The Spirit of Christmas Present

Christmas 2020

Sunday 12/20/20

Series: Do we REALLY believe?

MESSAGE: The Spirit of Christmas Present

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The Spirit of Christmas Present

This whole year we’ve been learning about faith and works. That the kind of faith the Bible talks about in regard to the New Birth is not just mental agreement to a set of facts – regardless how accurate those facts are! The faith the Bible is aiming at, is a relationship of trust between man and God, and that trust has a foundation as well – it is based upon coming to know WHO God is.

We illustrated this last week in Abraham who heard God make many promises, to which Abraham would ask… “How will I know that You will do such and such?” and God would always offer a reply, but when it came to God asking Abraham to offer up Isaac we never hear him asking why or how will he still live to be the son through whom the promise of many nations is fulfilled – he just did it “believing that if it were necessary God would raise him up even from the ashes” – THAT was a trust built upon a relationship of intimately knowing God.

This is one of the primary reasons why the Word of Faith movement, of which we used to be a part, was such a distortion of the truth – for all the good things it taught, it ultimately depersonalized faith. It taught people to believe FOR things rather than IN God.

Real and genuine faith is a complete and surrendered reliance upon God through Jesus NOT ONLY for initial salvation, but also for a life which progressively becomes more and more like God because it becomes more and more like Jesus.

We’ve discussed how this works many times and it is clearly and beautifully laid out for us in the first chapter of James. God reveals Himself to us in any one of a number of ways – through revelation in His word, a dream, a vision, through one of the gifts, even in everyday happenings… the point is – He reveals something of Himself to us. In response to this the enemy comes to tempt you away from belief in that new or deeper understanding of God. IF you hold on to what God has revealed to you, not turning back, not questioning, not giving up because of trial, persecution or a lack of patience…if you endure, it proves your trust is genuine. The end game is the salvation of your soul (1Peter 1:9)- meaing, your character becomes that much more conformed to Christ and God rewards you with knowing Him more…and so the cycle goes.

Now, the last few weeks we’ve been learning more about the reasons WHY there is such a focus on faith (trust) in the scriptures and it is because of what I just said. God is looking for connectedness with us. He desires a relationship where we learn about Him and He learns us by way of experience. God knows us completely in terms of knowledge, but He will only experience intimacy with those who seek Him, love and long for Him and trust Him. This is proven true by the fact that those who never enter into relationship with God through faith in His Son, are told, “Depart from Me, I NEVER KNEW you.” Of course, God knew them on an intellectual and academic level, all the way down to the thoughts they would thing and the number of thier days, but He was never made one with them – He never knew them with intimacy. Intimacy has to be offered, not taken. This is why God isn’t satisfied with us just agreeing with His Words and confessing them superficially. It is why God seems so fixated on a faith and works. God wants to restore us from our fallen nature and so fit us for eternity with Him. Paul says, “He who is preparing us for this very thing is God”

Now to capture all of this we have had three lessons focused upon knowing God and trusting Him.

The titles were:

And last week’s message was called,

This week’s lesson is called, “The Spirit of Christmas Present”

Anyone remember what the repeated phrase the Spirit of Christmas present always said?

“Come and know me better man!”

Well THAT is the goal and purpose of salvation! That is the very message of the Gospel and it is the bases for the trust God wants to ignite in and receive back from every human heart.

To learn about this, we had to go back to the beginning, much like John does in his gospel account which we will be reading later this morning.

Both the fall of Lucifer and the fall of mankind happened because of a lack of trust. Though Lucifer’s was ultimately based upon pride, it still was a rebellion against God’s good heart and distrust in Who God was and Who God had, in His love and wisdom, designed Lucifer to be. Lucifer did not trust that the existence God created him for was sufficient for him. He believed, due to his beauty that he somehow deserved more and so his heart became darkened through assumed dissatifaction. He believed that God was holding out of him, that by ascerting himself and breakign ties, he could enhance his estate and joy…not realizing that such can only be found in one’s Creator and oneself united to Him. 

