Blessed are the Poor!

Isaiah prophesied the words eight centuries before Christ coming: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners” (Isa. 61:1) How amazing when Jesus later read this and proclaimed its fulfillment. How much more amazing was it that when Jesus did come to earth it was the poor shepherds, the rustic field hands that first received and proclaimed this news to others.
 
Isn’t it great when the poor or downtrodden get good news? Good news more often finds the rich or well to do. On this divine night the poor or simple got the news first. The rich or higher ups had no idea of its happening.
 
The shepherds response was amazement, wonder, joy, and proclamation. We sing of it still today in songs like “Good Christian Men Rejoice”. This was news made especially for the poor! This Jesus/Savior the angels proclaimed would take away their sins. Good news for all with sins be you rich or poor, yet it seems to me the humble and poor in physical state are less school in smugness so they are more honest about their sins – making them more open to receive the good news.
 
This Christmas no matter what your physical surrounding or your financial standing is, let us all realize we are spiritually bankrupt before a Pure and Holy God. We are all poor and in great need of a Savior King born to free us. So let us think about the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3) as He shares that “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Let us all respond like the Shepherds in amazement, let’s gather around the manger of our LORD and worship Him, then let us go and proclaim His saving power to all the other poor people in need of salvation.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


God with us!

The word Immanuel is right up their with the word Lord in Christian worship. Incarnation or enfleshment is the way a theologian would explain it. It is literally when God became flesh and dwelt among us. The Incarnation is the greatest and most noble idea in any world religion. That God did not watch human despair from afar but instead clothed himself in humanity and came near, to enter our problem existence and be the solution. He ceased watching the human war and became a soldier, experiencing all of life as we do. Think of what Jesus experienced: blistering in sun, shivering in rain and cold, hunger, bereavements heartache, loneliness, betrayal, pain, agony, shame, sorrow…
 
All these things the God of all mercy took upon himself, this is why God with us, Jesus, is now our perfect high priest. He experienced life as we did yet remained Holy God without sin.
 
The greatest question is why? He had to be man to pay the penalty for man, he also had to step into our darkness to lead us to the light and life (like rescue divers for the soccer team trapped in a cave– they had to go in to lead them out). God has done the same– He proved his love and salvation by sending His presence to us. God knew after “the fall” man would face pain and trials, heartache, and despair. Immanuel is God saying, “I won’t allow you to face it alone, I will come help you and redeem you from all this.”
 
What is greater still is when we place our faith in Christ, He comes to live in us through His Holy Spirit. Not only to help and empower our lives for His glory and our good but also for the good of others. God is still incarnate, in the flesh, He is in us. So in and through us He is still stepping into peoples conflict and pain helping and redeeming a world in need. When you enter into others’ despair with the love and presence of Christ, others will see Him at work and also proclaim what we know to be true in the birth of Christ— “Immanuel” = God is with us!
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


Every One Can Make A Difference!

REMINDER: THIS WEEK IS SHOEBOX COLLECTION WEEK
 
I hope this story helps remind us why we should pack a shoebox this year.
 
GOD USES OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD SHOEBOX GIFTS TO OPEN DOORS FOR CHURCHPLANTING EFFORTS IN UNREACHED AREAS.
 
Bible school graduates Raja Asirvatham and Ramya Rajarathinam, a husband and wife team, moved to an area of South Asia with no known Christians with the intent of planting a church. For three years they labored with little visible response from the people— until they delivered Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.
 
These tangible expressions of God’s love proved to be a building block for them in the community. The shoeboxes opened the hearts of villagers—and their own daughter—to the Gospel. Over an eight year term, they had established a thriving church of 75 people that continues to grow today.
Ramya and Raja poured their hearts and lives into Hindu and Muslim people who worked on little farms and in leather and fabric factories. Traveling weekly to a handful of locations, they started by gathering children to tell them Bible stories and sing songs together. They met under trees, on porches, even in streets, diverting bicycle traffic around them.
 
Week after week, they faithfully shared from the Bible truths in different locations without seeing much fruit. However when they came to each of these places with cartons full of gift-filled shoeboxes the momentum shifted.
 
