Posted by Russ Jones On 11:34 AM
One of the greatest messages about Christmas that people tend to forget is the humanity of Jesus.  Now, before some of my theologians out there go crazy, I am NOT saying that Jesus wasn't fully God either.  To quote the great Stanley Horton, Jesus was, "100% man and 100% God".

But we forget that Jesus endured the same physical limitations that we face.

Yes, He was tired, homeless, hungry and thirsty.  (John 4:6)

We forget that Jesus endured the same mental limitations that we endure.

The Gospels show us a Jesus that felt compassion, anger, zeal.  He was troubled, distressed,  sorrowful, depressed, deeply moved, and grieved.  He wept,  He groaned and suffered in agony.  He was surprised, amazed, expressed joy,  and he loved.

We forget that Jesus endured the same spiritual limitations that we experience.

Before Jesus came to this earth, His relationship with His Father was face to face.  Now, with the help of the Holy Spirit, He had to connect with His Father through prayer.  (Mark 1:35)

None of these limitations defeated Jesus.

You may feel tired today.  You may want to throw up your hands and quit.  You may question why you are doing what you are doing.  You may say to yourself, "I can't do this!"  Well here is the good news today.  Yes, you can!  If Jesus could do it, so can you!  Hell worked against Jesus.  The religious community worked against Jesus.  Society and culture worked against Jesus.  Life wasn't fair to Him.

If Jesus could do it - so can you!

Posted by Russ Jones On 2:58 PM
Jesus was always answering one question during His ministry.  "What can I do for you today?"  Now the Bible doesn't especially spell it out that way. However, His actions prove it to be true.  

How would Christmas change if we were to ask the same questions of others?  Instead of guessing what gift they would want, why not ask them what you can do for them?   (Do not ask them what they need - that is an entirely different question.) 

Help meet physical needs.  If you see someone who is hungry, feed them.  If you see someone who is naked, clothe them.  (Matthew 25) 

Help meet emotional needs.  Helping people carry their emotional needs is an all-important part of life.  Without others, how would we ever make it?  (Col. 6:2)

Help meet spiritual needs.  Praying for one another is one of our sources of strength.  Helping one another live a life of faith that honors Jesus is one of the highest callings we can embrace.  (James 5:16) 

The question gives you the opportunity to do something different and worthwhile.  But wouldn't you rather change someone's life for the better than offer them a fruitcake? 
Posted by Russ Jones On 2:59 PM
Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What is peace?  Not worrying.  I know that some of you are thinking.  Well, I will never have peace.  That isn't true!

Then what do I need to do to stop worry?  Trust.  (No one said this stuff was easy.)  We as a culture have trust issues.  Sometimes our trust issues have trust issues.

Trust who?  That one is easy.  Jesus!

But I trust Jesus!  Really?  Then why are you still worrying?  Hmm.

Paul went on to say in Philippians 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

There is the secret sauce to his success.  It's called contentment.  It is almost mystical, isn't it?

Well in some ways it is.  You see each of us have a life, but we don't completely understand it.  You and I are made up of body, soul, and spirit.  Another way to put it is, body - psyche and zoe.  The physical, mental and spiritual.  Contentment means that you trust Jesus with every area of your life.  Your physical, psychological and spiritual health.

So today - what are you trusting God with and what is causing you to struggle?

Dear Jesus.  I trust you, and I love you.  While there are some areas of my life, I completely trust you with there are some things that are a struggle.  Help me with my struggles, please.  AMEN

(Bible references from the ESV)
Posted by Russ Jones On 7:13 PM

Each morning I get the privilege to watch this little dance between a squirrel and the neighbor's cat play out on our back porch.  It goes something like this.

Cat show up and begs for some food.  He only eats about half of it.  Then he goes and lays down sunning himself on our back porch.

The squirrel emerges from the woods next door and sees the leftovers.  He makes a beeline to the food and then at the last minute - WHOA!  CAT!  The squirrel loses it.  He twitches, jumps up and down and chatters to the top of his little lungs.  Then the dance begins.

He gets on our roof and makes his way to a tree next to the roof.  He jumps on the tree and then jumps back on the roof.  He jumps on the tree and moves down a little father, then rushes back up to the roof.  He does this until he finally makes it to the cat's food and steals a piece.  At that moment he runs to the corner of the roof and enjoys his meal.  Then he does it all again.

What does the cat do?  Nothing.  He could care less.

Every morning - every day like clockwork.

What do we do every morning?  Are we the cat who can go through our day with confidence that all is well.  (He knows that if he sits on the back porch and looks sad enough either my wife or daughter will feed him.  I still have no idea who is training whom? )   Or are we the squirrel who worries and complains about something that doesn't exist?  (One day the squirrel missed the cat and was eating out of his food bowl, all the while the cat was one foot away watching him.)

What you do every morning makes all the difference in your day.

Luke 5:16 But he (Jesus) would withdraw to desolate places and pray.  The Bible goes on to tell us that many times he did this in the morning.   What was he doing?  The same thing that you and I need to be doing every morning.  Choosing how we will face our day.  Choosing how we will react to life's challenges.  Choosing to trust Jesus with our day rather than trusting ourselves.  If you want to change your day - change your morning.  But how Pastor?  Well, that is more than I can write here.  But email me.  I would be happy to help.