The same thoughts were in planted in Eve’s mind by way of Lucifer’s suggestion. 

  • Is God good? 
  • Can He be trusted? 
  • Has He given you EVERYTHING He could? 
  • Is He holding out on you? 

Pride and distrust were at the heart of Eve’s fall. The fruit was desirous to make her wise (Gen. 3:5&6) and be like God. 

Adam’s fall was more about Eve. He valued her more than God, and so followed her in her sin. Which in itself was distrust. Adam clearly believed that greater satisfaction could be gained through intimacy with his wife than through intimacy with God.

Immediately after they fell away from God, God gave them a promise of restoration. This promise was an invitation to trust Him again.

Baby steps back to intimacy

At this point, God obviously gave conditions for mankind to maintain some sort of relation with Him and all of those conditions, on some level or another required TRUST.

They were to:

  • Do right as best as they understood it.
  • They were to seek after God with all their heart (which according to Heb. 11:6 requires that they trust God to honor their seeking with finding.)
  • They were to offer some sort of blood sacrifice to cover their wrong doings.

Not long after Cain killed Abel the human race divided in two. The sons of man and the sons of God. 

  • The sons of man were the descendants of Cain. 
  • The sons of God were the descendants of Seth (Adam and Eve’s third son). 

According to Genesis 4:26, it was then, through the descendants of Seth that men began to call upon the name of the Lord.

  • Enoch walked in trust with God and was translated [Gen. 5:18-24; Heb. 11:5].
  • Noah walked in trust with God and saved the human race [Gen. 6:8; Heb. 11:7].
  • Job walked in trust with God and was an example of a godly man to people who had begun to forget what that looked like [Job. 1:8; 42:1-6; James 5:11].
  • Abram walked in trust with God and was credited with righteousness. He became the father of all who would believe because the Promised One was to come through his family line [Rom. 4:11; Gal. 3:6].
  • Jacob walked in trust with God and the nation of Israel was born through his sons.
  • Joseph walked in trust with God and saved Israel and provided a place for them to become a fledgling nation [Acts 7:14-18].
  • Moses walked in trust with God and led them out of bondage towards the land promised to Abraham.
    • It was through Moses that God invited ALL OF ISRAEL to come to know Him one on one at the mountain. God would speak to them and they would listen to and obey His voice – a relationship of knowing and trusting. But Israel said NO and so God gave the Law – a list of do’s and don’ts to mimik character change without a heart change. The law was given to be a school teacher which eventually would lead them to Christ.

But Israel would not listen, they would not obey, they sought their value in being like those around them and eventually God simply stopped speaking to them.

There was essentially 400 years of silence between God and Israel, until one day, while Israel was in captivity to Roman rule, God stepped into time in the form of the promised seed of Abraham – a child of Faith -> God’s physically born son.

Let’s read about his birth from John’s perspective. 

John’s perspective is completely unique in that it is devoid of the typical information of the political climate, the miraculous nature of the conception, the time and even the place of His birth. 

John’s account… 

  • Is a relationship based narrative which focuses on the wonder of WHO was born not HOW He was born. 
  • It focuses on WHY He was born not WHERE.
  • It focuses on the wonder of those who had eyes to see His true glory, rather than the mystified looks of those who did not understand

John 1:1-34, 

“(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  

John started, not at the manger, but at the beginning. 

“In the Beginning was the Word.”

The book of Hebrews tells us that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.

Peter, referring back to the promise made to Abraham about the Seed who would come, meaning Jesus, said that we have been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever. [1Peter 1:23]

Rom. 10:17  So then trust in God comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. [meaning Jesus]

And in Rev. 19:13   we are told that when Jesus returns as the conquering Lord, He will clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name will be called “The Word of God”

Hebrews chapter 1 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  (2)  but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, Whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world. (2)  He was in the beginning with God.  (3)  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

This is the Jesus John sees, and the Jesus John is telling us came to earth from heaven in the form of a baby.

