Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Christmas Prayer

"At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, "Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!" Jesus' parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby's mother, "This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul." (Luke 2: 25-35)

I enjoyed digging into Simeon's life and thought his example would be a great way for us to end this year and prepare for an incredible year of ministry ahead. As the story opens, we see Mary and Joseph obeying the Law. The Law said that when a mother gave birth to a male child, that on the 8th day, the child was to be circumcised. On the 40th day after his birth, the parents were to take the child to the Temple and present him to God and offer a sacrifice of consecration with 2 turtle doves or young pigeons.

But Mary and Joseph didn't know that when they arrived at the temple there would be an old man waiting for them. His name is Simeon. He has waited all his life for this moment. Simeon is a part of a group of Hebrew men who were called the "quiet of Israel." They devoted their lives to praying, meditating on God's Word, and to waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

What are you waiting for as you approach a new year? A man was sleeping when his wife shook him, "Wake up, someone is breaking in!" He had gone through this almost every night for 20 yrs, and he knew that the only way he would get any rest was to go and check it out. This time, however, there was a man with a gun who had entered to rob the house.

As the thief was about to flee, "Wait, you have to come with me and meet my wife." The thief said, "Why would you want me to meet your wife?" "Well, she's been expecting you for 20 years."

Well, I would loved to have been in the Temple when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus in to be dedicated. Simeon knew God's promise to him was being unfolded before his very eyes. He had seen salvation with his own eyes. Joseph and Mary were amazed when an old man took their son into his arms and spoke such powerful words. Simeon reminded them that Jesus was indeed a gift from God; the Messiah who would be a light to the world. He told them that God had indeed provided a Savior, but salvation is not automatic. Those with faith and those without faith would be clearly distinguished. He concluded by reminding Mary that she would be grieved by the widespread rejection Jesus would face.

Simeon knew that Jesus was not just going to be the Savior of the remnant - believing Israel. He was going to be the Savior of the world, "a light of revelation to the Gentiles…" - the only way of salvation, the one name whereby a man or a woman comes to God.

He says how every man, woman, boy and girl responds to Jesus will determine his or her fate both now and forevermore. He says, "You reject Jesus and He is appointed for your fall, but you embrace Jesus and you will rise with Him like the dawn. Accept Him and find eternal life; reject Him, and live in death forever.

Remember as you approach 2011 that Jesus is the issue and that you and I are called to tell everyone we meet the good news of the glorious gospel. Like Simeon, let's live each day in obedience so that when the time comes God can use us. Like Simeon, let's never lose our hope that one day we too will see the Messiah!

What a way to go out …….

Dr. Derek

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Advent of Peace

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2: 14)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

(John 14:27)

Jesus is not to us as Christmas is to the world, here today and gone tomorrow. That is the true meaning of his coming. That is the meaning of our Savior, Christ and Lord. “Glory to God in the highest” is a descriptive word of heaven. The dwelling place of God and on earth brings perfect peace as Christ comes to dwell among men.

Today, men everywhere are talking about peace. In Washington, in the Middle East, in Iraq, many are trying to produce peace. There is no peace on earth except among men in whom “God is well pleased.” That’s the basis of God’s peace.

This little boy passing from babyhood, from childhood, and youth will stand about thirty years of age on the verge of his Messianic mission. He is baptized, and follows his baptism with a great teaching and healing ministry, calling men to repentance. He marches to Calvary and sheds his blood. He becomes the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I would be made pleasing to God. He conquers the grave and triumphantly returns to the Father as our victorious King.

He leaves us with a precious gift: His personal peace. This is the end result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives – a deep and lasting peace. Christ’s peace ensures us that, despite any and all circumstance, we have no need to fear the present or the future. Let’s make sure this is the message we proclaim.

In the Indian Ocean there is a Christmas Island; an almost lost, isolated speck of land. There is another Christmas Island, an equally isolated speck of land almost lost in the Pacific Ocean. Christmas is always an island; an island of hope in a world of despair, an island of love in a world of indifference, an island of giving in a self-centered world.

