Greetings from Pastor Bob and The Encouraging Word!! Merry Christmas. Wow. It is here already. I hope everyone has got all your Christmas shopping done. I know I donít. And I was in Walmart yesterday and I could tell that there are thousands of others like me. So I want to apologize right now for not getting your gift in the mail on time for Christmas. It does not mean that I donít love you. Because I really, really do!

 

Before I go off on some crazy pre-amble ramble, we really need to pray for some people. Amyís boyfriend is still in I.C.U. at Tampa General and the last I heard he was not doing well. Please keep him in your prayers. Also Debbie Reynolds is in need of our prayers. She has cancer of the lungs and they can not operate. Letís pray for a miracle in her life. We miss her so much her at Interbay. There are many, many people who are suffering with this virus or cold or whatever it is that is going around. Letís keep one another in our prayers and please do not forget to pray for our service men and women so far away from home this Christmas.

 

So, instead of just talking about praying, letís do that together right now, OK?

 

Father God we come before you in the name of the one whose birthday we celebrate this week, in the name of Jesus. LORD we praise you. We worship you, we ask for your forgiveness for all our sins, they are many, but you are greater then our sins, and the price you paid was worth much more than all the sins in the universe. Thank you for loving us even when we have not been so lovable at times. And I ask that you give us the wisdom and the strength to love others even as you have loved us. Now LORD we lift before you those who need a special healing touch. You are the God that heals. Your word declares that by your stripes we have been healed. So we lift this young man who is in the hospital up to you and we ask for a miracle in his life. We lift up Debbie Reynolds and Mae and Rev. Calkins and Pastor Bobís wife, Debbie and all those who need healing to you. OH, LORD search our hearts and see the love ones that we are praying for right now, and meet each of them right at the very point of their need. Thank you LORD for knowing our thoughts and hearing our prayers. We want to say a special prayer for the men and women in the Armed Service of this county. LORD, keep them safe and let them know that they are loved. Be with this Nation and let us shine the truth of who you are to a cold and dieing world. You are the God of eternal abundant life. Let us know that, and show that, in Jesus name; AMEN!

 

Well, we sure can tell that this global warming thing is catching on. Man it is hot! OH, Iím sorry itís not hot where you are? I am so sad for you. Well, you are always welcome to come and visit us her in Tampa. And if you can not be here in person then make sure that you visit us on the internet. Donít forget that you can now watch our services live over the internet at:

 

www.interbaycommunitychurch.com

 

   Soon we will be able to archive some of the services and you will be able to watch anytime night or day. Praise the LORD for His word being proclaimed all around the world. And you can help in that by forwarding these messages on to your friends and loved ones.

 

With that said we would love to hear form you. If you can drop us a card or letter or if you can help us out with some of the expense of the internet ministry then please send your tax deductible offering to:

 

Interbay Community Open Bible Church

4308 Euclid Ave.

Tampa. FL 33629

 

We really do need any help that you can give us to continue to grow.

 

Before I forget I want us all to keep my good friend Diane Who is on the mission field in Guatemala in your prayers. Do me a favor and send her a not of your support and wish her a merry Christmas at her E-Mail Address:

gmasflamingo@gmail.com

 

I am going to try to get some pictures and info about the mission work she is doing up on our web site. I am so proud and happy for her and praise God for the work that all our missionaries are doing all around the world.

 

I really wish I had more time to let you know about all the things that are going on in my life, but time is one thing I donít have a lot of. So keep me in your prayers and thank you for being a part of this ministry and my life. I really do love you and hope to hear form you soon.

 

NowÖÖ LETĒS GET INTO THE WORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Christmas To You?

 

(Luke 2:1 Ė 11 KJV)  And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 

The question really comes down to who you think, no, who you know was born that day. Was it just another child born into a poor family or was it indeed the one who created the very heavens and the earth itself? Some who choose not to believe might say with a shrug; what difference does it make anyway? Those of us who have discovered the truth have come to realize how it makes all the difference in the universe for all eternity. You see having studied Buddhism, and Taoism and Judaism and just about every other ism there is, not only does all the facts point towards that Bethlehem birth being the day deity became flesh, but it really became the pivot point of my life.

 

I understand that some people just donít get it. I didnít get it for a long time either. I mean it really seems too simple. When I was a child I could believe in such simple solutions to lifeís problems, but as grew and became educated it was easy to see how there could be no simple solution. I searched the eight fold path of the Buddah and found my self lost down a dead end road. Even Buddah himself admitted to not knowing the way, but simply suggested that we try his path as it was just as good as any.

 

Talking to Christians now, why are you a Christian and what does that mean? Are you a Christian because your mother was a Christian? Are you a Christian because of some emotional experience that happened to you in some church service? Are you a Christian because everyone else is? I hope it is not for any of the above reasons. Well, I take that back. If you are indeed a Christian, then I really donít care why, just as long as you truly are. So then what exactly is a Christian?

 

The following is a quote from Anderson Cooper of CNN:

 

ďWhat is a Christian? We pose it, by the way, not to exclude anyone, but simply to recognize a fact. No other religion -- not yet -- has so profoundly shaped this country or been shaped by it. No other question, except perhaps what is an American, has figured so highly in so many debates that effect us all.Ē

                                                                               

The statistics show a completely different view of America then we often see in the streets.