John says about Jesus that…

In Him was Life

“(2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. (4)  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” 

You remember that Jesus Himself told us that “life eternal” was to know God and to know Jesus Whom God had sent. [John 17:3]

John says that knowing, was IN Jesus, from the beginning! 

The baby in the manger, on some level or another had an inner knowing of God. That knowledge of course grew through the years, but it began with a spark –  an inner awareness of and love for the God Who created the body Jesus inhabited.

That “LIFE” which was in Jesus, was itself the invitation to mankind from God the Father to Come and know Me better man.

In Him was UNION with God, and that union with God was the revelation… “the Light of men.

The Light Shines

“(5)  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

As you know the word “light” is being used metaphorically – as is nearly this entire verse. Light is being used as a metaphor for understanding or insight.

Light is actually a universal symbol for understanding. When we finally grasp something that has been hard to wrap our minds around we say, “It’s finally DAWNED on me” which is a reference to the Sun rising and driving away the darkness. 

In fact, in Genesis, the light and the darkness making each day was actually used poetically having a dual meaning. Both of literal light (morning – ֹבֶּקר bōqer) and darkness (evening –  עֶרב
‛ereḇ) and also the ideas of moving from disorder to order.

We often see the concept of understanding or having an idea occur to us as represented by a “light bulb” turning on above someone’s head.

We’ve even used these terms to describe entire historical time periods.

We have the “Dark ages” followed by the days of “Enlightenment”.

So in like manner, it is used in this passage as well.

Jesus Himself said, (46)  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” There we again have knowing and trusting as the core and purpose of His coming!

The Light of union with God, which was and is seen in Jesus, shone in the darkness of mankind’s mind and they failed to understand or grasp it.

Now, here is one of the few examples where the KJV of the Bible outshines others. 

The word “comprehended” comes from the Greek word Katalambano – which is a compound word meaning~ to lay hold of and to seize with eagerness. Now this word is connected to the word “not”, so many a translator, translate these words as could not overpower – that is, the world was not able to lay hold on Jesus and seize Him so as to overpower Jesus. While that is A truth, it is not THE TRUTH being revealed in this passage. In this context, the word is actually used metaphorically and so it takes on the meaning of “could not grasp it – or comprehend it”. We will see as we go further in these verses that this is the true meaning!

So…so far John has said a LOT in a very few words.

He has told us that…

  • Jesus is God or rather is part of the Godhead.
  • He is co-eternal with the Father.
  • That as a member of the Godhead, and being known as “The Living Word of God” He is THE Creator.

So we have the Creator, coming down and becoming one of His Own creations. In the person of Jesus, Creature and Creator are united – and THAT was the message of His coming! That, was the understanding God wanted man to grasp – that God is both knowable and that in coming to know Him you will find that He is worthy of Trust!

In Jesus was LIFE and that LIFE was the Light of men.

When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the temple, a man names Simeon called Jesus both Light and Glory. He said, “… my eyes have seen Your salvation.  (31)  You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples—  (32)  a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel.” – Luke 2:30-32

In Jesus was Union with God and the fact that as a human, He was able to know and be One with God WAS the revelation to man…but mankind did not grasp it!

God, however, is always several steps ahead of man!

God had prophesied of the coming of Christ, of His virgin birth, of His birth in Bethlehem, that He (as being God) would have a rule which would never end and so much more. Even more than that though, God gave another man – who would go before Jesus, preach the need for a change of heart and so prepare men for the revelation of God in Christ. This man’s name was John. Not the John who wrote this Gospel, but John the cousin of Jesus, who we know as John the Baptizer.

Let’s read about how God did everything He could to help those who encountered Jesus to have eyes to see Who He really was and in seeing to hear and in hearing to believe (trust).

“(6)  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  (7)  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.”

So, do you see it?

John came to witness about how Union with God was not only possible, it could be witnessed in the person of this man named Jesus!

John came preaching repentance. Repentance is simply a word which means to change your mind.