All we could ever imagine, could ever hope for, He is.... He is the Prince of Peace whose first coming has already transformed society but whose second coming will forever establish justice and righteousness.

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Advent of Joy

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 8-11)

“Joy to the World” is Isaac Watts’ interpretation of Psalm 98, which says, “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth” (verse 4). I suspect as Isaac Watts studied Psalm 98, he pondered the real reason for shouting joyfully to the Lord. The Messiah has come to redeem us. The “good news of great joy” is that we have a Savior, and he is Christ the Lord!

The angels of Heaven are teaching us about joyful expression as they announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the fields. They were terrified, their fear quickly turned to joy. They ran to see the baby and then they ran to spread the news of great joy to the world.

C. S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” The angels direct the shepherds, and in a way to us as well, to declare the joy of a Savior to the world. Janet Stuart surmises: “To be a joy-bearer and a joy-giver says everything, for in our life, if one is joyful, it means that one is faithfully living for God, and that nothing else counts; and if one gives joy to others one is doing God’s work; with joy without and joy within, all is well . . . I can conceive no higher way.”

Today we have “Good News of Great Joy.” A Savior has been born. He is Christ the Lord. He is Christ Our Lord. He is Christ MY LORD!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

(Isaac Watts, 1719)

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Advent of Love

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." (Micah 5:2)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Why Bethlehem? Why a seemingly obscure town to display the greatest measure of love the world has ever known? Bethlehem means “House of Bread” and is the birthplace of the Davidic dynasty. Eprathrah is comparable in today’s culture to the name of the county inclusive of the town (Jacksonville, Calhoun). Here we have a seven-century old prophecy explicitly fulfilled by Christ. At the “House of Bread” the Bread of Life was born into the world!

Micah decrees that this “Ruler in Israel” is “of old, from everlasting.” Though the Messiah’s lineage could be traced back to his royal ancestor (David), his roots go all the way back to eternity. The love displayed in a manger over two-thousand years ago has eternal beginnings and endings. Jesus echoed Micah’s prophecy in John 3:16 by revealing the kind of “love” that carried eternal marks.

“Agape” love is unconditional love that reveals the sacrificial heart of the Savior. And what was God’s motive in the birth of Christ. “For God so loved…” There you have it! God’s love was turned into an act of giving. He gave his very best for a specific reason: “…that all who believes in him would never perish.” WOW! Now that’s LOVE.

God’s deepest desire is to have depraved, sinful man restored to himself. God, out of love for us, became like us, so that we might become like him in eternal heaven. I pray this thought captures your heart and your every thought this holiday season. God loved me so much that he gave his only Son. He gave to me first. He is my role model for giving.

Dr. Derek

Yesterday’s worship was in a word: INCREDIBLE! What a great way to kick off our Christmas offering and our new message series. Our goal this year is the largest in our church’s history: $30,000. I can’t wait to see what God does through his people. Our “Change the World” globes have paid for themselves many times over. Our volunteer counters spent over three hours yesterday counting all the change. Hallelujah!!

To have the Andersons here from Honduras was a special treat. They are our missionaries in Honduras and are on furlough until December 22. All three services were very emotional for us. We wept several times as they shared about delivering all the clothes to over 216 children at the school in Santa Elena. I will never forget two of the experiences Michael and Alba shared with us. I can picture it this morning:

*A mother carries her crippled son three miles to school every day, stays to carry him from classroom to classroom, and then the three mile trip home. I can see the look on her face when her son is given a new wheelchair. I can see the tears streaming down her tired cheeks as emotion swept over her. I can see the look on her child’s face. PRICELESS!!

*A dad receives a ride from Michael and Alba as he goes to the clinic with his baby. When asked if he is a Christian he responds: NO. They stop at the apex of the mountain as Michael and Alba share the good news of Jesus Christ. He prays to receive Christ as his personal Savior in what Michael described for us as a “mountain top experience.” PRICELESS!!

