Monday, December 27, 2010

"Do Not Be Afraid," says the Lord. "I Have Big Plans for You."

What does God say to Joshua in the Old Testament, and Mary and the shepherds in the New Testament, and is still true for us today?

“Do not be afraid.”

And when the Lord says, “Do not be afraid,” He continues on by telling each person what are the big plans He has for them. They then have a choice to believe in Him, obey Him, and receive some incredible blessings; or, they can reject what He says to them, not believe, not obey, and miss the amazing blessings.

Let’s look at three passages, and determine:

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Joshua 1:6-9 (HCSB)
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. 9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Luke 1:26-33 (HCSB)
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And ⌊the angel⌋ came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Luke 2:8-20 (HCSB)
8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: 14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing ⌊them⌋, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Big Plans

Joshua was chosen by God to lead the people into the Promised Land. Mary was chosen by God to give birth to the Savior. The shepherds were chosen by God to be the first eyewitnesses of the birth of the Christ child.

Each of the people chosen by God would have no doubt experienced a crisis of belief that required them to respond with faith and obedience.

  • Did they pass the test?
  • What do you learn from them?
  • How can you follow their example?

Put It Into Practice

  • What is one thing you will do this week to apply these verses of Scripture to your life?

A Simple Prayer: “Dear God, I believe that You have big plans for me. Help me to listen to your instructions, and to not be afraid. Help me to overcome all my fears by trusting in You. Give me the strength to walk in obedience and to experience the blessings you have for me.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Preparing for the Presence of God

“Prepare the way for the Lord;

make His paths straight!

. . . and everyone will see the salvation of God.”—Luke 3:4, 6

If we are to receive the powerful presence of God, we must prepare ourselves. John the Baptist was God's messenger to help people prepare to receive the Savior of the world. John preached unwaveringly: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven at hand!” (Matt. 3:2). Those who heard John's message and prepared their lives recognized Jesus when He came, and they left all to follow Him. This was especially true of the disciples, whose hearts God Himself prepared (Matt. 16:17). Preparation must precede God's presence!

God's instruction for preparation is specific: repentance! This involves a complete change of mind, heart, will, and behavior toward Him. He is Lord, and your life must be prepared to receive Him as your Lord. Anything less is inadequate. Some were obviously unprepared to follow Jesus and missed the opportunity (Luke 9:57–62). The religious leaders of Jesus' day were largely unprepared for His arrival. They knew the Messiah was coming. They even knew where He would be born (Matt. 2:4–6). Yet when word came that the Savior had been born, they made no effort to join Him, preferring instead their religious ritual.

If you are unprepared, you, too, will miss the opportunity to experience Jesus. You may practice religion, but you will miss God. While others encounter the Lord personally in worship, your heart will remain unmoved. As others receive a fresh word from God, you will experience a painful silence. Religious activity can never substitute for a heart that is pure before Him. Purity comes only through repentance. Pray, as the Psalmist did, that God will examine your heart and reveal your need to repent of your sin (Ps. 139:23–24).

Source: Experiencing God Day by Day: A Devotional and Journal.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mary Should Be Honored, But Not Worshiped

The young woman chosen by the Lord to give birth to the Savior was no doubt a faith-filled, humble servant of God. But the Bible is quite clear even by her own testimony that she is not to be worshiped. Only God is to be worshiped. We worship the triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Let’s take a look at Luke chapter 1 to see some amazing things. As you read the chapter, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is the hero of this chapter of the Bible?
  • What is one verse in this chapter that sums up the entire chapter?
  • What can we learn from the people in this chapter?

Read Luke 1:1-80 (HCSB)
1 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

8When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear.

13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless. 23 When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And ⌊the angel⌋ came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.

30 Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”

35 The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

39 In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah 40 where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: “You are the most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed! 43 How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! 45 She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”

46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, 48 because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy. 50 His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. 51 He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; 52 He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. 53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, 55 just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home.

57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son. 58Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her. 59 When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60But his mother responded, “No! He will be called John.” 61 Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” 62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: HIS NAME IS JOHN. And they were all amazed.

64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue ⌊set free⌋, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea.
66 All who heard about ⌊him⌋ took ⌊it⌋ to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.

