Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." God is a good, good father. It doesn’t matter that I don’t understand God’s plan, God is good...
2017 is like a field of new fallen snow! Imagine yourself standing on the edge of a mountain, down below you is a valley and in this valley is just a beautiful field of snow with no footprints. Nothing has been marred, it’s just a field of pure snow and you get to make your path through...
It was a cold, dreary November evening when the shipment of Christmas trees arrived at the lot in the middle of town. Most of the people were getting ready to celebrate their Thanksgiving meals. All of the trees being unloaded off the trucks were handsome trees of all varieties. Some of them...
There is something about the identity of knowing you are a child of God that will give you more confidence than your resources and position ever will! Jesus didn't only have identity, He had purpose! There was a reason why He was here! There was a reason why He walked planet earth. In...
Proverbs 3:4-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." You and I cannot understand the scope and scale of all that is around us, "But in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Trusting Him will change your life and...
I don't know if you've ever felt the 'lost-ness' of hell in your life - I mean really felt it? Well the truth is, some of you are there right now and inside your heart of hearts, there is pain, there is regret, there is loneliness and there is anger. Sometimes there are wounds so deep, we...
I first saw Karen standing on a stage. Looking at her, you would have never known that she was a heroine addict. You would never have known that she had been a prostitute. You see, she was the children's pastor in that church and there was a radiant beauty in her life that was astonishing...
The message of Christmas is that you and I live in the dark, and the truth is that we live in a world that is so massively broken, and so massively accustomed to life in the dark that we cannot even see the dark any longer! We live in the shadow of death, that is the shadow of hell, and in...
There are two approaches to a spiritual life; passive or active. Most of us take a passive approach to our spiritual journey and we just kind of assume that it will happen. Can I just say how crazy that is! What “just happens” that is good in your life all on its own? How good does...
The reason that we are not experiencing what the Word of God says, is because we are mis-aligned; we are not doing what the Word of God says. When we are button pushing, controlling, fault finding, arrogant, critical or negative, we are being evil and we need to repent of that and work for...
Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
God is a good, good father. It doesn’t matter that I don’t understand God’s plan, God is good and His plans are perfect and when we’re on the other side of the tapestry, we’re going to see that. But on this side, we have a choice to make. To live sullen and angry and seeking our own will, or to give up our own will and to go to God in surrendered prayer. And just to begin walking the path to light and allowing the light of the love of Jesus Christ to fill our lives utterly!
If you are in a bad place right now and you don’t want to do 2017 like you did 2016, God will bring you out of that captivity if you will let Him! The way back and the way forward is wholehearted prayer! The more you and I recognize the depths of the world’s darkness and our need for God’s goodness, the more we will pray!
Believers depend upon the will of God, not their own will. Everything depends on how you and I depend. You see, God’s desire is not to give us the glory of this world, or build up the glory of our name. God’s desire is to lead us into the glory of relationship with Him! God’s plan doesn’t serve my purposes -God’s plan serves His purposes!
1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” That word in Hebrew is ‘Segula’, it means what God treasures most! In all of the universe and all of the things that God created, you are the treasured possession of God!
You are not rejected. You are not denied. You are not unacceptable. Your have not sinned so much that God will not come to you again. He is your Father and He wants to bring you into His arms and to wrap your life up in the light of His grace and His love!
We are God’s special possession that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His wonderful light! (1 Peter 2:9)
Today for 2017, what I’m calling you to do is to get out of darkness and go into light through prayer! That’s going to be a choice every single day, whether it’s pornography, lust, food, whatever it is, there is deep darkness in all of us --but we don’t have to be dominated by it.