Our Family Friendly Christmas message series and the website designed to support it started off with a bang! As a reminder, go and see all the helpful resources designed to help us keep the miracle of the manger in focus. Invite someone to be with you for worship in the remaining three weeks of the year. Together let’s declare to the world: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2: 14)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Advent of Hope

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” (Isaiah 9:2)

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." (John 8:12)

We marked the start of our Advent celebration yesterday by celebrating the message of hope through the prophets’ declaration that the Messiah would bring the “Light of life” to the hearts of men. Jesus proclaimed that he was Isaiah’s “great light.” He is our hope. That is a promise we must cling to because there are going to be things happen to you in this life that will make you cling to that eternal hope because there is no other.

Wally and Barbara Rendel know that’s true. Wally was minister at the Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington for over 20 years. But a few years ago, they got the phone call that every parent dreads. Late one night an Ohio State Trooper told them their 21 year old daughter Jill was killed when the van that she was riding in, with the rest of the girls’ basketball team from her college, had overturned.

Jill was vivacious, on the dean’s list, popular, and was selected by her student body as Homecoming Queen just several days before she was killed. She was a Daddy’s girl. The week before she died, she was home in Lexington and sat on her Dad’s lap for an hour just joking around. When Wally and Barbara received the news that Jill had been killed they were devastated. But within minutes, because of his faith, this Dad through tears said, "The Queen has gone home to be with the King."

There is something markedly different about the way Christians face death. Paul said, "We grieve, but not as those who have no hope." The funeral for Jill was packed. Over 1000 came. It was not a service of sadness, but a celebration of Jill’s ultimate victory in Christ and our promise of life eternal.

Toward the end of the service a young man sang a most moving song. It’s entitled, "I fell on my knees and cried Holy." The song says,

"I dreamed of a city called glory, so bright and so fair. When I entered the gates I cried holy, the angels all met with me there. They carried me from mansion to mansion. Oh, the sights that I saw. Then I said, "I want to see Jesus, for He’s the one who died for all."

Hope is Heaven Offering Peace Eternally to all who will trust Christ!

Dr. Derek

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Thanksgiving Blessing

Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”

(Colossians 1: 12-13)

I cannot believe Thanksgiving is upon us. This is my fourth Thanksgiving in Jacksonville. As Julie and I finished our connection group bible study last night, I was sitting there thanking God for the precious people he has brought into my life. We are so blessed to live in Jacksonville and to serve alongside an incredible staff and church family.

Many of you asked about the Thanksgiving Proclamation by George Washington that I shared in the message yesterday. I am providing the full text of Washington’s proclamation for you. As you read the text, please note how our nation’s leaders were totally dependent upon God and his constant provision. And as you gather this week with your family for Thanksgiving, remember the blessings so graciously bestowed upon you. Acknowledge His power, protection and presence over your life and home. Remember where he has brought you and where he is leading you. Praise him. Serve him. Glorify him.

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and

Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLIC THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been able to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wife, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Happy Thanksgiving,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Super-Human Forgiveness

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so that you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” (Colossians 1: 9-14, NLT)

Albert Tomei is a justice of the New York State Supreme Court. He has been a judge for twenty-nine years and presently sits in the Criminal Term of the Supreme Court in Kings County, NY. A few years ago a young defendant was convicted in Judge Tomei’s court of gunning down another person execution style. The murderer had a bad record, was no stranger to the system, and only stared in anger as the jury returned its guilty verdict.

The victim’s family had attended every day of the two-week trial. On the day of sentencing, the victim’s mother and grandmother addressed the court. When they spoke, neither addressed the jury. Both spoke directly to the murderer. They both forgave him.

"You broke the Golden Rule – “loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” You broke the law – “loving your neighbor as yourself.” I am your neighbor," the older of the two women told him. "You have my address. If you want to write, I’ll write you back. I sat in this trial for two weeks, and for the last sixteen months I tried to hate you. But you know what? I could not hate you. I feel sorry for you, because you made a wrong choice."