“It was such a great tool,” Ramya said. “It paved the way for more relationship” Since the Hindus rarely allow their children to participate in Bible based activities, the missionaries were able to encourage them about the Operation Christmas Child outreach events by saying “We are having something special just to show love.” While at the events in each village, they would share the Gospel and pray with children, while parents watched and listened in. “The box was like an anchor to go back more times and build relationships, teaching the children through accompanying Bible studies. Through this the people, even adults, started coming to Christ and it was with this foundation the church was started.”
 
Today the missionary family has one simple message. “Definitely pack a shoebox! Every one can make a difference.” As a church family let’s be a part of blessing children around the world by prayerfully packing shoeboxes full of love and the Gospel. National Collection Week is coming up Nov. 11-19. Bring yours this Sunday!
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


Take account of what you have and what you should do with it!

For the past couple of weeks on Sunday Morning we have acknowledged through God’s Word that God loves all people and desires all to know His ways and know His salvation that all people will praise Him. We have also recognized God’s plan for this is to be gracious and bless us, “His people”, so that all will be blessed. We recognize it is our Job to bless others through His blessing.
 
As a nation we are truly the most blessed people on earth spiritually and physically. I just wanted to string together some of God’s words about our wealth (spiritually and physically) and about sharing (spiritually and physically).
 
Wealth: Honor GOD with your wealth, with the first of what you have. Do this and you will be blessed to overflowing. Be careful not to put your trust in money or possessions, but place your trust in GOD. In the day of wrath it is righteousness and not money that will save you. It is better to be poor and fear the LORD than to be rich with turmoil. Wealth brings many friends but they leave when the money is gone. The LORD is the maker of the rich and poor man alike. The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender. Don’t wear yourself out to become rich. Riches are temporary and they will make themselves wings like eagles and fly away.
 
Giving: A generous man will prosper and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. A good man leaves an inheritance for his grandchildren, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward him for what he has done. If a man refuses to hear the cry of the poor, then he too will cry out and not be answered. A man who boasts about giving gifts and never gives them is like dark clouds and wind with no rain. He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.
 
Make sure to be aware of God’s blessings toward you (spiritually and physically) and be sure to share it with those who are poor (spiritually and physically). God will continue to supply those who are aware of what he has given and generous with what he has supplied.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


Praying for B.O.B. Daily!

Yesterday in the service we spoke of our “simple duty” to share the truth with others that God loves them and gave His son to prove that love. We talked about sharing the good news with the world and fulfilling the “great commission” of our King Jesus. We should do all we can to prepare ourselves to witness to others as often as possible.
 
There is an evangelist, speaker, and disciple trainer named Mark Cahill and he helps equip Christians to share their faith with the world. One thing I heard him say made a lot of since to me and I believe we should put it into practice. He said before he leaves his house he always prays for BOB! When someone asked who is Bob, he responded “it is not a person it is an acronym ”. Mark explained it is a prayer to God for what I need to be an effective witness each day based out of 3 things Paul, the greatest missionary in history, said to the early church.
 
B = A Burden for all people. We must remember every person who has not confessed to be a sinner, repented of sin, and placed belief or trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ is still dead in their transgressions and the wrath of God is upon them. This should burden our hearts, so ask God daily to give you a burden for the lost. Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
 
O = An Opportunity for witnessing. Colossians 4:2-6 Paul is asking the people to pray for open doors for the message, so they can proclaim the message of Jesus clearly with others. He also tells them to be wise and make the most of every opportunity they have to witness. So ask for opportunities for yourself and others before your day starts.
 
B = A Boldness to seize the opportunities given. Ephesians 6:18-20 Twice Paul asks the people of Ephesus to pray for him to be able to proclaim the truth of God’s Word boldly as he should. We too should be bold in proclaiming the truth so always remember to ask God to help you stay bold.
 
