Matthew 1:23 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel"--which means, "God with us." Emmanuel, “God with us.”

This name speaks to the union of God and man in the person of Christ. The union of these two natures represents the idea that purpose and relationship can exist in perfection, even in face of all the sufferings of our lives.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

The very name “Emmanuel,” is the foretelling of the perfection Christ through His sacrifice on the cross, came to accomplish in us. He came to redeem us perfectly from brokenness and pretending to lives lived in the full value of our potential and purpose, and that, with a whole, pure, and unbroken relationship with our maker.

Psalm 139:3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

God with us... God who clothes us in the perfection His birth, death, and resurrection accomplished. And as our clothier and maker, He made His perfection to fit us, though we often lack any attempt and an adequate appreciation for it.

God with us... God who is familiar with all our suffering, with all of our particular dispositions that pit us in direct opposition to the Lordship of Christ in our lives. God who is familiar with us in our grief and sorrow, our emotional peaks and valleys, proudest and most humiliating moments, those public and private. He is familiar, He is with us and still He loves us. He knows us in every way. Even in those moments where we wish we could have turned away from our own selves He remained “God with us” with eyes fixed on us and a heart committed to love us without any promise of reciprocation or recognition.

As you conclude your sorted Christmas celebrations and get settled in to what remains of this year, take peace in this thought, Jesus loves you and me enough to be our very personal, very unashamed, Emmanuel. He is as close to each of us as the sound of His name upon our lips.  The wholeness only He can give is as close as recognizing that His rescuing Lordship is the power in the name, Emmanuel.  Merry Christmas to all and to all... a very blessed goodnight!

Proverbs 18
1 An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment. 2 A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. 3 When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes disgrace. 4 The words of a man's mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. 5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the innocent of justice. 6 A fool's lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating. 7 A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. 8 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.

20 From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied. 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

1 An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment. 2 A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

We finished an election cycle. I am sure you are aware of all of the talk about school closing etc. I am amazed at the way people simply attack people with different opinions without reason. The only thoughtful side of their negativity is that they are sure they do not feel good about something...but is that really wise? How about people that are friendly, as long as you agree with them? They are not actually interested in friendship, no, they are interested in personal affirmation. Does any of this seem like a familiar observation of the things going on around you?

There is a little thing called logic or reason. Here it is in it’s simplest form, “if XYZ is true then LMNOP will happen.” But for some reason taking the time to think critically with the tools God gives us is just often neglected. People hate information because all though we live in the “Information Age” we do not like chewing on it.  We like to look at the surface and draw our conclusion. A one sided story is good enough. We like someone to tell us what to think, what to believe, I we do not want to dig into to a matter and think intelligently. We do love to think emotionally.

Now to be clear I am not telling you to burry your emotions. I am telling you to be intelligent in the way you think about the world around you. In the "Kingdom of God"...which, if you are a Believer in Christ, that is where you are living, the place ruled and governed by God's authority...and in the Kingdom we should be doing what we call “thinking with the mind of Christ.” This means before we devote ourselves to a line of thinking about something we draw our conclusions based on two ideas:

1. Does the way I am leaning (thought wise) or is the direction of this decision taking me closer to the heart of King Jesus?

2. Does my thought agree with what His word (the Bible) says concerning an issue?

People, even Christian people, say and do so many stupid and ugly things to one another and to others because they do not think in the “Kingdom of God”...they think in the “Kindgom of Self.” Of course, none of us have ever journeyed there, right? When we think in the “Kingdom of Self”-verse two rings true in ways that are often blaring to everyone but ourselves.

2 A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

We look like little children with our hands over our ears, teeth clinched, eyes shut, stomping our feet as if this will change God’s mind...not so. Instead, it changes us. The more committed we are to thinking in the “Kingdom of Self” the more blind we become to the good things God has in store for us in His Kingdom. We become fools that guard our foolishness with pride, because we want to resist be convicted of our journey into the “Kingdom of Self” which we are really ashamed of...We live in contempt or in defiance of the truth. Outwardly this downward spiraling process looks like a consistently increasing response of ugly bitterness towards anything other than what we think. We suffer from the self-inflicted wounds of blindness that is easily cured by submitting or agreeing with “Kingdom of God” thinking but we do not care. In the “Kingdom of Self” the only thing that matters is what we want.

3 When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes disgrace. 4 The words of a man's mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.