Judge Tomei writes: "For the first time since the trial began, the defendant’s eyes lost their laser force and appeared to surrender to a life force that only a mother can generate: nurturing, unconditional love. After the grandmother finished, I looked at the defendant. His head was hanging low. There was no more swagger, no more stare. The destructive and evil forces within him collapsed helplessly before this remarkable display of humaneness." (

In choosing the path of forgiveness, that grandmother unleashed a power that could not be tapped in any other way. And that power was what caused the defendant to hang his head for the first time. You never know how the power of God will be put on display when you choose the path of forgiveness.


Here is the link to the meal schedule for the Medlins, if you would like to participate in that.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Full Forgiveness

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Her name was 66730, or at least that was the name she went by. Her father had died in a German Concentration camp as did her sister. Her freedom, her dignity, her humanity had been stripped away by those who imprisoned her and yet she survived. They had robbed her of everything she ever possessed, but they couldn’t rob her of the one who possessed her, Jesus. She saw every day in Ravensbruck as a chance to minister to someone more needy then herself, and then one day she was released. As suddenly as she had become a prisoner, she was freed and her solitary aim was to minister to others.

When the war was over she began traveling and speaking while sharing her Savior and the vision that He had given her. And then one day, something happened, something that shook her to the very center of her being. By the way, you don’t know her as 66730. You know her as Corrie ten Boom. Listen to a portion of her story:

"It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there, the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsy’s pain blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. "How grateful I am for your message Fraulein," he said. "To think, as you say, He has washed my sins away!" His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendall the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man: was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile. I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that this worlds healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."

Forgiveness is to be once and for all. In Isaiah 43:25 God says, “I will not remember your sins.” Sometimes we feel like saying, “I can forgive, but I can’t forget.”

Forgiving doesn’t mean instant amnesia. The more we try to forget, the more we remember. Just decide not to remember. You can’t erase what happened in the past, but you can choose not to keep it current and replay the tapes daily. If it’s forgiven, it’s final.

Until Next Week,


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Giving Glory to God

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)

In his book Dropping Your Guard, Chuck Swindoll tells of Flight 401 bound for Miami from New York City with a load of holiday passengers. As the huge aircraft approached the Miami Airport for its landing, a light that indicates proper deployment of the landing gear failed to come on. The plane flew in a large, looping circle over the swamps of the Everglades while the cockpit crew checked out the light failure. Their question: Had the landing gear actually not deployed or was it just the light bulb that was defective?

The flight engineer fiddled with the bulb. He tried to remove it, but it wouldn't budge. Another member of the crew tried to help out...and then another. By and by, if you can believe it, all eyes were on the little light bulb that refused to be dislodged from its socket. No one noticed that the plane was losing altitude. Finally, it dropped right into a swamp.

Many were killed in that plane crash. While an experienced crew of high-priced and seasoned pilots messed around with a seventy-five-cent light bulb, an entire airplane and many of its passengers were lost. The crew momentarily forgot the most basic of all rules of the air -- "Don't forget to fly the airplane!"

The same thing can happen to us today. We can get so busy doing “church” that we forget the fundamental calling our life: Do everything for the glory of God! We can get so busy spinning our “ministry plates” that we miss that which is of eternal significance – Giving God Glory!

Many churches are like that impressive invention which had hundreds of wheels, coils, gears, pulleys, belts, bells and lights which all went around and around and flashed at the touch of a button. When the inventor was asked about the function of the weird machine, he replied, "What does it do? Oh, it doesn't do anything, but doesn't it run beautifully?" Let's not be like Flight 401 or the invention that doesn't do anything! Our primary objective is to magnify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Never forget this fundamental truth: God’s Glory Should Be Your Sole and Constant Desire! Here are some verses that will help guide you in giving God glory this week:

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (I Cor. 8:6)

And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.” (I Cor. 15:28)

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” (Heb. 2:10)

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)