God has a plan for a better life, a higher life, an eternal kind of life and you and I can stop depending upon ourselves. We can learn to live a life of dependent faithful prayer and we can walk a path that will fill not only our lives, but our world and our families with the light of Jesus Christ! -Dr. Drew Shofner
2017 is like a field of new fallen snow! Imagine yourself standing on the edge of a mountain, down below you is a valley and in this valley is just a beautiful field of snow with no footprints. Nothing has been marred, it’s just a field of pure snow and you get to make your path through that field. Everything in 2017 depends on how you will depend on the light of God or yourself and the darkness of this world.
When the sun is coming down and the light is hitting us, we’re ok, but when circumstances change and get painful and the clouds come and block the sun, things get dark pretty quick. The trouble is, that too often when circumstances get hard, our hearts get hard as well. When circumstances go dark, too often in my own case at least, my heart gets pretty dark.
I have the unspiritual gift of self pity. Any of you all have that gift? Worry? Fear?
The reality is, that all of these things are like gravity pulling down and we struggle in this dark world with rising up and living in the brilliant light of Christ verses giving up and lying down in the darkness of the world!
When I talk about darkness, it is things like anger, bitterness, sadness. The frustration that you and I feel, it is the pain that is often pouring into life. It is the vision of the future that just appears. Well, have you ever tried to drive at night without your headlights?
The light on the other hand is the joy and the peace and the love of God. It is the glory of God —it is hope! I’m just telling you as a person who is deeply broken and the truth is that we’re all deeply broken in different ways, I struggle with not only living in a dark world, but I struggle with having a dark heart and with living down and depressed and under instead of soaring on eagle's wings! (Isaiah 40:31)
And when we allow the darkness of this broken world into our lives (circumstances happen) but when we let it in, the darkness clings and it depresses and it festers and it makes us angry, it makes us broken, it makes us less!
So the power of this message is going to depend, in part, on you owning your own darkness. Identifying your darkness. What is your darkness? What is your resentment? Your un-forgiveness? What is it that depresses you and discourages you that makes the future look hopeless and the past look dominant?
Isaiah 9:2 says, “But the people walking in darkness…” That’s a description of our lives in this world, and part of the insanity of our life in the world is that we often don’t see the darkness and we call darkness light. In fact, the scriptures in Isaiah 5:20 says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."
That’s just the nature of what we do. In fact, all of our sin that we turn to, is us turning to something other than God (which is called idolatry) and we’re calling something other than God good when in fact it is evil because we’ve put it above God.
“But the people walking in darkness have seen a great light…” That is about Jesus, “…on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
Guys, I just want to say that 2017 can be the most brilliant year of our lives! It can be full of light. Full of hope. Full of joy. Full of peace. The truth is, the way that we get to the light in a dark world and the way that we live overcoming and not dying down is through prayer!
Prayer is the path to a life in the light!
So you and I don’t have to live dying down. We don’t have to live angry. We don’t have to live dabbling with sin and destruction! We can live in the freedom of the glorious light of God!
It is amazing when the light comes on, how fearless you can be! When the light comes on, fear begins to evaporate. When the light comes on, anger begins to recede. When the light comes on, forgiveness begins to flow. When the light comes on, we can see the insanity!
Prayer is the path to a life in the light so that no matter how hard circumstances are, no matter how difficult the moment or the day or the year is, we are not in the dark —we are alive in the light of God. Everything depends on how we depend! -Dr. Drew Shofner
It was a cold, dreary November evening when the shipment of Christmas trees arrived at the lot in the middle of town. Most of the people were getting ready to celebrate their Thanksgiving meals. All of the trees being unloaded off the trucks were handsome trees of all varieties. Some of them were spruces, other were firs, and others pines. Only the finest of trees had been selected and cut down to be brought to the lots for sale. One of the workers off-loading the trees picked up a large and magnificent spruce tree and put it on his shoulder. He took it over to the spruce section and set it next to the other proud trees already there. As he returned to the truck, where the spruce once lay, he saw an unsightly little tree that barely qualified as “merry”. It was, in fact, quite homely and just shy of 5 feet tall. It looked as if it had been a bit mangled under the other trees, because a few of its branches were broken. The man wasn’t quite sure what to do with the tree, but it wasn’t his place to decide, so he shrugged and carried it out to the lot and set it off to the side of the others. It was very cold that evening, and the little tree shivered all alone as the other trees huddled together for warmth.