Maybe you find yourself making excuses for people who behave foolishly and choose sin over and over and over. We like them, so it will be okay, right? Or, “ They just don’t understand truth and we are supposed to love everyone, so we should tell no one that they are wrong,”...right? We are sticking our toe into the dangerous waters of the “Kingdom of Self,” and more is going on than we understand. Every time we chose self we choose to forfeit the gift of God’s wisdom. Trusting in His ways no matter the price or what we fear will be the rusult is always the best way. We forfeit the advantage of being in the "Kingdom of God" when we rely on appearance and what simply seems good to us when we think outside of the “Kingdom of God.”

5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the innocent of justice. 6 A fool's lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating. 7 A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. 8 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.

See what happens? We buy into the surface, we enable and often times become accomplices with the enemy’s scheming against us. We compromise and we being to give our ears over to talk that influences our thinking to a place that is just full of all kinds of lies and boldfaced cowardice. So guard your mouth and the thoughts behind your words by guarding the process that generated your thoughts. Decide today to begin thinking in the Kingdom of God.

20 From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied. 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Our lives are full of what we make room for, and this same rule applies to our thoughts, our words, and then our actions. It is an axiom that declares, “We will have an abundance of what we are willing tolerate.“ “How do I start think and acting and living in the Kingdom with the mind of Christ?”

1. Submit your life fully to Christ. Surrender to His Lordship. Stop trying to figure God out and let Him show you who you were created to be.

2. Second, get into God’s Word (the Bible) and agree with everything that is says even the parts that do not jive with what you think now...because you are not God and He always knows better than us what is best for us. We are responsible for trust; He is responsible for delivering on His word.

3. Third, obey what His word tells us by believing what is says about who we are in Christ, act on it by going somewhere or doing something with Jesus.

Bring the Kingdom into every aspect, conversation, and relationship in your life. Fill your heart with the things of God and His Kingdom and your mouth will be full of His wisdom.

by guest blogger, Joe Kormanik

I want to share with you about something that has been a tremendous blessing in our life, it is what the church calls "missions" or "missionary work." I’m honored to be a part of a church that puts a high priority in supporting and doing mission work. I am writing here ask you to think about "missions"personally, because we are all are called to the field.

MATTHEW 28:18- 20 Jesus said “ God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.

Three word stands out to me when reading the verses, they are Go, Train, and Practice.
Go: get moving action happens
Train: make sure people know the Lord
Practice: do what God has commanded
These points of course beg the question, are we actively going, training, and practicing in the field of missions.

When we reach out and help: someone who is struggling with sin, someone struggling with making life work, helping feed the hungry, provide shelter for someone who doesn’t have any, is this the mission work that God has commanded us to do? Yes, very much so! 

As I study the Word of God I find many people who are called of God to the mission field. Know that the unreached in the world are everywhere. We have been very blessed to do work overseas in Nicaragua, India, and most importantly, the place where I make my home-Alta Vista. I want to encourage you to stop and look at the work you have done in your own mission field. I think of our wonderful ministry with the AWANA children of Alta Vista.

Do you think that will have any lasting effect on mission work for the future?

Think about Men’s and Woman’s Encounters and the effect this has on mission work for the future.

Think about helping someone with food, groceries, gas, or words of encouragement.

Think about the support that is given monthly and the work that is accomplished through your generosity.

Mission work is happening all around us. My question is, "WHAT IS YOUR CALL?"  What does God continually ask you to do that we fight about with Him?

Do ever feel the need to reach out and help someone in need? Have you ever felt your heart ache when you see hungry children? How about reaching out to another congregation that is has a church building made out of pallets and cardboard? YES you are right, there are many needs, many avenues of service that you or I could be doing. I beg you to answer that call – to go, to train, and to practice what you know towards growing His kingdom.

Currently, I am reading the book, IN THE GAP, What Happens When God’s People Stand Strong, by Wilfredo De Jesus. Each person that was mentioned in the book answered the call from our Lord to take a stand and accomplish His will though they were ridiculed, persecuted. Many even took on physical threats against their own lives, and some ended up giving their life for others in order to obey what God had commanded them to do. I think about people like Esther; she started out as just a lowly foreign girl and became the queen that would save her people. What a missionary! Even though the name of “God” is not mentioned in this book, it was clearly His divine plan to save His chosen people through her. She answered yes, was Holy Spirit-led, and risked death on behalf of her people by coming before the king without being summoned by him. God used her because she was willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of so many others. You might think I’m really reaching...using Esther as a example of a missionary working for God—When she was young, she was raised by Mordecai-trained in a Jewish home to obey the Lord. When asked to “GO” she went, she used her training as she understood it, to take the risk to keep her people alive- AS I read the book I realized that she did go, train, and practice what she had learned and thus saved her people. She did mission work against all odds and God honored her work.

