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The First Christmas Ever

As a father and a pastor I am always looking for good books to read to my son. With the holidays coming up, I wanted to check out The First Christmas Ever by Dennis Jones. My son has the “Read with me Bible” and we both really love his illustrations.

Well, turns out this new Christmas book is just the pages lifted directly from the Read With Me Bible. So if you have the Bible already.. you already have this paperback.

Nothing new has been added.

Also as a paperback this is a very thin book, it’s more like one of those cheap schoolastic leaflet books your kids get in school.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great story with wonderful illustrations depicting the first Christmas with the Christ child. I think I was just expecting more than this.

Thank you to Zondervan for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Grace finds you – a look at the book of Titus

One thing about Grace….Grace will find you first.

You see with work – we find work don’t we? “Hey where’re you going? I’m off to find work.” But see with Grace it will find you first.

Ask the prodigal son  – grace found him in a pigpen and led him home. Ask Joseph what he found in a pit that his brothers imprisoned him in – he’ll tell you that he landed on grace. Ask the Samaritan woman where she found grace and she’ll tell you she found it at a well when she wasn’t even looking.

Let me tell you – it’s rough out there to find work – it’s a dog eat dog world, but grace will find you no matter where you are. Grace will find you first and it’ll change your life.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people

Grace finds your first because grace is God’s nature. It’s the thing God does the best. God gives, God loves, God blesses,  God forgives  – He does all these things because that is his makeup.

James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change

God’s nature is grace. He is a gracious God. He is a grace giving God; and His grace brings salvation for all people

And the Bible says that His grace has appeared in the person of Jesus. The nature of God is that He wants all men to be saved in Jesus.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish….”

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

John 1:29 “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

But see the problem with our world, is that they don’t even know they’re in need of grace because they don’t even know that they’re lost. The world is afraid of the ozone layer, the environment, the rain forests, the Earth’s orbit, over population and a whole myriad of things, but they don’t even know they are already perishing. Most people don’t know they are headed towards something far worse – separation from God.

Ephesians 2:1-5

You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.

The Bible says most people are dead and they don’t even know it.

And here’s the thing – dead people can’t save themselves.

Dead people need grace to find them first.

So what does God do?

He sent Jesus to save us.

Jesus raised the widow’s son and Lazarus and today

God continues to raise the dead.

and Grace will always find you first….

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Grace personified – a look at the book of Titus

What is grace?

That’s an important question because “Grace” is the most important concept in the entire Bible.  Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely; grace is the peace of God given to the restless; and grace is the unmerited favor of God shown to the guilty.

Because Grace is most needed and best understood in the midst of sin, suffering, and brokenness. We live in a world of earning, deserving, and credentials, but all those result in only one thing: judgment. That is why everyone wants and needs grace. Judgment brings death, but only grace brings life.

I’ve heard that grace is “mercy, not merit.” Grace is the opposite of karma, which is all about getting what you deserve. Grace is about getting what you don’t deserve, and not getting what you do deserve. Christianity teaches that what we deserve is death but the good news of God is… we’re pardoned.

And perhaps the reason why grace is so universal is because grace is not about us. Grace is fundamentally about God. Grace is His un-coerced initiative and pervasive, extravagant demonstrations of care and favor.

One theologian says, “In grace, God gives nothing less than Himself. Grace, then, is not a third thing or substance mediating between God and sinners, but is Jesus Christ in redeeming action.” ~ Michael Horton

Christians live every day by the grace of God. We receive forgiveness according to the riches of God’s grace, and grace drives our very sanctification. So we need to understand God’s grace much more than we do – and hopefully this text from Titus will help us.

We’re going to be reading from Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

You know for a few weeks we have been talking about the second coming of Jesus and living with an expectant hope that one day Jesus will return to take us home with him, but knowing that we’re sinners, that we live broken lives, is that something we really want? Do we want Jesus to come back? Isn’t it better that he’s over there – and we’re over here – at least that way he can’t see what we’re doing. If I was a bad kid with my Mom, the worst thing she could ever say was, “You just wait ’til your Father comes home.”  So why should we be excited that Jesus is returning?

There it is in v11: “ For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.”

Why do we look forward to the second coming?

Because Jesus Christ is the grace of God personified.

He has appeared, bringing salvation to us all

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Work vs Grace – a look at the book of Titus

What do we know about Titus the man? Not much at all. We know his name appears 13 times in the New Testament, we know he was a Greek man converted by Paul and who later worked very closely with him. We know that Titus was involved in taking up a collection for the Jerusalem Church and we know that he attended the Jerusalem conference with Paul.

The book of Titus, is the 12th letter written by Paul, and it is one of his shortest. It’s a personal Letter to Titus and just like 1 Timothy, it was written during the time Paul was “between prison sentences.” The book of Titus is a response to Pau’s 4th Missionary Journey where Paul visited Crete on his way to Ephesus. But before he left, Paul asked Titus to remain so that he could continue to strengthen the Churches in every city on the island.

Last week we looked at 2 Thessalonians and we spent a good portion of that time talking about work – and the book of Titus is Paul’s instructions to this young pastor about how to build and maintain the church – it’s sort of a church planter’s handbook so there is certainly a lot of “work” in Titus,

Titus 3:1

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work…

Titus 3:8

Those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.

Titus 3:14 Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works

But I feel like we covered all of that last time, so I want to present the other side of this coin and I wan to talk about grace.

D.L. Moody said: “Grace isn’t (just) a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live. The law tells me how crooked I am. (and) Grace comes along and straightens me out.”

In Luke 18:18 The rich young ruler asked of Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the mentality that most people have when it comes to salvation: WHAT MUST I DO TO GET IT?

It’s the idea that you can fake it until you make it, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can be a self-made millionaire, or you can even be president if… you only work hard enough. And we “work” on everything don’t we?

“Hey can we hang out later?” No, I have to head home and work on my house, my wife and I need to work on our marriage, when I hit the gym, I’m really going to work my abbs.

Maya Angelou said “Nothing will work unless you do.”

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

And faith is no stranger to work either. Many faiths and religions require their disciples to work, or to earn their way or the pass through circles or rings of effort.

But even though there is a lot of work in the Bible and even instruction on how and why we work – the gospel message – the good news of the scriptures is not one of works, but rather of being saved by grace.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

And I think the reason that we fall back on work, is because – work we understand. Work can be measured, work can be seen (both by ourselves and others). For work, people pat you on the back and they say “that’s a job well done,” but what about grace?

What is grace?

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Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet

Sara Hagerty is a blogger (EveryBitterThingisSweet.com) and mother of five. God met her and moved her when life stopped working for her and out of the overflow came her writing. Her latest book, “Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet” from Zondervan is Sara’s personal narrative of finding God in times of pain, and perplexity.

In Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, Hagerty tells the story of her own life to paint the picture of a God who walks beside broken people. Hagerty really tries to depict a God who is present in every pivotal trial and circumstance.

This book  might seem like a book aimed at women, because it has a woman’s voice, but I think this book is for anyone who is walked through darkness. Yes, it is the story of Hagerty’s life and at times it feels like it was taken directly from her blog, but the lessons here are still relevant to most people.

Hagerty has a very unique story and of course, as a Christian, this book is littered with biblical teaching. Hagerty’s writing is very personable and helps pull the reader through chapter by chapter.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who needs some encouragement and has been through a pivotal circumstance.

Thank you to Zondervan for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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