What have we learned God had been trying to get man to change his mind about since the fall?

That salvation cannot be found in our own efforts performed FOR God. Rather, it is to only be found in a character change created By God Himself. It is God Who changes us through our Trust in our union with Him in Christ Jesus.

John came preaching “Change your mind about your sin and change your mind about God.”

Why did he do this? So that all might believe through his words.

Do you see the same pattern we’ve been seeing since the fall? Come to know God and in the knowing, Trust in Him that He might save you.

“(8)  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.  (9)  The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” 

This light – this revelation of union with God through faith in His Son – is NOT just for the Jews – no one is excluded and He gives this knowledge to EVERYONE! God shows no partiality!

“(10)  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.  (11)  He came to His Own, and His Own people did not receive Him.”

Here John is pressing the fact that Jesus was God. He created the world He was standing on. He was the One Who called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeas and birthed the Jewish nation through him. Those are the people He called His Own. It was to these people that He gave foretellings of His coming, described the events and location surrounding His coming and yet, when He came, they did not recognize Him and did not receive Him.

They were looking for a conquering King coming to save them from Rome and captivity. He came as a fatherless baby in a feeding trough Who would die to save them from their sins, and the death of their isolation from God – something the majority were neither looking for nor truly desiring.

I have a bit of a Christmas FB tradition – one that I will probably forgo in the future, but it involves a rather strong disagreement with a brother in the Lord I know who every Christmas  goes out of his way to post his near hatred of the song, “Mary did you know?”. 

In faithful fashion I always reply to his post and we go back and forth. 

He, like some other well known “leaders” in the Christian faith, who miss the entire rhetorical nature and thus the purpose for the song, stalwartly claim – “Of course she knew – the angel told her!” 

Now, it hardly matters because the author of the song is on record as saying that the lyrics are rhetorical and intended to invite the hearer to be re-amazed at the wonder of His birth. The author is making no avert claim to Mary’s knowledge or ignorance. But the truth is, if you read the lyrics there are 17 things the song asks Mary. If you read what the angel told Mary AND Joseph [Matt. 1:20-21; Luke 1:30-35] as well as the prophecy Mary [Luke 1:46-55] proclaimed upon seeing Elizabeth following her conceiving, at best she only knew 2 of the 17 things asked. Even at that however, it is highly unlikely that her understanding of Jesus as a ruler was any different than every other Jew’s belief. She had no knowledge that He would walk on water, perform various healings, no known notion that He was deity nor what it truly meant that He would save His people from their sins. No notion of dying and rising from the dead…. In fact, when Simeon spoke to Joseph and Mary as they presented Jesus at the temple he said, 

“Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed–  (35)  and a sword will pierce your own soul–that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Both she and Joseph marvelled [Luke 2:33]! The word marvelled means to react amazed at something unexpected. So NO…it is unlikely that Mary knew very much at all. She knew this must be Messiah, but it is highly unlikely that she really understood what that truly meant.

All of this to say that Jesus came as Jew to the Jewish nation and they, as a whole, did not recognize, know or receive Him.

As Isaiah prophesied concerning Jesus, “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  (2)  For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  (3)  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” – Isa 53:1-3  

But some did. Some did see Him, some did come to know, trust and receive Him. 

For John says,

“(12)  But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God,” 

If you remember, many believed on Him in His ministry, but from the beginning no one really knew Him. It wasn’t until some time into their lives with Jesus as disciples, that Jesus asked them…

“(13) Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  (14)  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  (15)  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  (16)  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  (17)  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  (18)  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  (19)  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  (20)  Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. – Mat 16:13-20  

You can see that the majority had no idea that He was even the Messiah! Notice also, that those who did, were those who came to know Him through relationship!

These men ate with Him, listened to Him, Learned from Him, emulated Him for years! It took time, but it was time He was willing to take.

For you and I, it is time He is still willing to take… but we must be willing to INVEST the time as well if we are to come to know Him not only as Savior, but also deliverer – the Branch we grow out of and bear fruit unto His likeness!

