“… And the man believed what Jesus said and started home.’” John 4:50b (NLT)

Understanding the nature of faith will help us live by faith.  Jesus’ encounter with a government official in John 4 offers practical insights into the nature of faith.  The official came to Jesus in a crisis.  His son was gravely ill and, apart from a miracle, would most likely die.  He traveled some 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana where Jesus had performed His first miracle, turning water into wine at a wedding feast.  When He saw Jesus, He said,

“Lord, please come now before my little boy dies.”  

When he addressed Jesus as Lord, he put himself under Jesus – even though he was a legal authority over Jesus.  He believed that Jesus had the authority and power to heal his son.  Faith begins with believing that God is able to handle whatever situation we face. Continue reading

 “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 that will cause great joy for all the people.’” Luke 2:9-10 (NIV2011)

The kind of joy the shepherds experienced was so contagious it could even bring a smile to Mr. Grinch!  The world is full of Grinches that need joy; you may even know some! They’ve confused the joy of Christmas with presents, tinsel and lights.  But, like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas from Whoville, when they discover the real joy of Christmas is so much more than gifts and decorations, their lives are transformed.  They become infected with a contagious joy!  It’s the same joy that came from the good news the angels shared with the shepherds that first Christmas night. Continue reading

“He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him.” John 1:10 (NLT)

Has God ever shown up in your life in a way you didn’t expect Him?  You may have even felt abandoned by God, when He was right there amid it all, simply disguised by disappointment and pain.  One of the most difficult things in life to do is to yield our expectations to God.  We can put our hopes and dreams in what we expect to happen and miss what God wants to do in the process.  Even those whom Jesus called to follow Him struggled with their own expectations of a Messiah.  They longed and looked for a Messiah to deliver them from the tyranny of Rome and establish an independent Israel as in the days of King David.  They looked for a Savior for sure, but a suffering Savior was not what they expected. Continue reading

“A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations.  When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses….”  Luke 14:16 -17 (NLT) 

Times haven’t changed much when it comes to parties and celebrations.  Even the customs of the Jews included at least two invitations to a party, like a “save the date” followed by a second invitation when everything was ready. Jesus told a story to illustrate the greatest feast of all to come – a banquet in the Kingdom of God!  In His story, He tells of a man who prepares a great banquet and sends out two invitations – the first to announce the event and the second to tell the guests that everything was ready. Yet, on the big day, one after the other responded with excuses as to why they couldn’t attend; It’s not a good time for me, I’m too busy to come, I have family responsibilities or financial needs.  Sound familiar?  How often has God’s invitation in your life been crowded out by similar excuses?  In this story, Jesus reminds us that a time will come when God will pull His invitation to us and offer it to others if we refuse to respond.  At that time, it will be too late to get into the banquet! Continue reading

“As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”   Luke 3:4-6 (NIV) 

As Christmas draws closer, the most common greeting you may hear is, “Are you ready for Christmas?”  There is so much to do – shopping, parties to attend, gifts to wrap, decorations to set out, and meals to prepare for all the family and guests who may come.  Kind of makes you exhausted just thinking about it!  While those preparations are important, Advent is a season of spiritual preparation that will keep all the other necessary preparations from overwhelming you. Continue reading

“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 15:12-13 (NIV)

“Is it Christmas yet?”  If you have small children, I know you’ve heard that!  The anticipation of Christmas fills their hearts with so much excitement they can hardly wait. That was the motivation behind the first Christmas Advent Wreath.  The idea dates back to 1839 in Hamburg, Germany, conceived by Johann Hinrich Wichern.  He was the founder of a home for poor children.  During the weeks that led up to Christmas, the kids were constantly asking, “Is it Christmas yet?”  So, Johann built a wooden circle out of a cart wheel and topped it with 19 small red candles and four tall white candles.  Each day, he would light an additional candle, saving the white candles for Sundays. Continue reading

“When you help the poor you are lending to the Lord—and He pays wonderful interest on your loan!”  Proverbs 19:17 (TLB)

Imagine the kind of world we would live in if we treated one another as we would treat the Lord.  Jesus may have had this Proverb in mind when He said,

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

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“Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart; I am pure and free from sin’?”  Prov. 20:9 (NLT)

The Apostle Paul has an answer for the question raised in Proverbs 20:9, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure and free from sin’?”  In Romans 3:10, Paul declares, “No one is righteous – not even one.”  You don’t have to be a theologian to understand what he is saying.  As much as our culture would like to dismiss it, sin is a problem.  It’s a problem for us all.  Later in verse 23, Paul adds,

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  

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“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.” Acts 16:30-33 (NLT)

Here’s a remarkable story of life change! And it impacted an entire family!  One of the great joys we’ve seen at Woodlands Church over the years has been when whole families are baptized together just like the Philippian jailer and his family in this story.  The backdrop is just as amazing!  Paul and his traveling companion, Silas, had been arrested for simply sharing the Gospel in the city of Philippi. Continue reading

I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak His praises.” Psalm 34:1 (NLT)

How is it possible to praise the Lord at all times?  Life is hard.  Problems and worries come uninvited and unexpected and certainly don’t leave us in a mood to praise.  But, that’s the point.  I cannot worry and praise at the same time.  Worry is a great sin.  It says, “God, I don’t think You can handle this one, so I must worry about it.”  But, worry is stewing without doing.  It’s like revving your engine – you burn a lot of gas but don’t go anywhere!  The Psalmist’s presents a better option – turn your problems into praise!  How?  Praise God that His power is greater than your problem.  It’s not denying that you are hurting or have a problem, but instead of worrying about it, you acknowledge that God is greater than any problem. Continue reading