing grandiose about it.  See, that is how God most often reveals Himself.  In the simple, in the lowly, in the common, in the still small voice.  What the Magi did was recognize that God was present in the Shack moments of their current lives and they worshiped the Lord in the midst of the unexpected.  They saw God in the humble even though He wasn’t what the worldly paradigms  and their own makings had caused them to seek.

The next huge step the Seekers did is astounding.  They gave the King what He deserved.  They gave Him honor, respect, faithfulness, and honest worship with their gifts.  They didn’t withhold the gift just because the one receiving didn’t meet up with some glorious human view, they opened their hearts and worshiped anyways.  God promises that if someone seeks Him, they will find Him.  That is exactly what the Wise men received.  They might have went looking for a worldly ruler but they were given the gift of seeing the Creator of the Universe, in human, frail flesh, accepting the praise and honor and gifts they presented.  In their giving, they received the best gift in return, the Grace of God.

The Magi, in giving their gifts, were given the Mercy and Grace and Love of God the Father.  They were given the opportunity to be presented with the soul saving Son, Jesus Christ.  When one is in the presence of the King of Eternity, and allowed into His presence, there is no greater gift because no human is worthy on their own merit.  God showed the Wise men that Jesus came even for them!  It wasn’t just for the Jews but it was for the Gentiles.  It was for all of mankind.

The Magi’s thoughts and plans took them on a journey that they weren’t fully prepared for.  What they expected and what they found were far from the normal world view.  They were met with twists, turns, evil intentions, and the likes but it didn’t stop God from being God and it didn’t stop them from pursuing who the King was and still is today and for all eternity.

How are you when your plans, hopes, dreams, and expectations get a sudden, swift change? Do you continue to pursue the King and sift through the rubble of your kingdom and proceed to the Shack of the Savior?  Do you allow life’s collision course to careen you off course or do you set your compass and sights on the Bible and staying true?  God has never failed a promise and He won’t start now.  Cling, like Job, to the Creator and never stop seeking and praising the King of all Kings.  Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21 NIV).

 

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The day of Christmas, as the world celebrates, has come and gone.  Trees have been stripped and tossed out.  Music has been returned to it’s holding location on the playlists, until next year.  The gifts that were given to one another have been used up, washed, exchanged, or returned.  Some have even bought themselves the gifts they wanted and didn’t get.  You know, like the advertising slogan “you deserve to give yourself the gift.”  People have used words like “I’m over Christmas, now let’s move on to Spring.”  Sadly, this cynicism overshadows the entire Season of Christmas and the joy of Jesus’ birth has been missed by way too many.  Have we really stopped to look at Jesus in the Manger?  Have we really listened, and heard the Words of love and grace spoken by God the Father, because Jesus came to earth?  Have we stopped to look at why Jesus had to come?  Have we really heard the full message or have we overlooked the Unexchangable, Unchangeable, Irreplaceable Gift of Christ?

It’s not just the world that get’s all crazy busy and cynical about Christmas.  Many a Christian gets caught up with all the business and busyness of the world’s version of Christmas, you know that one day a year on December 25.  Needing to have the exact gift, the best dinner, the most events to attend, that “needed” trip, and in the end all the real Hope and Joy of Christmas gets lost.  The ancient church didn’t start out just celebrating on the 25th but did the Twelve Days of Christmas, which ended with Epiphany.

The season of Christmas, was designed to examine one’s self and look to the Christ Child – the Hope of All Nations and the Joy of our salvation.  The early church took time to Stop, Look, and Listen to the Savior.  It wasn’t business as usual, to hurry up and get on to the next thing on the calendar.  It was a time to truly reflect that Jesus had to come to save all people from the wages of sin and death. It was looking to the Father and thanking Him for loving His people so much that He would send His only Son to live and die for us, His enemies. Time revisiting the Scriptures to grasp that without the Holy Spirit working in Mary and Joseph, their would be no Christ.  It was a time to earnestly seek the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   You see, Jesus came to bring us many gifts so let’s stop, look, and listen, so we don’t miss these four big gifts:  Forgiveness, Hope, Salvation, and Eternal Life.

