Archive | December, 2013

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014 | Develop an Intentional Devotional Plan

30 Dec


“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'” Matthew 4:4

Feast on the Word of God and intentionally satisfy a soul craving spiritual sustenance. Make and keep a daily appointment with the Lord and experience the kind of fulfillment only He can provide. Pray before you begin that the eyes of your heart will be open (Ephesians 1:18) in order to achieve a fuller understanding of the Word. Incorporate the spiritual discipline of journaling into your plan and write down passages to pray through. Keep track of how God is working in your life throughout the year. Seek encouragement and share with others in your church family or life group. Fill up on the Word to quell the hunger and quench the thirst of a soul crying out for the Lord. 

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014 by Justin Taylor

Do you want to read the whole Bible? The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.For those who like details, there’s a webpage devoted to how long it takes to read each book of the Bible. And if you want a simple handout that has every Bible book with a place to put a check next to every chapter, go here. Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.

The remainder of the article, which includes great resources and tips can be viewed here: How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014 – Justin Taylor

Additional resources:

Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Read the Bible in a Year

A Bible Reading Plan for Readers – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Want to Read the Bible through in 2014? – Mentoring Moments

Bible Reading Plans for 2014 by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog


Christmas For The Weary And Heavy Laden

25 Dec

burdenedChristmas For The Weary And Heavy Laden

Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”, but for many of you it’s the most painful. It’s that time of year when budgets break, when you’re reminded of how dysfunctional your family is, when you miss the people you love who have died or left.

For some of you, this is your first Christmas as a divorcee. Figuring out how to shuffle your children back and forth between you and your Ex on Christmas Day is a new pain for you. For others, you’re afraid it will be your last Christmas because of your recent diagnosis. Or, you’re afraid it will be your last Christmas with your mom because of her recent diagnosis. A lost job, a daughter who won’t even call on Christmas day, a son you haven’t talked to in three years, a father who can’t get sober, a sibling in rehab–Christmas reveals our deepest frustrations and fears, our most sincere sadness and suspicions, our brokenness and bitterness.

Christmas has a painful way of revealing why the first Christmas was so necessary.

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking; How we need to hear from God…

Christmas exposes our desperation but it also announces our Deliverer—the one who promises rest to the weary and heavy laden; the one who promises never to leave us or forsake us. For those who feel lonely and lost, anxious and abandoned, tired and tense—for those who are guilt-ridden and grieving—Christmas is for you. Especially for you!

The Incarnation of Jesus serves as a glorious reminder that God’s willingness to clean things up is infinitely bigger than our capacity to mess things up. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to confront our misery with his mercy, our confusion with his comfort, our guilt with his grace.

Christmas is the beachhead of God’s campaign against sin and sadness. It is the coming of light, life, and love into the occupied territory of darkness, death, and hate. Christmas is a war fought by a Peaceful Prince whose battle plan is to defeat death by dying, fear by forgiveness and slavery by salvation.

Christmas sets in motion the Divine pattern of God drawing near to us–not because we’ve done it right–but because we keep doing it wrong. Jesus came down to us because we are weak, not because we are strong.

Christmas highlights the inescapable fact that no matter how hard we try, we can’t do it. Apart from the Incarnation we are left to our own bankrupt resources. But at the same it shows us Jesus, who came to liberate us from the pressure of having to fix ourselves and others!, find ourselves, and free ourselves. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done” and make it on our own. He came to set us free from the need to secure for ourselves the affection and approval we long for but cannot attain.

In short, Christmas is God’s answer to the slavery of self-salvation. From the cries of a baby lying in a manger, God shouts, “I’ve got this. I’ll take it from here.”

Fragile finger sent to heal us, Tender brow prepared for thorn; Tiny heart whose blood will save us, Unto us is born.

It is this crying baby that wipes away our tears as our Wonderful Counselor. It is this powerless child that conquers despair and dejection as our Mighty God. It is this needy newborn that is the source of everything we need and long for as our Everlasting Father. It is this helpless infant that restores okayness to our lives as our Prince of Peace.