How about the little know disciple named Barnabas- who believed in a man named Saul who was know for killing Christians. He not only kept Saul from being killed but he did what God asked Him to do, believing what God had placed in his heart about Saul, Barnabas trusted with confidence that Saul’s conversion experience with God was genuine. Many people were scared of Saul—but Barnabas saw thru the fear and made the decision to stand up for Saul who we now know as the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest missionaries of His time. Together they were called to go and spread the Gospel, make disciples, and do missions work etc.-Barnabas didn’t stop there, he continued to train others like John Mark another great man used by God on the mission field.

Folks the list of people being used by our Lord further His kingdom in the area of missions is endless. Maybe you are saying, “I don’t think I can go over seas,” or “I don’t like the idea of being before Muslim extremist who could kill me for my Christian beliefs.” But that type of thinking is missing the point and will ultimately result in no going, training, or practicing. I’m saying to you, be involved in missions WHERE THE LORD IS LEADING YOU. ANSWER THE CALL HE HAS FOR YOU.

If you have been fighting Him and worrying about doing this thing He is asking you to do, I trust that the Lord really is asking you to do something or go somewhere. Please, don’t miss your chance to take the step and say yes to the Lord’s calling. He will accomplish His task through you, or someone else, but He will complete His will.

In my own life I never dreamed that I would have opportunities to build churches, teach believers in India on tithing, play apart in building a great pastor a house, or provide shoes for someone who didn’t have any. In the same breath God has delivered me from a life bent on destroying myself with stupid decisions I made. He set me on a path that He chose and is currently using me to make a difference in His Kingdom- I share these things so you’d who know me and understand that God uses sinners, misfits, old, young, rich, poor-anyone who will say yes to His call on their life. He is calling you today to say, “yes” to the mission assignment He has called you to.

Maybe He is asking you to pray, to witness to your neighbor, be that listening ear for that co-worker. Maybe He is asking you to share Christ, share His love with someone. I don’t know what all the Lord has in mind for that one that will say, “yes.” I do know that when you do say, “yes” and trust Him, the rest is exciting, rewarding, challenging, and heart changing to say the least. His plans are what matters, I don’t want to be some bully or brow beater saying get into mission work although some of us need that, I’M SAYING ANSWER THE CALL GOD IS PLACING ON YOUR LIFE, TO BE WORKING FOR HIS KINGDOM. The blessings are unnumbered. It’s a win-win for all. You want to be used by God?-say, “yes!” Not sure where, ask Him, He has been waiting on you to ask. I want to leave you with this two famous missionary quotes, Isaiah said, “ here I am Lord send me,” and Jesus said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring. Say, “yes” to missions today.

1 Corinthians 3 
1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? 5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

This is the first iteration of this idea. Paul called the church in Corinth “worldly” because they knew who Jesus is but were not willing to grow on purpose. “Growth” in their mind was about was in this instance, about who was “pastoring or discipling” them. They were intentionally posturing themselves to avoid transformation. Paul is clearly laying out the fact that Christian growth must take place in an “on purpose” kind of way. If we are not pursuing a deeper life in Christ on purpose, then what we are experiencing is not really growth. Instead we adopt the religion of self-reliance...perhaps because it is easier to pick-up and maintain our personal sense of control. We tend to be comfortable with this scenario because we can be challenged like a "good" Christian should be by the word of God without surrendering total control to Him. Growing, as a Christian, is not so much about who is discipling or pastoring us so much as it is about a measurable sense of progress in us.  This occurs as a result of intentionally yielding ourselves to the process of God building us.

• Are you more like Jesus today than you were yesterday?

• What are you doing to position yourself so that God can build you daily?


10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

This is the first reiteration of the idea that, we are being built; first stated in verses 1-9. There are consequences for building our foundations with faulty material. It is important that we allow the Holy Spirit to check our hearts daily. It is important that we posture ourselves for God to examine our hearts and inspect the stuff that our lives are being built out of.

• Is it Kingdom material...or worldly stuff?

• Is God our builder or are we attempting that ourselves, or is it the world around us?

• Examine yourself both spiritually and sociologically. Is your worldview ultimately shaped by the influences of the world or from Jesus? Which party are you giving the most opportunity to build you?

Faulty materials always result in foundational cracks and crumbling. These things lead to division within the church.


Divisions Within the Church Body
When too many within the church are about the personal preferences of themselves and/or others and not the heart, presence, and business of God and His kingdom unity is impossible.   Living in a land governed by our preferences makes us double-minded and double-tongued. When we live for preference we end up looking like the Kingdom with out being marked by the transformation that "Kingdom living” generates [Kingdom living is living according to the governance of Christ rather than the that of the world].


