New Life

Open Up My Eyes

 Video: Magnify by We Are Messengers

I've been trying to make sense of the sorrow that I feel Holding on for life to the only thing that's real I've only scratched the surface, I've barely had a taste

But just a glimpse draws my heart to change And one sight of you lays my sin to waste I don't need to see everything, just more of you

Take it all, take it all away Magnify no other name Open up, open up my eyes To you

Take it all, take it all away Magnify no other name Open up, open up my eyes To you

My sight is incomplete and I've made you look small I've been staring at my problems for way too long Re-align where my hope is set, until you're all that's left

But just a glimpse draws my heart to change And one sight of you lays my sin to waste I don't need to see everything, just more of you

Oh God, be greater, than the worries in my life Be stronger, than the weakness in my mind Be louder, let your Glory come alive Be magnified

The sorrow that we all carry because of our sin can only be relieved when our hearts are changed by the gospel. When my eyes really saw Jesus for the first time I could agree with the lyrics "just a glimpse draws my heart to change."

Psalm 34:3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Now my sorrows are lifted, my sins are forgiven and my problems in life are not as big as they seemed before I saw how big my Jesus is. This song reminds me of the old hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." The things of life will grow strangely dim next to his glory and grace!

Is your focus is in the right place? Is he magnified? Are you trying to get all of the answers to why you are struggling or can you say "I don't need to see everything, just more of you?"

Radical For Jesus

Revelation 3:15-21 "I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth! 17 You say, 'I am rich. I have everything I want. I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.

18 So I advise you to buy gold from Me--gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from Me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.

20 "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with Me on My throne, just as I was victorious and sat with My Father on His throne.

It is easy to be so well blessed that you forget where the blessings come from and you start to depend on the blessings instead of the one who blesses. The church at Laodicea didn't think that they were lacking anything but Jesus had very harsh words for them.

"You are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked."

Those are pretty serious words and they must have been hard to accept, this congregation thought that their gold and their fine garments and the ointment that their city was famous for were signs that God was pleased with them. But Jesus offers us so much more than the riches and pleasures of this world.

Jesus has better gold, better garments and better ointment. Just like the Samaritan women at the well who was offered the Living Water, just like the crowd that was offered the Bread of life, the things that the world has to offer are never as good as the things that Jesus has for us. (Revelation 3:18)

This church thought that they were doing a good job, they were busy building themselves up, they thought that they were rich but Jesus says that they are poor. This stands in contrast to the church at Smyrna that thought it was poor and Jesus said that they are rich. (Revelation 2:9-10)

This church reminds me of God's children in the Old Testament, most of the time they were proud of the fact that they were not too radical, they thought that they could please God while they embraced the ways of the people around them.

1 Kings 18:21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, "How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!" But the people were completely silent.

It seems a lot like the church today in America. We don't like to be offensive but the gospel is offensive. We don't like to be different from the rest of the world but that is exactly the way God's children are called to be.

"So be diligent and turn from your indifference."

Our everyday lives lack passion for the Lord, the message to Laodicea is also to us, get hot for Jesus, be radical instead of ordinary. A zeal for the things of God will cause us to cheerfully work for him and our love for him will help us stand for truth because when we love something strongly then we will hate all that is against it.

Jesus is waiting for us to let him into our church, it sounds a little bit strange, the church has to be willing to have him in order for him to come in. Jesus has gone to extreme measures to get to the door but he will not open the door and force his way into our congregation. We often use these verses to lead lost people to Christ, but the basic application here is to the church that received this letter.

In this new year we need to decide how hot we are going to be for Jesus. The natural state for us to seek is to be comfortable, doing just enough church stuff to make us feel good, very few people like to be overly hot or cold but as a follower of Jesus we don't get to stay comfortable if we want to please Him.

Let's be radical in our love for Jesus, radical in our obedience to His Word, this is the only appropriate response for God's children to have.



Does the Baby thrill you?