Those who do John says are…

“(13)  born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

To know Jesus, to surrender in trust to Him is to come to know God and become His child!

“(14)  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15)  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)  (16)  For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  (17)  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  (18)  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

The word became flesh – Creator became creation – the infinite became finite – boundless strength became weakness, sinless became sin –  ALL that we might, through Him know the Father!

Jesus Himself said, “Whoever believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him Who sent Me.  (45)  And whoever sees Me sees Him Who sent Me.”

In another place Jesus said, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” [John 14:9]

As we read earlier, Jesus said,

“(46)  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.  

(47)  If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  (48)  The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”

Notice that the basis for being judged and condemned was – to not know Him, not listen to His words and not Trust them by living them.  

“(49)  For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father Who sent Me has Himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.  (50)  And I know that His commandment is “eternal life”. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” – John 12:44-50

The Father’s commandment was “Come and know Me better man

That was always the invitation and it still is today.

The message of the Child in the feeding trough was to come and feed on Me and so feed on relationship with the Father. To taste and see that the Lord IS Good and that Blessed is the man who places his TRUST in Him! – Psalm 34:8

He was born in Bethlehem which means “house of bread”.

Jesus was called the “Bread of Life” or the Bread of knowing God. [John 6:48-51]

So the invitation was to come, feed on the Father through knowing His Son and so come to know and trust God.

Bethlehem had been the prophesied place of Messiah’s birth. In Micah 5:1-5,

“Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.  (2)  But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.  (3)  Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.  (4)  And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.  (5)  And he shall be their peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men; and He shall be their peace.”

I could easily go on and on pointing out the ways in which Jesus was revealed as the message itself. HE WAS THE LIGHT of the WORLD!

Jesus, in His person – AS a person in union with God…was the message! He, as a man, walking in perfect union with God, as One with God, completely knew and trusted God and THAT was the revelation to man.

God is knowable, trustable and in Him is salvation!

This was Jesus’s prayer to the Father the night on which He was betrayed. 

John 17:1-26,  “(1) When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You,  (2)  since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.  (3)  And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.  (4)  I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do.  (5)  And now, Father, glorify Me in Your Own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.  (6)  “I have manifested Your name to the people whom You gave Me out of the world. Yours they were, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your Word.  (7)  Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You.  (8)  For I have given them the words that You gave Me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.  (9)  I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.  (10)  All Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.  (11)  And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one.  (12)  While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which You have given Me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  (13)  But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.  (14)  I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  (15)  I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.  (16)  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  (17)  Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth.  (18)  As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  (19)  And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.  (20)  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word,  (21)  that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.  (22)  The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one,  (23)  I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as you loved Me.  (24)  Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.  (25)  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know You, I know You, and these know that You have sent Me.  (26)  I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Here we see God instigating the New Covenant first by embodying it, then by living it before mankind – then dying and rising again to make it a living reality based upon Trust! 

People were able to meet Him, know Him, ask Him questions and discover within their heart if they possessed a longing for God which drove them to pursue the union of relationship Him in trust.

Can you see that God has been pursuing man’s heart NOT just His obedience, since the fall?

God is a light in our darkness and He is calling upon all of us to do as Paul and return the commitment and pursuit. To lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold upon us – which is for eternal life or union with God! [Phil. 3:12; 1Tim. 6:12]

If we know Him… If we trust Him, we will conform to Him and His image.

There can be NO trusting without becoming! If you truly believe you will walk as He walks.

Here is the great and impassioned cry of Jesus’ heart,

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;  (26)  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  

(27)  All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to Whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

Then He gave the gracious invitation to EVERYONE as He always does…

“(28)  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  (29)  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (30)  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~ Matt. 11:25-30.

Hear the message of the Father through the advent of the Son,

“Come and know Me better man!”

God Bless!

I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.

We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.

You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!

If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.

If you HAVE been spiritually fed by this ministry and WANT to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but please understand that all the outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!