As Everything, he became nothing so that you–as nothing–could have everything.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Reprinted from: Christmas For The Weary And Heavy Laden – Tullian Tchividjian.

Additional information: Five Truths About the Incarnation – Desiring God

Immanuel, “God With Us”

24 Dec


“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” — Matthew 1:23 (NASB)

“‘Immanuel, God with us.’  It is hell’s terror.  Satan trembles at the sound of it. . . . Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ back he falls, confounded and confused. . . . ‘God with us’ is the laborer’s strength.  How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? . . . ‘God with us’ is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of the angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. . . .Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. . . . But in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem.  Let him have a place in your hearts, give him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given. I finish by again saying, A happy Christmas to you all!” — C. H. Spurgeon

God entered into human history as Jesus Christ — Immanuel, God with us, when he was born in a stable. “…the Word that was with God and that was God (John 1:1) “…became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14). He lived a sinless life and on the cross was a life poured out; taking upon Himself our sins and giving us His righteousness (double imputation). After His resurrection and ascent to Heaven we are not alone,

“…new covenant believers enjoy God’s constant presence in [their] lives through the Holy Spirit…John Piper says, that the first distinguishing thing about being Christian different from those who are “in the flesh” is that we are an “inhabited” people. And Paul says it three ways in Romans 8:9-10:

  1. “the Spirit of God dwells in you” (v. 9b);
  2. “you have the Spirit of Christ” (v. 9c);
  3. “Christ is in you” (v. 10a).

The different names here all are referring essentially to the same presence. The Spirit is equally the Spirit of God the Father and the Spirit of God the Son, Jesus Christ. Believers are in the presence of Christ all of the time…[as] the constant presence of God, the indwelling Spirit” (Marcia Lichte via It’s All About the Presence).

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” — Matthew 28:20 (b). Jesus was and is “God with us!”


Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > It’s All About the Presence | Christ in You

Ray Ortlund

True Woman | Immanuel Changes Everything

A Prayer for More Christmas Hush, Less Christmas Rush

23 Dec

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. Proverbs 17:1

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.“ Luke 10:41-42

Dear Lord Jesus, it’s the eve of Christmas Eve—arguably, one of the most pressure-laden, detail-heavy, preparation-peaking, relationship-stressing, and traffic-snarly days of the year. We are so thankful that you are the Prince of Peace, and that you’ve come to make peace, in the chaos of our world and hearts.

As this day unfolds, grant us wisdom to discern the difference between the many Martha-like-details that really don’t matter; and the “one good thing” you commended in Mary. Jesus, be our treasure and pleasure; the focus of our gaze and the joy of our hearts; not just, the “reason-for-the-season”, but, the very center of our existence.

May your welcoming, kind, gracious heart be the most notable reality in our homes this Christmas. Bring your centering peace to bear in profound and sensate ways. Grant us copious amounts of your mercy for our prodigals; your grace for our brokenness; and your compassion, for one and all alike.

To the degree our traditions have become idols; our expectations have grown unrealistic, our busyness reveals our barrenness, and our gift giving is more about face saving, forgive us and free us, Jesus.

May the silent night of your birth bring its gentling presence in our homes. May the “good news of great joy,” the angel’s declared, trump any other storyline we would write for this week. May your peace, that passes all understanding, reign in our hearts like an irresistible force. May the hope of the Day when “all will be put right,” free us to wait patiently and love boldly in this day.

Lord Jesus, as you have come to serve us—from your manger to the cross, so may we find our greatest joy this week in serving one another. Free us from any need for anybody to be any different than they are. So very Amen we pray, in your tender and triumphant name.

Reprinted from: A Prayer for More Christmas Hush, Less Christmas Rush – Heavenward by Scotty Smith.

