Archive for the ‘ Christmas ’ Category

Preparing Your Heart – The Fourth Week of Advent 2019

We are finishing up our advent series, first shared five years ago!

It is now the fourth week of Advent! (See the last three weeks’ devotional thoughts here (and here) and here (and here) and here (and here).)

Again, Advent is a time to remember our Lord’s first coming as we look forward to His imminent return.

So, let us prepare hearts for encountering the Lord!

There is a slight twist today in presentation, as well, as we prepare for Christmas!

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

At first we are reminded that sometimes life is going well.
Then we are reminded that sometimes life is hard.

Life seems perfect and flawless.
Or we are dealing with an illness, a tragedy, or the loss of a loved one.

The answer, in any circumstance good or bad, is to fall on our knees and acknowledge that we need a Savior, to seek the God who came to save us from our sin and suffering by coming to us as an infant, the weakest of all things.

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

The Light of the world calls us to Himself, and only the wise heed His call. Only the wise understand that He truly understands all of our hurts and needs and can help us because He has been through it all.
And He deserves our adoration and worship.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

It is not only our trials and pains which he helps, but He has called us to love all other people.
We not only see our need for salvation from sin and God’s wrath, we see our need for His love to fill our hearts, to treat our friends, enemies, and strangers alike as brothers and sisters, with love and compassion.

And for ever we shall worship Him and declare His awesomeness!

For He has come to save and will come again a final time to fully redeem His own, and that is the full promise of the gospel!

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Revelation 22:20-21, ESV

Preparing Your Heart – The Third Week of Advent 2019

We are continuing the series originally posted five years ago!

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It is now the third week of Advent! (See the last two weeks’ devotional thought here (and here) and here (and here).)

Again, Advent is a time to remember our Lord’s first coming as we look forward to His imminent return.

So, let us prepare hearts for encountering the Lord!

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old“

. . .

“for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”
Luke 1:68-70, 2:30-32, ESV

The first part of the quote is from Zechariah, John the Baptist’s dad, at John’s birth. The second part of the quote was said by Simeon, an old and devout man, when he saw the baby Jesus at the Temple.

These two men knew that the Lord’s salvation was at hand. If you read all of chapters one and two of Luke, you can see that even they did not understand His plan of salvation. They were on the right track, but they were not aware of how things would unfold.

The Lord had come, Emmanuel, God with us, and he brought salvation. It was first brought to Israel, the Jews in Jerusalem in particular, and then it spread to “all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) over the past 2,000 years.

What most everyone then did not know was that first the Lord would bring spiritual salvation, the forgiveness of sins and the repairing of the relationship with God and humanity; the physical redemption from all enemies is still to come.

Let us remember that salvation has come, but we await our salvation from the pain and evil of this world (see Romans 8). We do not understand fully how it will all happen, but we know Jesus will return!

May we not get caught up in the knowledge we have and miss the signs of His coming. May we remember that we are not home yet, and we await our coming Savior. May we bring as many as we can to all of this knowledge of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father!

Preparing Your Heart – The Second Week of Advent 2019

Once again, this series is a re-post from five years earlier, with some additions by me.

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It is now the second week of Advent! (See last week’s devotional thought here and here.)

Again, Advent is a time to remember our Lord’s first coming as we look forward to His imminent return.

So, let us prepare hearts for encountering the Lord!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-14, ESV

It is important for us to remember that God’s people, the Israelites, those who painstakingly preserved the written Word of God and pursued righteousness, failed to recognize Him when he came to them quite literally in the flesh.

Jesus said just three chapters later, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). Our culture today is largely spiritually dull, even in many churches.

Ask yourself, “Would I recognize God if He approached me today?” Seek His face in prayer, Bible reading, and the fellowship of believers. Ask God to reveal Himself to you. Too many missed Him the first time around. Seek the living Lord! Have faith that He is returning soon!

“For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 16:7b, ESV

Sermon: Signs You’re a Christian – 1 John 3:10-24

I preached again! I liked it. Like, wept some, got goosebumps some, enjoyed preaching it … a lot.

Please enjoy listening (click here if it does not work just below), and see my rough notes for all scripture references and basic thoughts. I am reading from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible.

Signs You’re a Christian (1 John 3:10-24)

Read 3:10-11

        1:1, 2:7: Nothing new, known from the beginning

Read 3:12

        Genesis 4:3-5: Why did Cain murder Abel? His sacrifice was not accepted.
Why?
2 theories: 1) He could have asked Abel for an animal sacrifice. Could have, yes, but …
          2) He offered “an offering of the fruit” versus Abel’s “firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.” Abel offered the first and best, but Cain went for the bare minimum.
Genesis 4:6-7: Bare minimum can lead, at best, to complacency, and at worst to proof of not being saved.
Genesis 4:8-9: Our selfishness leads us to hatred, as John reminds us …

Read 3:13-15

        Testimony: Know I am saved, because I have loved the Church.
-Jim Harper – Pastor on the Titanic
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Pastor in Nazi Germany

Read 3:16-20

        Two things to remember:

  • Our sinful hearts:
    • Jeremiah 17:9-10
    • How righteous are we really?
      • Illustration with three volunteers (preferably one of the Paul’s, Jadon, and Scott as our prime example):
        • 1 at the left, representing Hitler and anti-christs
        • Student at the right, representing Christ
        • Scott (or someone) being moved for how much righteousness he has, starting out close to student, moving him until he is right next to “Hitler” to demonstrate how much better we are apart from Christ. Then, back over to hug “Christ” who has covered our sins with his own blood.
    • Romans 8:23 – awaiting the redemption of our bodies
  • Christ commanded that we help others, especially the Church (Galatians 6:10, John 13 especially v. 8)

Read 3:21-24

  1. If we believe, we are washed by Christ. Since we are washed by Christ, we should have clean consciences
    1. Sometimes, we struggle to let go of the past, making our consciences feel burdened …
    1. This is one reason Hebrews 10:19-25 (vv. 23-25) tells us to keep meeting together and encouraging each other, but also …
  2. Whatever we ask: See Ephesians 3:14-21 (v. 20)
    1. He meets all of our needs, knowing what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8, 7:7-11)

What does this all mean for us?