The next day the lot was prepared for an early morning opening. The lot owner frowned when he saw the little tree off alone in a corner, for he knew that it paled in comparison to the others, and he likely would not be able to sell it.
Potential customers began emerging from their homes at the first signs of light, all bundled in their warmest winter clothes, which were perhaps a bit tighter after the previous night’s festivities. The little tree could see them coming, and wished that he could warm himself as they did, but he was hopeful that perhaps one of them would take him home, wrap his trunk in a tree skirt, and warm him by the fireplace. The little tree had heard the stories. It was a pine tree’s greatest triumph to be selected as a Christmas tree. And so he waited patiently, trying to spread his branches and look as tall as he possibly could.
One by one the customers came. Day after day they gave him little notice and grabbed the much taller and fuller trees off the lot and took them into their homes. Soon it was the day before Christmas Eve, and only a few trees were left on the mostly empty lot. All the trees left had some small defects, but none of them compared to scrawniness of the little tree. He had never even been considered by any of the people that had come. A few procrastinators came by and grabbed the last of their trees, and eventually only the little tree remained in the center of the lonely and empty lot.
That night was the coldest night that it had been so far, and the little tree wondered why such a terrible fate had befallen him. What was so wrong with him that no one wanted him to come into their home? Why did no one want to decorate and lay their presents under him? The little tree had hoped once, but now he only felt despair. The cold wind that blew bit to his very core, and the tree knew that he had nothing left to live for. He began to feel himself drifting off slowly into the darkness from which he knew he would not awaken, and at this point he didn’t even care anymore.
As the tree faded off into an eternal slumber, some sort of sound awoke him. It was a sound that he was not familiar with, and it went, “Tap, tap, tap.” The tree fully awoke and noticed a small, frail man who had hobbled onto the lot with the assistance of a walking cane. The man must have been nearly 80 years old, and he seemed nearly as weak and small as the little tree. The lot owner had been inside his booth counting all the money from the trees when the little man tapped on the glass. The tree could see the two exchange for a moment, but could not make out what they might be saying. The lot owner shook his head as the little man asked him a question. Then they both looked in the little tree’s direction and the old man pointed to the little tree. For a moment, his heart skipped a beat. Was there a chance? Could he really find a home after all?
The owner shrugged his shoulders, but nodded to the old man and went back inside his booth. The old man began walking towards the little tree. As he approached, there was not the usual look of distaste as the little tree had seen so many other times from previous customers. The little man smiled and said, “Look at you. You may seem small and incomplete, broken and frail, but I see what the others could not. All they saw was brokenness, but I can picture you whole, decorated with all of my ornaments and gleaming like the finest of Christmas trees. Besides, I could not carry any of those other bigger trees on my own. The others did not appreciate you, but I…well, I understand you. For you and me both are alone in this world. But now, no longer. Let’s get you home and celebrate Christmas.”
And with that, the little man grabbed the tree by his trunk and began slowly dragging him home. It was slow progress, for the man relied frequently on his cane to support him, and pulling the little tree was not an easy task for his tired muscles. The little tree could see the struggle that the man was going through, and he thought that he caught a hint of pain etched across the man’s brow. But no matter how hard it seemed, the old man keep walking, leaning on his cane, and dragging the little tree along. After a little while the man stopped in front of a quaint little cottage near the heart of the town. The house was quite small and plain, squished between two large department buildings, but it looked warm and friendly.