Additionally, click here to view a related post: Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Harried, Hurried? | Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

Harried, Hurried? | Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

17 Dec

stress“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

“One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

If you find yourself harried, hurried, and just too busy to do the will of God during this Christmas season and your focus has shifted from Christ to the wordly pursuit of the perfect gift, meal, or travel experience…refocus. If all thoughts of serving have fled under the crushing stress of unrealistic expectation and the highlighted ideal has robbed you of your joy…realignPerfect holiday tableaus are erected months in advance in the hopes we will all be looking ahead willing to spend now for unattainable perfection in the future or looking to the past at less then ideal gatherings that missed the mark hoping for a second chance to recreate what failed. Blind yourself to these manufactured distractions…re entrench

“…your only hope for joy, and your only hope for peace, and your only hope for comfort, your only hope for love, and your only hope for strength in this life is found in the cross of Jesus Christ” ― David Platt

You cannot truly find your joy, peace, hope, love, strength, rest, or faith anywhere else but in the cross. Peter began his letter in 1 Peter 1:1-9 by addressing believers; reminding them they owe their salvation to God’s mercy and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is there on that tree fashioned of wood and nails we find God’s gift; a heart poured out. When weariness deflects your thoughts from the magnitude of the cross immerse yourself in the Word…drink it in and rediscover the hope and joy inexpressible found when you rest in the Lord.

“And what shall meet the deep unrest around thee,

But the calm peace of God that filled His Breast?

For still a living Voice calls to the weary,

From Him who said, “Come unto me and rest.””

― Freda Hanburry Allen

Additional resources for women: Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Harried, Hurried? | Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

The following article explores the ways Jesus offers us a place to store our fears and rest in Him…

Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

For many, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas leave us grateful but gassed. In the name of holiday festivities, December means attending multiple Christmas parties, traveling to see family and friends, and standing in line to get the ever-elusive “perfect gift.”

As much joy as Christmas brings, if we aren’t careful, holiday cheer can sap our energy and steal our joy. It is a great irony that the season of light often feels heavy. What can we do to find rest in this annual merry-thon?

Five things you might do to cultivate spiritual rest.

1. Unplug. While there’s a place for Christmas specials and live nativities, doing something smaller, with less pomp and circumstance, may be exactly what you need to cultivate rest. Such a change might give you the margin you need to be still and know that he is God.

2. Say no to something old. If your schedule includes multiple family meals, Christmas parties, and gift exchanges, find one (or more) to which you can say no. We are finite creatures, and it is good for us to draw boundaries.

3. Say yes to something new. Sing Christmas carols in a nursing home. Serve meals at a local mission. Take groceries to a needy family in your church. Christ’s invitation to rest is not a call to complacency; it is a chance to work in his strength (Col. 1:29).

4. Feed on the Word. As much attention as we give to savory meats and holiday treats, we should give more attention to God’s Word. This might mean reading Advent scriptures or picking up a book on Christ’s birth. However it looks, spiritual rest always involves hearing the promises of the gospel.

5. Pray. With your family or with others, carve out time to praise God for the birth of Christ. Pray for the persecuted church and those who are suffering this Christmas. Pray for missionaries and for those who don’t yet know Christ.

Whatever you do this month, put Christ at the center. And whether you finish the month rested or restless, take comfort that ultimately his life, not ours, secures our Sabbath rest. In this month’s merry-thon, remember that Christ has come to be the good news of great joy for weary people.

Excerpted from David Schrock’s article Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon – The Gospel Coalition Blog.


It’s All About the Presence | Christ in You

9 Dec


“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” Romans 8:9

This past Saturday many of the women of TACC gathered together and considered the presence of our Lord.

Friends, fellowship, snacking, and crafting
Friends, fellowship…

Marcia Lichte spoke emphasizing that believers have the presence of God indwelling and therefore always in His presence. For those of you who were hampered by the inclement weather or previous engagements and were unable to attend, Marcia’s notes, scripture, and thought provoking discussion questions follow.

Please scroll down to read or click on these links to download:

It’s All About the Presence Talk

Scripture & Discussion Questions

In addition to the talk the ladies had a great time snacking on delicious homemade appetizers and creating a Christmas ornament to remind them of Christ’s presence and the event.