In Isaiah 62, we see part of these gifts being foretold.  We see that we are to be watchmen and not rest until the day of salvation comes. God’s people are called to not be silent until the day God shows His righteousness.  For the ancient church they could easily see a time when they had been without God’s gift of Jesus Christ, so they had no trouble sharing the gift once they saw Jesus had come and fulfilled the Father’s plan.  They found real Hope and Joy in times of disaster and persecution because they had seen the Salvation of the Lord.  God’s chosen people, Israel, waited thousands of years for this Hope to be fulfilled.  Let us not forget that each of us has had a time, because we are all born sinful, that we have been without Jesus.  Let us not forget the marvelous gift as we await Christ’s second return. No matter what may come, how people fail you, how dark the night, with Jesus comes lasting Hope. This is a gift beyond compare.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, (Isaiah 62:1–6, NIV).

The gifts we gain from Christ, Forgiveness, Hope, Salvation, and Eternal Life, are gifts we cannot purchase, cannot earn, and definitely don’t deserve.  Out of God’s infinite mercy, grace, and love, He gives them to us in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4–7, NIV84)

On Epiphany, we non Jews, celebrate with gusto because this is when the gift of Jesus Christ was presented to all of mankind.  It was no longer a promise for just a chosen, select group, but for simple, common, ordinary, gentiles.  So the next time cynicism, darkness, despair, betrayal, busyness, business, and whatever else try to invade not only the Season of Christmas but in your life, STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and DON’T MISS the gifts that Christ brought that first Christmas and continues to bring until the day He returns to take His children home for all of eternity.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:1-14 NIV

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Come and peer into the manger to see the Babe of Bethlehem that is the King of the Cross and the Savior of the Nations.

Join us at the Royal Court in Session at Prince of Peace Lutheran, 28000 New Market, Farmington Hills, MI  48334.

advent_is_coming_-_2For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.” Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.” And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:4-13 NIV

It’s funny how this time of year brings out the best and worst in people.  As a people watcher, I marvel at how different ages and cultures and classes wait for the approaching season of Christmas and walk through the Advent Season.  This year is no different as it seems like people, in general, seem to be waiting and watching for “something” and they want to have a vague “hope” in something especially following a very ugly political season, people are either more hopefully or ready to throw in the towel.  The big question is where are people looking for hope and acceptance?  Where are people placing their energies and focus?  Are we forgetting or choosing to ignore the very obvious and simple answer to the questions?

Little children wait and watch with much more gusto than older people or those being weighed down by the necessities of life.  Children are looking at the lights and hearing the sounds and are about ready to jump out of their skins with excitement for what Christmas brings.  Kids have anxious hearts and can’t wait to see what gifts are ready to be unwrapped.

Older people, starting to get worn down by life, are waiting for that “magical” moment when the world is calm and bright.  When life is “easier”.  When my finances will be in order.  When I get that job title.  When I get to slow down and just enjoy life.  The list of “when I” is so long and seems like an attainable thing but when we really look, we find out that what is on our list is often times not worth waiting, watching, or hoping for.  These things leave us dried up, empty, and dissatisfied.  We just don’t like accepting the fact that this world brings heartache, pain, toil, and trouble.  We don’t like accepting that sin has corrupted everything, especially us.   We don’t even like to admit that we don’t do a very good job of accepting the fact that Christ’s only reason for coming to this earth, is to save us from our sin, the sin of others, and the sin of all times.  We would rather put false hope in things and status rather than the One who came as nothing so we could have something miraculous.

Christ came to break the darkness of hopelessness.  Christ came to break the bondage of sin for you and for me.  Christ came to unlock us from the “self exile” that we choose when we separate ourselves from Him and one another.  Christ came to break down the barriers of who is worth and who is not.  Christ came to Jew and Gentile alike.  Christ cared for the outsider and the chosen.  Christ looks at you and sees the real person in your heart; the one hidden from others and from yourself.  Christ came  to fulfill the Promise from the Ancient of Days.  Christ came to save you from the eternal hopelessness of Satan and hell.

What else is better to wait and watch for?  If Christ could come to earth to live and die for His enemies, what reason can we possible have for not sharing with others the grace given to us?  What reason can we have to not be excited and joyful?  I am not talking about how the world views those words, I am talking about the blessed assurance that this life doesn’t have the answer but the Babe in the Manger does!  Christ is the PROMISEKEEPER that you can count on. That is HOPE that not only you can take to the bank, but that you can take to Eternity!

 Let us be like the little children and get our enthusiasm flowing and be the Light keepers of Jesus’ promise keeping.

Lord, help us to spend these next 12 days of Christmas with our eyes focused on You as we wait for the celebration of Your birth.  Give us hearts that are willing to share with others and treat them as Your children no matter what they look like. Let us trust in the hope of You and only You.