67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, 70 just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets in ancient times; 71 salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us. 72 He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered His holy covenant— 73 the oath that He swore to our father Abraham. He has given us the privilege, 74 since we have been rescued from our enemies’ clutches, to serve Him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days. 76 And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways,77 to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us 79 to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

80 The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.


Let’s revisit the questions we asked earlier:

  • Who is the hero of this chapter of the Bible? Even a casual reading of the chapter will illuminate the fact that Mary is not the hero of this story – God is! She is an important person of course, but God is the one who blesses Zechariah and Elizabeth with a baby, as well as chooses Mary to be the mother of Jesus. Many people focus the attention in this chapter on the events surrounding Mary and her words. But even her words clearly indicate the God is her Savior. She is not a perfect person; she is a faithful, humble, obedient servant of the Lord. But she was in need of salvation just like every other person except Jesus, the one who was born to be the Savior of the world, of all those who would trust in Him.
  • What is one verse in this chapter that sums up the entire chapter? The sentence that sums up the entire chapter of the book of Luke says, “Nothing is impossible with God.” That is what Christmas is all about. It is celebrating the birth of the Savior, the one who came to reconcile people to God. Even if a person is far, far away from God, guess what? Nothing is impossible with God. He can forgive all sin. He wants to be your Savior. That’s why He sent His Son, born of a woman, born to save us from our sins. Re-read Luke 1:37.
  • What can we learn from the people in this chapter? I want to leave this one for you for your personal study. Take a look at three people in this story – Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary. What do we learn from each of them about faith and obedience to God? You may need to re-read the chapter.

PUT IT INTO PRACTICE: What one thing (or more) will you do to apply the truths of this Bible study to your life?

A SIMPLE PRAYER: “Lord, help me to realize that nothing is impossible with You. Because of this reality, you can do anything through me that you choose to do. Help me to believe that, and help me to follow you in faith and obedience. AMEN.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pushing Through

Jean Driscoll was born in 1966 with a condition known as spina bifida. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in those days there was not much technology or sports opportunities with people with physical challenges. Although she had wanted to fit in and be parts of sports teams as a child and teenager, she was not physically able. And then a bicycle accident during her freshman year at high school led to multiple surgeries to repair her damaged hips and related injuries. Driscoll says, “It was a really long year. I remember praying over and over again… that I would be like everybody else. I just wanted to blend in. I hated sticking out.”

None of the surgeries worked and now came the inevitable: first crutches, and then the dreaded wheelchair.

Is God Picking On Me?

“I was so made at God because I thought that He was picking on me,” Driscoll says. “First, I was born with this disability and I was constantly teased, and then I had all these painful surgeries. I’ve got foot-long scars over both hips. None of those surgeries worked, and doctors are supposed to be able to fix everything. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t fix my body. It was a really hard time.”

  • What are some personal challenges or physical limitations that you have dealt with?
  • Did you ever feel like giving up?
  • What was it that gave you the strength to fight through those times?

Open Doors

Driscoll had no idea that God would use the wheelchair and her disability to open doors to some incredible and unimaginable places:

  • First, in high school she began playing wheelchair soccer.
  • Then she played wheelchair ice hockey, football, soccer, tennis and basketball.
  • In college, at the University of Illinois, she added track and road racing to her collegiate repertoire.
  • Her college track and field coach challenged her to compete in marathons.
  • She placed second in the Chicago Marathon.
  • Then she competed in the 1990 Boston Marathon, where she not only won the race but she broke the world record.
  • She ultimately won eight (8) Boston Marathons.
  • She competed in the Olympics Games in 1988, 1992, 1996 & 2000, winning five gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals.

Why Isn’t God Mad At My Siblings?

Driscoll says that in her early years that her understanding of God was skewed by tragedy and tumult. “I always felt like I was being punished because God was a big, made God and if you did things wrong, He was going to get you,” Driscoll says. “My question was, Why is He only calling me out? Why isn’t He ever mad at my siblings?”

A New Beginning

Driscoll was invited to a Bible study and challenged to trust in Jesus Christ as her Lord & Savior. After a period of time, she surrendered her heart and life to Jesus Christ. She says, “All of those early years when I was being picked on [by her peers] and I thought that God was picking on me, I was so tired of being picked on. Then I realized that I had been picked out. I had been picked out to do things that God only created me to do. I was working so hard to blend in and be like everybody else, and He kept pulling me out and showing me that I wasn’t like everybody else. My life was not meant to blend in, but it was meant to stand out. That just blew me away — and it still does.”