Link to TACC or continue to read here: It’s All About the Presence – Christ in You – December 7, 2013

The Manger – by Marcia Lichte

A manger like this one,instantly represents Christmas to us, doesn’t it?

In a Christmas Eve sermon, Martin Luther (German leader of the Protestant Reformation) encouraged his congregation to be like a manger in which Jesus can be found. May our hearts be like that simple manger bed, prepared for the greatest gift of all: Our Savior.

The manger is a comfortable symbol of God being “with us”, right here on earth, in bodily human form, fully God and fully man.

When Jesus was born and placed in a manger, His physical presence was made real and He was here, He was Emmanuel, He was “God with us” – and that was very significant to the Jewish people because their whole faith was built on the redemptive promises of God and the looking forward to the coming Messiah.

At Christmas, Jesus came as a soft and wonderful little baby to be placed in a manger, perhaps like this one.  But the reality is that that baby came to live a perfect life like we are unable to live and then to die for our sins.He came to take our sins upon Himself on the cross.

The Bible says we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory, and that the wages of sin is death. So the ultimate gift of God we acknowledge at Christmas is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord to all who believe. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” There is no other life except through Christ.

But what does that really mean – having life through Christ?  That brings us to another of God’s marvelous gifts to us – His real and constant presence – the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each of us who believe.  This is what changes everything – regenerates us and gives a new life in Christ.

After Christmas, actually after Pentecost, everything changes for God’s people.  As new covenant believers, we enjoy God’s constant presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit – Christ IS our life.  (Colossians 3:1-4, Romans 8:9-11).

John Piper says, that the first distinguishing thing about being Christian different from those who are “in the flesh” is that we are an “inhabited” people. And Paul  says it three ways in Romans 9 & 10:

1) “the Spirit of God dwells in you” (v. 9b);

2) “you have the Spirit of Christ” (v. 9c);

3) “Christ is in you” (v. 10a).

The different names here all are referring essentially to the same presence. The Spirit is equally the Spirit of God the Father and the Spirit of God the Son, Jesus Christ. And the Spirit communicates so much of Christ that it is fitting to say Christ himself is present in you.

As believers, we are already in the presence of Christ all of the time.  We just don’t always realize it or take notice of it – we don’t live like we believe it.

It is a unique and special gift not enjoyed by the Old Testament saints. In the OT, the Jewish people knew all about how God had promised them that the Messiah was coming, as a baby, and would be called “Immanuel – God with us”.  They looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s promised redemption and believed that all He had said in His Word would come to be. But because the ultimate gift of redemption had not yet been given, they also had not yet received the gift of the constant presence of God, the indwelling of the Spirit.

Don’t get me wrong – The Spirit of God was active and working from eternity past, and was involved in the creation of world.  Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters as God said “Let there be light!”

In Old Testament times, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit could be selective and temporary. The work of the Holy Spirit was the same as now – to bring the active presence of God into the world and to act through His people. The Holy Spirit does this by empowering, purifying, revealing, convicting and unifying – all of this to enable God’s people to do what they are being called upon to do in order to fulfill God’s will.

Time and time again the Old Testament tells us of those who were filled with the Spirit in order to accomplish a specific task or for a season.

In Genesis 41, Pharaoh recognized that the Spirit of God was in Joseph (Gen. 41:38). He likely didn’t really understand it but he recognized the Spirit’s presence anyways.

In Exodus, Bezalelwas the craftsman who was assigned  the task of making all of the things God had directed to be made for the Tabernacle, including the Tabernacle tent, the ark of the covenant, all of the altarpieces and utensils and even in the priests garments – God says in Exodus 31:3-5 ”…I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.”

Moses certainly didn’t want to enter the Promised Land without God’s presence.  After the incident with the Golden Calf, God had had enough of the “stiff-necked” people of Israel and said that He would allow them to continue on to the promised land  but that he could not continue with them because being in their presence would only cause Him to destroy them.  God told Moses that He would send His angel with them.  But Moses interceded for the people and said that if God does not go with them he would rather not go at all.  He understood the power that comes with the presence of God.  There is so much more to this – read the whole story from Exodus 25 through 40 – it is a fabulous example of both God’s great power and sovereignty as well as His unending patience, grace and forgiveness towards His people Israel.