  1. First, realize we can do nothing good apart from God
    1. Romans 3 – None are good nor seek God, all have sinned
    1. Luke 18:18-19 – Only God is good
    1. Philippians 4:13 – Through Christ alone can we do good things
  2. Second, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. (Ephesians 2)
    1. Realize our full need for Christ, repent of sins, and believe in His atoning work on the cross.
    1. As Ephesians 2 continues and reminds us …
  3. Third, we are made one with Christ and each other through Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit.
    1. We love Christ and His Church.
      1. Read your Bible
      1. Pray
      1. Meet regularly with other Christians
        1. Not just go to church on Sundays!
      1. Live out love for God
        1. Do good works as a response to the great love God has given
        1. Especially toward our brothers and sisters in Christ
        1. These reveal the Spirit’s work in us, that we love Christ by obeying His commands (John 15:12-14), all to the glory of the Father (meaning people see our love and good works and come to believe the Gospel!)

So, then, what are the commands we are to obey?

  1. Love God with all that you are (Matthew 22:37-38)
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39-40)
  3. Love one another as Christ has loved us (Sacrificially and with a servant’s heart) (John 13:34)
  4. Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20)

Preparing Your Heart – The First Week of Advent 2019

This originally posted five years ago (and then again two years ago with the longer ending found here) but sometimes it is good remembering some things!
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It is the first week of Advent!
Advent is a time to remember our Lord’s first coming as we look forward to His imminent return.

So, let us prepare hearts for encountering the Lord!

“If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor. But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.”
Job 11:13-20, ESV

In the passage today, Job’s friend Zophar is offering his friendly advice. May we remember that the only way these words are true is if we turn to the Lord and let Him make us clean and righteous!

Wait for the Lord;
     be strong, and let your heart take courage;
     wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:14

Preparing our hearts requires waiting patiently for God. We cannot hurry Him.

Patience leads to peace, because we have a hope found only in God as revealed in Christ and through Scripture.

Then we can more fully turn to Him!

VerseD: Luke 2:13-14

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Luke 2:13‭-‬14, ESV

Some teach angelic beings do not sing, or at least not anymore, since The Fall.

Is it too much to think they may have at the birth of the Son of God?

Regardless, they worship Jesus. May we join with them!

VerseD: Matthew 1:21

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:21, ESV

Trust the promises of God. Like Mary did, we can trust that the One who saves is returning!

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – My Hymns & Songs – 12/09/2018 – Faithfully Coming

Continuing our journey through the songs and hymns that have had an impact on my spiritual life, we now turn to another of those famous Christmas carols.

O Come All Ye Faithful

Lyricsd

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God’s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

A few thoughts …

In all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be too easy to forget to stop and worship our King.

We must remember that this is a time of joy. Our Savior has come!

Some may get caught up in the materialism. Get past it.

Some may get caught up in the idea that angles do not sing. I like what some teach, that they did sing at Creation (Job 38:7) but stopped singing at the Fall. However, perhaps they did sing at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:13-14), for God joined His Creation to save sinful humanity.

Regardless, let us come together and adore our Savior and King!

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – My Hymns & Songs – 12/02/2018 – Drumming Up Faith

It is time to continue looking at the hymns and songs that had an impact on my spiritual life, and this week I have another of my top three Christmas carols.

Little Drummer Boy

Lyrics

Come they told me
Pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see
Pa rum pum pum pum

Our finest gifts we bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

So to honor Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
When we come

Little baby
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too
Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our King
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

Shall I play for you
Pa rum pum pum pum
On my drum

Mary nodded
Pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

Then He smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum


A few thoughts …

Here is why I really like this song:

We are invited to come to the King of all Creation. We must realize that we nothing to bring other than what He has given us, so we really have nothing to offer. But …

If we only seek to give our best, our all (even though we may – will – fall short, He only desires that we obey His commands and draw near to Him), Jesus will smile on us. It is His faithfulness that we rely on. We merely let Him call the shots and help us get through.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – My Hymns & Songs – 11/25/2018 – Mighty Merry

As we continue looking at the hymns and songs that had an impact on my spiritual life, we move into controversial territory. What is less controversial about it is that I at least waited until Thanksgiving weekend.

Yep. Christmas music! And here is one of my top all-time three.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Lyrics

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

A few thoughts …

Why is this one of my all-time favorite Christmas carols and songs? It is the Gospel laid out.

Words have meanings. Whether “rest” meant “keep” or “make”, or whether merry means “mighty” or “joyful”, the song still works. If it is “God keep you joyful, Gentlemen” or “God make you mighty, Gentlemen” or even “God keep you mighty” or “God make you joyful” … IT JUST WORKS!

Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one can be made mighty for God and joyful in grace and forgiveness. The main point of the entire song is that when we put our faith in the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, we are saved from the ravages of sin, saved from the loss of relationships with other people and with God, saved from eternal death, and saved from God’s wrath and the schemes of the Devil.

Also, it tends to be a dang happy song! (Sorry for the language.)