Posted by Russ Jones On 3:44 PM
It is Nov. 28th, and I have already heard every Christmas carol that exists.  Amy Grant has sung Breath of Heaven one too many times.  I have listened to the Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker again and again and again and again and . . .  Well, you get the picture.  I have seen Elsa, Snoopy, Ebenezer, Ralphie and a Red Ryder BB Gun, Santa and his merry little band of elves all promoting Christmas.  Occasionally, I see Jesus in a small nativity here or a Christmas picture there.  

See Christmas for what it is.  The birth of our Savior.  The one who would come to sacrifice His life for the forgiveness of our sins.  The birth of our King.  The one who has the last word on everything in the universe and I mean everything!  The birth of our Lord.  The one who cares for our life with great love, mercy, and grace.  When you see Christmas clearly - you can only see Jesus. 

As a pastor, I can tell you that most people never see Christmas for what it is.  The holidays are so loud and noisy that they drown out what is going on.  I want to capitalize on this for a moment and ask you - what is drowning out your life? 

Can you see your God-given purpose clearly or is life to noisy?  Have you become so engaged with the actions of living that you have lost sight of your reason for living?  So, what can you do?  Here are a few suggestions that will help you discover some clarity.

#1 Write down all the "hats" that you wear.  This action should not take more than a minute.  But write down every responsibility that you have.  For example - Parent, Spouse, Employee, Soccer Parent, Writer, Kids Little League Coach and so on.  

#2 Review your list.  I can almost guarantee that there are some things on this list that you do not like. Circle those.  

#3 Now add the word "Christian" in front of every title not circled.  Everyone's definition of "Christian" is different.  So let's work with this.  A Christian is a faithful follower of Jesus' teachings that we read about in the Bible.  Now does this redefine each of your "hats"?  It should apply to some extent.  

#4 Now about those circled "hats."  What do we do with those?  You need to have an honest discussion with yourself and ask, "Why am I doing this?" and "If I didn't do this, what would change?"  You may need to enlist the help of an honest but loving friend to assist you with this one.  But if your heart isn't in it - it should probably go. 

#5 What isn't on the list.  There is something that you want to do but . . . .  There are plenty of things we want to do but never seem to find the time to do them.  That's because of all this "other" noise that demands your attention is stealing the clarity and purpose of your life.  

Jesus knew exactly why He was here on this earth and the purpose of His life.  He wants you to have that same peace in your heart.  Knowing why you are here is so important.  So, don't let the noise drown out your Christmas and don't let it drown out the purpose of your life either. 
Posted by Russ Jones On 3:06 PM
Why do we celebrate Christmas?  Why is it the biggest holiday of them all?  Why do we go to such extremes to honor Jesus?  It's about firsts.

Christmas recognizes that God was putting us first by sending His Son to live among us, understand us and give His life for us.

Christmas acknowledges that Jesus was putting us first by giving up His place in heaven to be "God with us" here on earth.

Christmas reminds us that Jesus is our deliver, our healer, the author of our faith and our future.

Christmas is one way that we put Jesus first in our lives.  How?  Because we are proclaiming what is already true.  He is the center, the anchor of our lives.  He is the reason why we can be saved from our sins and have hope for tomorrow.  He is supreme over all.  There is no other name above the name of Jesus.  That includes the names of depression, discouragement, bankruptcy, divorce, cancer and more.

Take one minute right now and think about what this Christmas is going to mean to you.  How is this one going to be different from all of the others you have celebrated.  How are you going to make this the best Christmas ever?  By spending more money than ever?  No.  By throwing the biggest party on the block?  No.  You're going to do it by putting Christ first in your life.  Now, how are you going to do that?

Posted by Russ Jones On 3:25 PM
I forgot to blog Friday.  I'm sorry about that.  The holidays are hitting me a little harder than expected.

It is Saturday afternoon, and I am exhausted.  Honestly, I just want to sleep for a month.  We have all felt this way at one time or another.  With Sunday facing us, it is easy to say, "I'm going to sleep in." Or, "I just can't go another step."

I have to believe that Jesus felt this way sometimes.  The Gospels record how he would minister to people all day long, then exhausted He would seek some solitude.

There are times when completely exhausted I wanted to throw my hands up and quit.  But I didn't, why?  The reward was better than then sacrifice.

Going on vacation and tired from traveling.  You press on because your destination is worth it.

Going to work and plodding on.  You keep going because you need the money.

Starting a project that was harder than you expected.  You keep going because that sense of accomplishment is worth it.

Sunday's rewards are worth so much more than the sacrifice.  Meeting friends and enjoying each others company.  Connecting to Christ in a real and meaningful way.  Discovering how to navigate life, God's way!  (That's worth it all right there.)  Being part of something bigger than yourself and seeing God use it to change someone's world!  That's awesome!

So do what I will do tomorrow morning.  Get up and go!  Even if I am exhausted at the end of the day tomorrow, and I will be, it will be worth it all.