A lot of people get excited about Christmas but for those that are spiritually minded it goes way beyond what is waiting for them under a decorated tree. It means far more to them than pretty decorations, parties or delicious treats. For these people the baby is more exciting than Frosty, Rudolph and the presents that Santa will bring!

Luke 2:20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Luke 2:37-38 Then she (Anna, a prophet) lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer.

She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

Matthew 2:9-10 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!

There are still a lot of people that miss Christmas and get caught up in the worldly stuff that distracts us from what it is all about. If you are wondering how you are going to pay the bills in January then you have probably lost the true wonder of Christmas.

The people that were given the good news of Jesus arrival were excited to know that God is with us. The shepherds, Simeon and Anna, the wise men and even the baby in Elizabeth's womb all reacted with a sense of awe and wonder that God would come and be with us.

Let's get excited and rejoice about the real reason for the Christmas season! Because of God's gift we have a bright future in His presence for eternity.

It's A Clean Sweep When Jesus Clears The Temple

Luke 19:45-48 Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. 46 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

47 After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. 48 But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said.

Luke 20:1-8 One day as Jesus was teaching the people and preaching the Good News in the Temple, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. 2 They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”

3 “Let me ask you a question first,” he replied. 4 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?”

5 They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. 6 But if we say it was merely human, the people will stone us because they are convinced John was a prophet.” 7 So they finally replied that they didn’t know.

8 And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Wasn't it bad enough that Jesus just rode into town on a donkey as the crowds declared that he is the Messiah? Jesus infuriated the religious leaders when he refused to tell the crowds that they were wrong about him and as if that wasn't bad enough he returns to the temple and upsets the establishment some more.

Instead of acting out against the Roman government in Jerusalem as you would expect the recently announced king of the Jews to do, Jesus entered the temple and dealt with the issues in God's house, the corruption there was more important and the political problems. Jesus cleaned house by throwing out the money changers and the people selling animals for the sacrifice, both services were necessary but they were being used for huge financial gain.

To Jesus the issue in Israel was not Roman occupation, the issue was Jewish religious corruption. The Lord is not concerned with the people's relationship to Rome, He's concerned with the people's relationship to God.

-John MacArthur

The Jews and proselytes to Judaism needed the money changers so they would have the proper currency for the temple and the people selling the animals made it easier to travel to the temple from far away without taking care of the animal sacrifice. Both of these business transactions were being made in the part of the temple where the Gentiles were allowed to go to pray.

I have to wonder what would happen if the people that Jesus threw out felt any guilt for their wrongs and they went to the religious leaders to offer a sacrifice for forgiveness, then what would the Pharisees do? Would they admit they were wrong and that they also needed to repent and offer a sacrifice? I doubt it.

Who gave Jesus his authority?

John 12:49-50 I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”

The religious leaders loved the authority that they had and they liked to think that they were a big deal but Jesus rejected their authority and did what he pleased. He overrode their decision to allow the animals and thieves into the temple courts. There's nothing more devastating and hard to swallow than being treated as if you don't matter when you think you really do.

Jesus was always known to speak with authority (Matthew 7:28-29) but the Pharisees hadn't figured it out yet, for the last three years he taught and performed miracles daily but they are so spiritually blind that they have to ask him where his authority is from. (Luke 2:45-47, 4:36)

We know by his teaching and his miracles that he is clearly the Son of God, Jesus didn't need to answer their question directly and get into a debate about his authority. His authority was proved everyday of his earthly ministry and we all know that actions speak louder than words.

The question that I have to answer is will I submit to Jesus authority in the way that I live my life? Will I seek to please myself and do whatever I need to do to have fun, make money and be popular? Will I allow Jesus to clean up my mind and purify my thoughts?

The Difference A Year Makes

by Brandon Stephens


In her 1970 hit single, "Big Yellow Taxi," singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell proclaimed to the world, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone..." While many of you are finishing Joni's classic lyric in your heads, my reflection upon the events of the past twelve months has got me thinking, "When it comes to life and life abundant, you don't know what you're missing 'til you get it!"