 

In the above transcript it was said that over 85% of Americans are Christians. According to the Barna Research Group that number is more like 70%.

 

That is still a larger percentage then I see on the streets every day. I hear more people putting down Christianity then people defending it. I see more people in the media denouncing Christianity then those upholding it. I watch more documentaries trying to refute Christianity then those showing the unequivocal facts of it.  But letís go back and look at a few more statistics and see what people really believe in our nation.

 

The following data is from the Barna Research web site.

 

83% of  Adults Pray within any given week.

35% of Adults in our Nation consider themselves to be ďBorn Again Christians.Ē

47% of Adults attend a weekly church service

56% of Adults attending a weekly church service say they are 100% committed to Christ.

9% of Born Agains tithe.       

48% of Adults believe the Bible is accurate in all its teachings.

12% of Born Agains do not believe the Bible is Accurate in all its teachings.

54 % of Americans believe that if you are good enough you will get into heaven.

 

OK, enough statistics. The first thing we all need to know is that the truth is not decided by consensus. When 98% of the people of the world believed that the world was flat and that the Sun revolved around the earth it did not make it true.

 

So letís go back to our original question. What is Christmas to you? We as Christians know that it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. But what does that mean personally to you and how do you celebrate it? Many of us use this time to show others, especially our family and close friends and loved ones how we feel by giving them gifts and cards and doing acts of kindness. The children, even the adults love to see good old Saint Nick with his HO, HO, HO. And we watch all the Christmas specials we can endure and listen to Christmas music throughout the whole season. We light up our houses and decorate the inside and out. How can it not make an impact upon the unsaved?

 

Sometimes I believe that we as Christians are overly judgmental of our neighbors. And that is most likely because we are overly judgmental of ourselves. I read a Christmas Sermon by Robert Livingston Stevens the other night and it was focused on the simple things of life. The qualities of kindness and goodness. Too often we get so wrapped up in trying to live up to our own expectations that we miss the whole experience of the goodness of life. We can get so wrapped up in trying to make everything just right that we miss the smile of a love one who tomorrow might not be with us. We can spend so much time looking back at our mistakes in the past that we miss the joy of today. There is one truth, one verse of the Bible that I believe really sums up what Christmas is. It tells us the reason that the God of all Creation became flesh and went through all that He did for us, for you.

 

The verse that I am referring to is not one that you might expect. But for me it really sums up why Jesus did what He did, exactly that way He did it. You see, we have a real enemy and that enemy wants nothing more then to make our lives miserable. Have you ever known anyone who was miserable and just wanted to make other people join them in their misery? Sometimes I think we all can get that way once in a while. But God is the God of hope. He is the God of the eternal now. He is the God of the living. And He created life and gave it as a gift to you, because He loves you. So the passage that I am referring to is John 10:10

 

 (John 10:10 CEV)  A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.

 

John 10:10 (Amplified Bible)

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).

ďLive life to its fullest, without convictions of death.Ē Christ came to break the bonds of affliction, to set you free from the weight of sin and all the stupid mistakes of your past. He came to give you freedom, deliverance, health, hope and happiness. The really cool thing is that it is always, and I mean always, right there at a hands reach from you. All you have to do is to reach out and take it. LOVE, JOY, PEACEÖ. It is all yours to enjoy. LIFE IS GOOD! If you are having a hard time feeling it, then do what God did and give it to someone else, and see if you donít get even more back in return.

 

There is so much to say about that one day. That one day when the word became flesh. That one day when the great I Am became a helpless baby born into a poor somewhat dysfunctional family. If Jesus can overcome being born poor, illegitimate, Jewish, homeless, end up being beaten and spat upon, unjustly condemned and brutally murdered and still not only forgive, but love the ones that hurt him, then maybe, just maybe, you and I can overcome our situation.

 

But it is not just an example that He set for us, it is life that He gave to us. Unlimited potential. Do not forget who He is. He is not just a little baby lying in a manger. He is the one who spoke and put the stars into place. And because of this day, because of Christmas, you have that gift of life within you. You have that ability, that power, to create and give abundant life to others.

 

That is the true gift. It is the gift of Joy. It is the gift of forgiveness. It is the gift of unconditional love. And it is yours to both receive and to give. The more you give, the more you will receive. This Christmas give the gift of life. Receive the love of God and accept the Messiah as savior and king.

 

Nail all of your sins to that cross that Jesus was nailed upon and receive Him into your heart as LORD and personal Savior. You really can not earn your way into heaven. No matter how good you are there is only one way, the way. By asking, and receiving forgiveness of your sins from Jesus. He paid the price. That means the price has been paid. Stop bringing all those old dead sins up again and start today by living in the forgiven, blessed and highly favored now!

 

What is Christmas. It is the birth of abundant life. and the more you give, the more you get!!!!! God bless you this Christmas and throughout the new year.

 

Your friend;

 

Pastor Bob.

 

Donít forget to visit us at:

 

www.interbaycommunitychurch.com