The man dragged the tree up to the front porch and dropped it. He walked up and opened the door and disappeared inside for a few minutes. The tree waited eagerly for his return. The old man dragged the tree inside, and the little tree could feel the warmth of the fire as they entered through the door. The old man had set up a corner in his living room next to the front door, opposite a small fireplace, which was where the little tree was to go. The old man set down his cane and picked up the tree, slightly leaning on it for support. The little tree tried to be as stiff as possible, so that the old man would not fall, but he was not very strong and buckled a little under the weight. However, they made it to the tree stand safely. The old man once again struggled with the tree, barely able to get it into the tree stand. The little tree saw him wince in pain as he finally got it in.
Once the tree was in the stand, the old man bent over and quickly tightened up the screws that held the little tree up straight. Finally, with a sigh of relief, he was finished and crawled over to his chair to rest for a few moments. He stared at the little tree for a long time without saying a word. The little tree stared back and wondered just what the old man might be thinking. Perhaps he had second thoughts about the little tree now that he saw him in his house?
Finally, the old man spoke. “I think we’ve had enough excitement for one day, don’t you think? Perhaps we’ll both rest now and I’ll get to decorating you tomorrow. Sleep tight little tree, and I’ll see you in the morning. Aha ha, but first…you must be thirsty!”
The man hurriedly went into the kitchen, filled a cup, and brought it back and poured it in the stand. The little tree hadn’t realized just how thirsty he’d gotten, and he started soaking up the water almost immediately. It felt good to finally be warm and have some water back in his branches. The old man smiled at him and went off to bed.
That night the little tree thought about everything that had happened to him so far. He didn’t feel hopeless anymore. He had a hard time resting, for he was terribly excited to get decorated tomorrow and finally celebrate Christmas as a true pine tree should. As the fire in the fireplace was burning its last few embers, the little tree finally dozed off.
He awoke to a start the next morning to sounds coming from the kitchen, and some sort of pleasant smell wafting about. The little tree was not quite sure what was transpiring, but it seemed wonderful. After a short while the old man emerged from the kitchen from the opposite side of the room and walked over to the fireplace. He put several logs in the fireplace and got a small fire started. He got up, turned to the little tree, and smiled, then returned to the kitchen. As the old man was away, the little tree watched the little fire slowly grow and crackle. The tree had never seen such a sight, and wondered what it was like to burn. He supposed that that might have been his fate if the old man had not brought him home. The old man emerged from the kitchen with a tray of food and sat down in his chair.
The tree watched him eat slowly, and the old man watched the tree as he ate. After the old man had finished, he got up and went down the hall. He came back all dressed up to go outside. He looked at the tree and said, “I’ve got to go buy some things from the store. I think you deserve an extra special Christmas, so I want to go buy some more decorations.” And with that he left.
After what seemed several hours, the old man finally returned carrying several bags. He set them down next to the tree and took off his coat, hat, and gloves. He threw another couple logs on the fire and got to work on the decorating.
It was the little tree’s proudest moment. He could not believe all the effort that the old man was going through to lavish on him all this attention and splendor. The little tree could not see himself completely, but he could see the decorations a bit and felt very proud of the way he looked. The old man finished and took a step back to judge his work. A large smile formed across his face, and the little tree’s heart melted. He had only known the old man less than a day, but still felt like he had known him his whole life.
The man spoke with a soft voice, “This is how I’ve always seen you. The others did not take the time to see what you could be, they only saw what you appeared to be. But I knew all along that you could shine just as bright as the rest of the trees.”
As soon as the man said that, the strength of his tried bones seemed to fail. He slumped down in his chair and sat for a while looking at the tree, his breathing slow and steady. The little tree wasn’t sure if he was ok, for he barely moved a muscle or made a sound other than his breathing. After what seemed an eternity, as the fire slowly faded, the man closed his eyes and all was silent in the house. The little tree could see outside the window that it had begun to snow, and he was excited that tomorrow was Christmas. He was very much looking forward to see what would happen, for none of the trees on the farms quite knew what happened on this glorious of days.
