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Alpha Ministries, Inc

Church in the Woods at ....

Freedom Ranch

Choices

Dear Saints,

All of us are confronted with a multitude of choices to make daily. Many of them seem small and almost inconsequential while others seem overwhelming and life threatening. What makes life so complicated and hard is not just the choices we make but often it seems we really have no choice at all. Much of our confusion and frustration in life comes from the fact that we are not sure what choices we have, if we even have a choice, and exactly what choice we should make in any given situation. Welcome to the world of a control freak!

Seeking to control the people and circumstances in our life comes from a deep need to make ourselves secure in an insecure world. There is no guarantee that we will be unconditionally loved, accepted, and forgiven in this dog-eat-dog and often hostile world. In fact, chances are that we will be neglected, abandoned, or even abused. Likewise, unless we can control the people and circumstances in the chaos of this world it is impossible to find a real sense of importance, purpose, and competence. Wrong or bad choices seem naturally to lead to a meaningless and unsatisfying life.

Underlying all other choices we must make is the most important and basic choice. It is the choice the Bible urges us to make daily and describes it in a variety of terms. Jesus invites us to take his “yoke” upon us (Matthew 11: 28-30). Paul urges us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God” (Romans 12: 1-2). James tells us to ask for wisdom from above (James 1: 5). Peter calls on us to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5: 6). All these directives (and many more) have one thing in common…surrender. We give up trying to make it happen and let God do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

In the AA program of recovery the 3rd step describes this kind of surrender as deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. Making the choice to surrender all our decisions as well as our very lives to the control and care of God is the foundation and start of a new and satisfying lifestyle of grace in which God, through his indwelling Spirit, leads us, guides us into all truth, comforts us in our choices, reminds us who we are, and produces the very character of Christ in us. As Paul instructed the Philippians 2: 12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. “

The fundamental choice we all must make each day is whether we want to let God control our lives. It is really a no-brainer since he is the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe and loves us so much he gave his life for us. For me it boils down to one simple prayer each morning, “Lord please remind me of who you made me to be in your son and guide me in how you want me to love others around me today”. I really do not have any other choice that makes sense.

John

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Emmanuel

Posted on 21 December, 2020 at 13:00

Dear Saints,

 

Christmas 2020 has lost much of its glitter for many. It’s hard for people who are locked down, wearing masks, and living in fear to get excited about a holiday celebration. Those who have suffered from unemployment and are short on cash find this season anything but jovial. Celebrating with friends and family and even attending various Christmas programs is looked upon with suspicion and even forbidden in some places due to the social distancing mandated by the powers that be. The panic over the corona virus has put a real damper on our traditional Christmas celebrations this year.

 

Maybe shaking up our traditional celebrations of Christmas will help us get back to the real reason for the season. In Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ he refers to the message of the angel to Joseph as a fulfillment of an ancient prophesy of Isaiah. Naturally, Joseph was having trouble deciding what to do with his fiancée, Mary, when she showed up pregnant before they had consummated their marriage. So God spoke to him by an angel in a dream to assure him that her story was true. She was, indeed, pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the Son of God. And this whole incident fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah 7: 14, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel. Which being interpreted is, God with us.”

 

The context of Isaiah’s prophesy reveals that it was a sign from God to a people who were fearful and helpless before their enemies. The virgin-born son is named Emmanuel meaning God with us and Isaiah further promises in 9:6-7, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Clearly, the birth of Jesus by the virgin Mary fulfills this ancient prophesy that God is with us and that he is in charge.

 

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding our Christmas celebration this year we can be sure of Emmanuel, God with us. That same Jesus born in Bethlehem promised his disciples he would not leave us as orphans in this world, but would come to us through his Spirit, the Comforter. Through the personal leadership and power of the indwelling Spirit of God each of us can experience the love, joy, and peace to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Despite the growing darkness of the world around us we can rejoice in the fact that God is with us and he is in charge. And because he is we can have a Merry Christmas even in 2020.

 

John

 

 

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