Divisions Within the Individual
When an individual within the church operates to satisfy the preferences of men and not the heart, presence, and business of God and His kingdom, unity is impossible for that individual. It is impossible for him or her to be effective in the Kingdom...because they exist in a state of double mindedness, two faced, where they look and think like a Christian (to some degree) as long as they are around other Christians; but as soon as they are away and in the world they look and think like the world. They are literally destroying “the temple” [“the temple” is their physical and spiritual being] by pulling it in two directions at the same time.

Do not side with the enemy...allowing him to build you into someone whose life is in direct defiance and rebellion against the things of God. It is anti-God to live in a posture that is in near proximity to godliness while refusing to be transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit and the disciplines of discipleship.


18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness"; 20 and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile." 21 So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

The second other words...folks THIS-IS-IMPORTANT. Check your posture and examine your building materials. Don’t pretend that the lies of the enemy are as good as the truth of God’s Kingdom. The only person you are fooling is yourself. Do not pretend that you are in the Kingdom being created by the King when the fruit...the evidence...declares just the opposite to everyone around you. So often we are not aware of the fruit our life produces but everyone else is.  Even if the fruit is the result of things done in the privacy of our home or our minds, the fruit is still apparent.

Not only do we look foolish in this setting  - because we deceive ourselves, but we allow the enemy to transform our minds into that of a fool’s because we have willingly agreed to convince ourselves that the darkness of sin and deception are better than God’s truth and light. As believers it is imperative that we recognize that our stake or position is in the Kingdom of God and not in this world. To sum things up, no matter who is discipling you or who your pastor is, what material or movement you are into at the moment...let God build you His way. In short, “You better check yo-self, before you wreck yo-self.”

It has occurred to me that scripture (in particular the New Testament) often brings two ideas to bear. The first is that God is love (1 John 4:8 He that does not love, does not know God; for God is love.). The second is that if we love Him we will guard the place His commands have in our life as first (John 14:15). When we do this we abide, or live and keep on living, in Him. So if the command is that, "God is love" and we are posturing our whole selves to abide in Him then this idea from Philippians could be looked at as a check-up sheet, progress report, or clear list of things to pursue.

What if we were to read Philippians 4:8-9’s statement as giant self-examining question?

Finally, INSERT YOUR NAME HERE, are you thinking on whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report? Is INSERT YOUR NAME HERE thought life intentionally packed with and deeply pondering virtuous and praiseworthy things?

So the things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV)

This line of thinking brings a new emphasis to 2 Corinthians 10:5 and the necessity of casting down every thought to bring it unto the submission, standard of acceptability and Lordship of Christ Jesus.

 Ephesians 4:23 instructs us: “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”
 We must discipline our pursuit of Christ to follow the instruction of Scripture because we love Him. If we do these things can we help but be full of His nature? Can we help but be full of positivity and joy? Can we help but walk in the fulness of Holy Spirit? These are the fruits of discipleship.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23

How about "The Fruit of the Spirit" list; chief among them is “love.” Have you ever noticed that as you proceed through the list and compare similarities to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 how many of these items seems to be more specific characteristics of the Galatians list. It is almost a suggestion of the idea that The fruit items listed in Galatians proceed out of the Love that Holy Spirit gives us as we allow Him to cultivate our lives according to Kingdom parameters.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails...
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Now let’s do the same exercise with 1 Corinthians that we did earlier with Philippians 4...remember if His love lives in us, if He is Lord, then we are obligated to become life Him both because of His working in us and our surrender to His working. This time let’s separate your name where “love” appears. As we do this the mirror of Christ can be very convicting as searches for his reflection in us. Though His conviction can be brutally set against our flesh the beauty of it is that it is not without hope. Where do you fall short? I am certain that I need to grow in every one of these areas. However, this recognition should not lead to self-deprecating behavior or thoughts. It should not lead us into the shackles of despair and fleshly guilt. Rather it should cause us to turn towards the Holy Spirit’s burning fire of refinement. It should cause us to press into Jesus. Clearly He desires to pour these things out in us with abundant generosity that is measured according to His capacity not our own. What is more is that all of it is born out of His love!

He paints a picture of Love that is vast and rich and leaves us open eyed at the impossibility of manifesting these things on our own. Discipleship is the in short, the discipline that causes us to fix our gaze fully on the love-the glory of Christ while being transformed by its unfolding in us and the victory it brings over our flesh and its sin nature.