So I hope this little acronym helps you as a witness for Jesus Christ. Be sure each morning when you rise, thank God for your blessings but then pray for B.O.B. = a burden for the lost, an opportunity to witness, and a boldness to match that opportunity. Tell someone about God’s love for them this week.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


What’s in it for Me?

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him. But also to suffer for Him.
(Phil. 1:29)
 
“What’s in it for me?” You may not actually say these words but we all have asked them from time to time. In our human nature this actually can drive or alter our decisions. It’s just part of our sinful nature. We want to know what we stand to gain before we commit to something. While it is a common part of the way we think, it is not the right way to go about decision making.
 
What if ‘what was in it for you’ was suffering? Would you still decide to follow or serve Christ? Philippians is one of the letters recorded in the Bible from Paul to the church. Paul was writing from prison near the end of his life. He had a close relationship with the church in Philippi, and he wanted to encourage these friends in the midst of the persecution they were experiencing because of their faith in Jesus. His message of encouragement was, you are suffering because of being a faithful follower– keep up the good work.
 
Think of a time you needed encouragement in a tough time. You felt like you were following God and doing right and things were just tough. What if a friend sent you this verse above (Phil. 1:29). At first it doesn’t seem encouraging however, at longer look, we realize our belief can’t be based on all good times, victories, and easy going (everyone would or could believe). Only when we are tested in life, when hardship comes and we still trust– that is when our life really becomes a witness. Our faith is seen by others as real and worth having when we hold on tight to it in suffering and struggles. So God has not only granted the faith to believe but he also allows the testing ground for that faith to be seen as real and true.
 
So next time you are living right, just serving your king, and trials come your way remember you have not only been granted the ability to believe but also the ability to believe through suffering. So hang in there, this is just another witnessing opportunity allowed by God for His greater glory, for your growth, and for the advancement of His Kingdom. Soldier On!!!
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


A Masterpiece in Progress

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
 
When your heart of stone is taken out and a heart of flesh is put in you and you walk in obedience, you are the type of calling card the Lord wants to send out into the lives of many others. (2 Corinthians 5:17) says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” When the things of the world grow very dim in your eyes and your focus is on the Lord and what matters to Him, you are a new creation that He wants to speak through and use in many people’s lives.
 
By the way do you hate your sin and wickedness in all forms? If you do not, you might be in a very bad state. When you walk closely with a holy God, you understand that evil and wickedness have nothing to do with Him. There are people who claim the name of Christ who continue to walk in sin. All Christians still sin, however, the real giveaways is if that sin bothers you or not when you commit it. Let me tell you something, if you sin and it doesn’t bother you, you have big problems. Those sins are what put Jesus on the cross. How can I enjoy the things that sent my Savior to His death? I need to hate wickedness and evil all the days of my life just like Jesus did. We need to loath the abominations in our lives and in the world, then we need to do something about it.
 
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)
 
True repentance of your sins, a changing of your heart, the renewing of your mind that leads to a changing of actions, is what the Lord desires of His followers. It is time to make sure you fall into that category and that wickedness and evil cannot be named amongst you.
 
Many times people say that they are a work in progress. They believe they are a new creation in Jesus, but a work in progress through sanctification as God molds them into the people they are supposed to be. All this is true however, we are not really a work in progress, but a masterpiece in progress! When your life is put into the hands of Almighty God, there is no telling what He can do with a life that is lived wholly for Him. Turn every area of your life over to Him and let Him shape a beautiful masterpiece of you that He can use for many years to come.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


Behold, the Virgin Shall Conceive!

Behold, the virgin shall conceive! (Isaiah 7:14)
 
It is funny how I’ve been asked the same question, three times already, about out Operation Christmas Child Shoe Box Nativity scene on stage. The question is “Why is Jesus a baby and Joseph and Mary box people, shouldn’t Jesus be a box person too?” My “smart mouth” answer is always the same, “Don’t you know anything? Jesus wasn’t from Mary and Joseph, He was from God. He is different from any human who ever lived. We humans all have split characters. We inherit from our parents features that come from two divergent and often contradictory lines. Jesus, however, was One: His heritage comes from a single line. Most then respond by laughing and saying “Wow! I guess you’re right– makes sense.”
 