At the first light of dawn the little tree awoke. The old man still sat in his chair, eyes closed. As the light began to creep slowly in through the window, the man still did not stir. For 80 years Christmas had come and gone for the old man. He’d had had wonderful years with his family and kids, and they’d spent many Christmases just like this one next to the warm fire, which now sat cold. They’d spent many years decorating trees as he’d done the night before, but this time by himself. He’d had many Christmases alone with his wife as the kids moved on, though occasionally they’d return to celebrate for a day or two. None of the Christmases had been quite the same since his wife had died nearly 6 years ago. Except for this one. The little tree would never know just how happy the old man had been to share this Christmas with the little tree that he’d found a home for. The little tree would never know that he was the first tree the old man had had in the house since his wife had died. And the old man would never know how happy he had made a poor, lonely little tree feel, when on his darkest of nights, someone had cared enough to sacrifice all they had just to make him feel special.
Outside the world began to awake. Children rushed downstairs to see all the gifts that Santa had brought the night before. Parents rolled over in the beds as the light of the sun reached in their rooms, and the excited sounds of children hit their ears. People of all ages got out of their beds and warmed themselves with fresh cups of coffee next to the fire. The world was ready to celebrate another Christmas, just as it always had. Few would know or care, that on this morning the ultimate sacrifice had been given, all so that one, broken little tree could experience the greatest of Christmas gifts…love.
The Meaning of this Story:
Christmas time can be a joyous and wonderful experience for many people, but it can also be a stressful and lonely time for others. Perhaps you, like the little tree, feel alone and unwanted. Know this; that Jesus came into a world full of lonely little people, and like the old man, he would not ignore the ones that so many other people might. He does not see you as broken, he only sees you as you could be, as a child without fault. He doesn’t not see our flaws, and he does not want you to be alone. We may not always understand why these things happen to us, but there’s hope that there is always someone who will love and cherish us beyond anything we could ever imagine.
The holiday season can be crazy, and it’s easy to lose ourselves IN all the hustle and bustle that the world has created in celebration of Christmas. But just remember this: Jesus came into this world, in the humblest of ways, all so that he could die on a cross to keep us from being separated from our heavenly father who will never disown us or let us down. And the best part of it is, we’re not an only child. There are people out there, brothers and sisters of all races and colors, who are fellow children of our father in heaven. And let me tell you, it’s the best family that you could ever have.
So, if you’re feeling alone and lost this holiday season, try to find comfort in the presence of a Father who loves you unconditionally, and of an adopted family who’s always willing to welcome you with open arms.
In fact, Matthew 12:21 tells us what that reason was: "Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. And his name will be the hope of all the world."
Isn't that amazing? He had identity and He had purpose and I can tell you that if you're a child of God, God has put a passion in your heart, He's given you something to do - you have a purpose! -Pastor John B. Smith
Proverbs 3:4-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." You and I cannot understand the scope and scale of all that is around us, "But in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Trusting Him will change your life and your destiny! If you're following Him and you're struggling away from Jesus, I want to challenge you to struggle and walk toward Jesus because He will change your destiny. That's the miracle of God's love given in Jesus!
You see the goal of God is maturity - A faith that is not trapped in broken emotions locked in one moment of time. A faith that leans on the infinite glory of Jesus and Jesus Christ alone, that's God's goal for your life that you trust in Jesus alone! That the issue of your life is not your spouse, it is not your child, not your finances or your health or your past, it is not the fear of your future, the issue of your life is Jesus! Turning to Him, He becomes your foundation, He becomes your trust and though you struggle, you struggle forward in faith successfully - that is the heart of trusting!
When you make Jesus - and not your pain - the issue, something happens in the presence of the glory of God and the imagination of the restoration! Our pain begins to shrink down to the size of a marble and it is not our pain that is so big and overwhelming - it is our savior! The hope of Jesus will change your life! It will give you new perspective and give you hope. And you will be able to struggle through just as Jesus did on the cross, on to the resurrection and on to glory! -Dr. Drew Shofner