Then in Numbers 11 – God acknowledges the Holy Spirit that is already working through Moses and He then pours some of this same Spirit out on selected men naming them Elders over Hischosen people.

Also in Numbers, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Balaam and the Spirit allows him only to bless God’s people rather than curse them as he was hired to do. Remember the story about the angel and the donkey?

In many of Samson feats of strength and courage, the Bible says that “The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him” and empowered Samson; but later the Lord left him when he was disobedient (Judges 13:25; 16:20).

The Spirit was with Saul but later left him (1 Sam. 10:10; 16:14)when God had David anointed to be the new king. There was no guarantee of the permanent presence of the Spirit in Old Testament times.

The Bible tells us that the Spirit of God was with Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, and Daniel and a host of others at critical times and places when God specially empowered these folks to do great things in the fulfillment of His will.

And then, in fulfillment of all that God had planned and promised, Jesus came.  He brought salvation and eternal life to all who believe.  He left us with the words, ”And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In John 14, Jesus told His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

And as He had promised, He left us a Helper, His Spirit, the Spirit of truth. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Colossians 1:27, Galatians 2:20).

So as new covenant believers, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  Jesus has promised that:

–      that He will be with us always,

–      that He will be our Helper and lead us to the truth,

–      that He is in us and is our hope of glory,

–      that our bodies are His Temple and are to be Holy,

–      that we have been crucified with Christ and it is now Christ who lives in you!

Do you think this should make you feel and act differently? Absolutely! We must realize that we live the life of Christ – we are to be more like Him in our thoughts and actions as we grow in maturity in our faith. We must be Christ to each other, as other believers should Christ to us. We need to love and serve and care, for each other and for the world, as Jesus did. We need to abide in Christ through His word through prayer– we need to read the Bible to regularly commune with Christ. I would like to end by reading John 15:1-17 about abiding in Christ.  In light of all we have just heard about Christ living in us and all that means, I find that the idea of abiding in Christ a little bit clearer and more attainable knowing that we have Christ’s help and His constant presence.

 Scripture Reference:

Colossians 3:1-4, Romans 8:9-11, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Colossians 1:27, Galatians 2:20, John 14:15-17, John 15:1-17

Discussion Questions:

1)     What does it mean to live in a way that acknowledges that “Christ is in you”?  What helps you and what hinders you from living this way?

2)     Do your actions match what is in your heart (your loves, your intentions, your passions, your desires)?

3)     Do you obey God willingly out of love for Him or do you have some other purpose or motivation?

4)     What does it mean to be Christ to each other?  What does it look like, in practical, real world application, to love each other as Christ loves us?

Four Accounts, One Savior | Captivated By Christ

3 Dec


“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” John 17:3

The four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) present their parallel accounts of the life of Jesus uniquely to help us, the reader, truly understand the magnitude of his birth, death, burial, and resurrection through comprehension of His character in which God’s attributes and His glory are revealed. The more we immerse ourselves in this truth the more we are captivated by Christ. Our desire to know Him grows exponentially and we become more purposeful in our pursuit; cultivating inexpressible joy at the foot of the Cross and in the presence of God.

Peace, joy, radical generosity, audacious faith, and unwavering trust are all the fruits of dwelling on the gospel…That is the “secret,” if you will, of the gospel: these fruits are not produced, at the heart level, by focusing on them; they come by focusing on Jesus. That is what makes the gospel truly a “revolutionary” message.

~J.D. Greear

Four Accounts, One Savior

The significance of Jesus’ birth is best understood in the totality of his life, teachings, death, and resurrection. Whether you have just begun to consider Jesus or already consider yourself a believer in him, let me encourage you to read through the four Gospels this Advent season to gain a fuller appreciation for the significance of his birth…

To view the post in its entirety please click here: Four Accounts, One Savior | Captivated By Christ

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