However, this only makes sense if you believe in the virgin birth of Christ. It made me think how in many circles it is contested whether Isaiah really prophesied the virgin birth. The argument is that in his words (7:14), “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive,” the Hebrew expression almah does not necessarily mean “virgin.” It could also mean “young maid.” Like other nouns in Hebrew, the word “virgin” has two forms. Elem, the male form, is always used for a very young boy who could not have known a woman yet, like in 1 Samuel 20:35 in reference to “a little lad” who accompanied Jonathan.
 
Since elem in the male form surely indicates a virginal boy, why then should the female form, almah, not also have the inference? Surely Matthew, the Spirit inspired gospel writer, knew better Hebrew than the modern professors of theology, and his translation of Isaiah’s prophecy was “a virgin shall be with child” (1:23).
 
You can rely on the Bible. Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus. He is different than any other in history, born pure with out the sin nature of man. The One who, by His grace, used a virgin womb to conceive the pure Son of God, the Lord and Savior, will also, by His grace, see that you appear before Him pure and spotless for eternity. As you pack your shoeboxes, ponder the amazing power and wonders of God’s great grace to the world through Christ.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


A Move to Greater Faith

“According to your faith will it be done to you.” Matthew 9:29
 
This verse is both discomforting and liberating. It is discomforting because we don’t want so much to depend on us. We want God to intervene on our behalf regardless of how much faith we have, because we know how weak our faith is. But it can be liberating when we realize that sometimes the only hindrance to our prayers and actions is our faith.
 
All we must do is grow in faith, and then God will act. The problem we face with this is the order. We say we will have greater faith when we see more of God. God says we will see more of Him when we have greater faith. The belief comes first. This causes us great trouble. We wish we could have more faith; we really want to, and we try to muster it up. But we need something to base that faith on, and when our own experience is lacking in the miraculous, our faith finds no footing. We know there is a satisfying level of the faith life if only we can get there. We’ve heard others tell of it, and we believe them. We just don’t think we have the means to get there.
Our three-fold solution is simple.
 
1. We must ask God to increase our faith. This is how a father appealed to Jesus when his son was suffering (Mark 9:24), and Jesus honored his request.
 
2. We must base our faith in God on something other than our own experience, at least until our mind’s beliefs become our heart’s realities. The Bible is the answer. Meditate on the psalms and praises of the Word.
 
3. Worship Him for His goodness, His love, His power, His protection, and more. Saturate your life in His praise, and God will grow huge in your own eyes. And when He is huge, huge things happen—according to your faith.
 
Jesus first made the blind men acknowledge His ability (Matt. 9:28). Only then did He answer. Faith is nothing in itself. It’s the object of our faith that matters. You want big faith? Worship a big God. The rest comes naturally.
 
(I read this devotion years ago in the “One Year at His Feet” Devotional Bible. I keep this devotion in my desk and read it occasionally to remind me how important the process of faith is in the Christian walk. I hope it helps you also
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


The Gift of Giving

…remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Acts 20:35
 
As we kick-off our Operation Christmas Child ministry season we need to thank God for the ability to give. He supplies us so that we may supply to others.
 
We are asking our whole church family to consider helping with this outreach ministry. God has planted within each of us a heart that desires to give to others in need. As we become more like Christ we desire the same things He does – we began to think of others before ourselves. We begin to look out for the weak and care for the hurting. We desire others to know the love of Christ. Our greatest want is that others may know and experience the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
 
This ministry meets all those desires and it is something all people can be a part of. Also, as we read in Acts 20:35, this provides us as givers the experience of great blessing. We can experience the blessing of obeying God, submitting to His Lordship, displaying His heart, trusting His provision, and helping advance His Kingdom.
 
Please consider helping us reach 1000 children this year with the gift of God’s love. If you have any questions in the process please feel free to call the church office. Remember, whatever Sunday you want to, you can bring your boxes to the alter. Thanks for your help, hope to see you and your boxes this Sunday!
 
In His Service, Eric Barnes