Read Romans 12:12
12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.

  • Why would a person need to “rejoice in hope”?
  • What does it mean to “be patient in affliction”?
  • What is the value of being “persistent in prayer”?

Mentally Tough

Driscoll says that her disability helped her to develop mental toughness.

  • What does mental toughness mean to you?
  • Do you consider yourself mentally tough?
  • If so, what has helped you develop that quality?

Impacting Africa

Driscoll has had the opportunity to coach wheelchair athletes from Africa in the past few years. Had she not been faced with the challenges she was faced with – and persevered! – she would not have had that opportunity.

  • How have you seen God open up doors of opportunity for you through your successes or difficulties?
  • How do you want your life to impact others athletically and spiritually?

Read John 17:4
4 I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.

  • In what ways did Jesus persevere in order to bring glory to God?
  • What are some ways you can glorify God through your perseverance?

A Simple Prayer: “Lord, take all of me and use me for your glory. Take my abilities and my limitations. Let me do my very best, and let me point people to faith in you.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 5, “Pushing Through,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus

Good Habits

Baseball superstar Albert Pujols has been an all-star multiple times, was the NL Rookie of the Year, has been the NL MVP multiple times, and his team (the St. Louis Cardinals) won the World Series in 2006. What are the habits that have led to his success?

Pujols knows that he was blessed with God-given ability. His friend, St. Louis Cardinals’ broadcaster Rick Horton says, “He talks a lot about the responsibility to do his best with the gifts God has given him.”

Three words that describe the good habits that Albert Pujols has developed are:

  • Preparation
  • Focus
  • Discipline


Part of Pujols’ preparation to compete as a major league baseball player includes putting in extra hours at the field working on hitting drills, studying film, and fielding ground balls. Another part of his preparation is his off-season workout program, which includes strength training and conditioning. He prepares in the off-season so that he can be his best during the season. And he prepares each day so that he can be his best every day.

  • What are some ways that you prepare for competition?

Read Ephesians 6:10-18
10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.

14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

  • How is a solder’s preparation similar to that of a competitor?
  • What are some consequences of not being prepared?


When you are the leader of your team, as Pujols is, there are a lot of demands on your time. Media obligations, helping teammates, community events, and more. One of the remarkable traits of Albert Pujols is his ability to stay focused on the task at hand while he is training and while he is competing in each game. There are many distractions that could grab his attention, but he is able to keep his focus.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:58
58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

  • What are some distractions you deal with on a daily basis?
  • In 1 Corinthians 15:58, how does Paul encourage us to avoid distractions?
  • What does “knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” mean?


Albert Pujols has never given in to the bad habits of wild drinking, partying, smoking, etc. That lifestyle is not who he is. But more than just being a wholesome person, Pujols’ good habits and discipline are rooted in his faith in Jesus Christ. He became a Christian in 1999. And his desire for others to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior motivates him to live a life of excellence and discipline. He realizes that if he leads by example, then his teammates will listen to him when he tells them that they too can be changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Read Hebrews 13:15-16
15 Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. 16 Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

  • In what ways are good habits a “sacrifice of praise”?
  • How does placing God at the top of your priority list keep you disciplined and paying attention to the right things?
  • How does living a Christ-honoring, disciplined life open up conversations to talk with others about your faith in Christ?

A Simple Prayer: “Lord, help me to develop the good habits of preparation, focus and discipline, so that I may live my life as a sacrifice of praise to you, and so that I can tell others how they too may have faith in Jesus Christ.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 4, “Good Habits,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Being There | Ministering to Winter Sports Athletes from Around the World

Check out this article about our ministry to winter sports athletes from around the world:

And watch this video to hear about ministry at the Olympics and more:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2010 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering Challenge: "Are We There Yet?"

Our church will be collecting a special offering at our Christmas Eve Service to support international missions. We help support more than 5000 missionaries who serve with the International Mission Board. The missions offering is named for Lottie Moon, who was a missionary to China many years ago. Watch the video below to learn more about this year's offering and more:

2010 Lottie Moon Challenge "Are We There Yet?" from Rob Stevens on Vimeo.

"Are We There Yet?" Music Video by Rick Heil of SONICFLOOd

Are We There Yet? from Rob Stevens on Vimeo.