Who could complain? With the wreckage of over a decade's worth of substance abuse all but cleared away, my loving wife and two beautiful children and I secured a mortgage in a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom condo in the historic town of Smithville, NJ where town is spelled with an "e" at the end. Life was good. Or so I thought.

In comparison to the first 5 years of our relationship, Andrea and I were experiencing periodic bouts of stability and normalcy. Gone were the sleepless nights of her wondering if I’d make it home from Atlantic City. A successful working man is at the beck and call of his employer. Addiction was my full-time job and when the boss man called, I came a' running.

But now drugs are no longer my god. In 2009, a brief stint in rehab allowed my borrowed faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior to become my own. After attending a Bible study one evening, I discovered the Addict's Transitive Property of Christianity and had a breakthrough: if sin equals death, and addiction equals death, then sin must equal addiction!

Through this lens, Jesus' sacrifice on the cross became personal. The person I was as an active addict died with Him on the cross. My sins were covered with His righteousness and washed with His blood. I shared in His resurrection and received a new life freed from the bondage of addiction.

Andrea's faith journey began in 2009 to appease the post-rehab religious zealot that I had become. Initially my weekly church attendance with my then fifteen month old son, Oliver, gave Andrea an opportunity to have two hours alone in a quiet house without a whiny child or a Bible-thumping husband to interrupt her thoughts.

Raised by her non-practicing, Jewish mother and her Iranian-born, Armenian father (who is Christian by nationality more than belief), Andrea grew up with no concept of God, no exposure to prayer, and no experience with the Bible.

I was so excited about my new found faith and I was incessant at evangelizing Andrea but it was less than transformative. Slowly but surely she began to attend church with Oliver and I on a routine basis. Emphasis on ROUTINE.

Fortune literally found us in Smithville, that’s where we bought a house and settled down after Andrea's mom hit the jackpot in an Atlantic City casino and gave us the money for the down payment on our home. We began attending a small, local church, filled a pew, and routinely volunteered in the children's ministry. Emphasis once more on ROUTINE.

Venturing home one Sunday morning after church, Andrea and I experienced a distinct sense that something in our walk was missing, we realized our Christianity was compartmentalized and stored in a bin labeled, "Sunday Morning."

Last April, a string of God-ordained interactions and events found my two kids and I at an Easter Egg Hunt on the front lawn of Buff and Cissy McNickle. The family at Grace Falls Church made us feel welcome and immediately at home like a member of the family. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and joy emanating from everyone that I interacted with.

Racing home and busting through the door, I took Andrea's ear hostage and spouted off about how great a time we had and how nice everyone I met was. My bubble burst as Andrea stated emphatically, "We are not switching churches."

Down but not defeated, I joined a "Real Life Discipleship" study at Grace Falls and went back to the drawing board. Knowing if I could just get Andrea in the same room with my new friends, she would experience the same love I had felt at the egg hunt. Opportunity and desire collided on Good Friday last year when Buff and Cissy's invitation to a local restaurant resulted in my wife's attendance at her first Grace Falls event.

Volumes could be written about the events and interactions that have taken place over the past twelve months. We've come to know God as our Provider. We've seen Him at work in the lives of those around us. A young man I was fortunate enough to pour into gave His life to Christ. The ripples of his decision are still reverberating through his family as the Kingdom continues to be built.

Our knowledge of God's story and recognition of our place within it becomes clearer every day. We've taken our faith out of the box labeled, "Sunday Morning." We've come to find our place in a family of servants who are on mission for God. Realizing that we were saved from the penalty of sin, are being saved from bondage of sin, and will one day be saved from the presence of sin, we've learned to rest in His grace and stop trying to prove ourselves.

Today, we're interested in how we can serve others and be Good News to those in our community. We've come to know that "church" is not a building but a Body. We are the church. Today, our lives are anything but ROUTINE. We have life and life abundant. What a difference a year makes.