Posts Tagged ‘ Holiday ’

Sermon: Going Forward – John 21:15-22

I preached again!

It is an end-of-the-year message, that deals with Christmas, our past, our present, and moving toward the future.

As usual, here are my notes. Remember that I do not necessarily stick strictly to the notes.

Going Forward

John 21:15-22

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

A Christmas Carol

One of my favorite stories of all time (after the Bible) is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.Every year we watch through many iterations, and I make sure to re-read the short story.

It is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man whose business partner has been dead for years, his estranged nephew still tries to invite him over for Christmas, but Christmas and everything about it is “humbug.”

Is it strange that I like a story about a man who talks with charity collectors about the poor going to work in workhouses or in prison? That when prompted with “many would rather die,” ol’ Scrooge replies, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Why do I love this story so?

Because, Scrooge is visited by three spirits – the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet-To-Come – who remind him of his more jolly past, how he has affected people in his present, and the future he faces if he does not change. And they do it all in a single night, before the morning of Christmas.At the end, he pleads with the final spirit: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!”And what about after that? “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well.”

But Christmas has passed for us. What is Christmas about?

Jesus!

We know that Jesus came into the world, and we celebrate His first coming at Christmas time.

And how much like Scrooge can we be? How much do we focus on our wants and needs in this life without looking after those around us? Hating others and wanting what they have rather than wanting the best for them?

Where else do we see such pettiness?

Peter

In our passage, we see a man talking with His Lord who is no mere spirit or ghost. This is Jesus who barely a month earlier was crucified for our sins, yet He is alive!

And what does Jesus have to say to Peter?

  • Do you love me?
  • Do you love me?
  • Do you love me?

Why does Jesus ask Peter this three times?

We remember before the crucifixion that it was Peter who denied His Lord three times:

  • I am not His disciple.
  • I don’t know the Man!
  • I don’t know what you’re talking about!

Here is a man who was more concerned for his own well being than actively looking after his friend.

So, since Peter denied Him three times, Jesus asks three times to reinstate him, “Do you love me?”

What is love?

But notice that Peter is hurt by the third asking. Why?

First, Jesus asks, “Simon” – not Peter, for he lost that right by denying the truth he proclaimed earlier – “Simon, son of John, do you agape me …” Does Simon love Jesus enough to sacrifice everything for Him?

Remember that this is the Simon who said in John 13:37 “I will lay down my life for you.” Or in Mark 14:29 “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Both instances we read of Jesus telling him he would deny him and fall away.

And he did. But Jesus’ question finishes, “Do you agape me more than these?”

Is Jesus asking “Do you love me more than your possessions?” Possibly, but I don’t think so.

Is Jesus asking “Do you love me more than you love these other people?” More probable, but I think it goes deeper.

“Do you love me more than these others love me?” This is essentially the claim Simon Peter had made before.

In truth, it is a combination of all three implied meanings, but most importantly, “Do you love me more than anything and anyone so that no one can tear you out of my hand?”

“Then feed my sheep.” Give them the nourishment of the Bread of Life, the Word of God.

But a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you agape me?”

Both of these times, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He knows that Jesus can see into our hearts. Jesus stops comparing Simon to others in the second question, bringing it squarely home.

“Then tend my sheep.” Help the others grow closer to me, defend them from hunger and thirst and false teachings and fear of the world.

Yet Simon has been saying, “Yes, Lord”. He acknowledges that he loves Jesus unconditionally, but he finishes with “you know that I phileo you.” You know that I love you like a friend.

And then the third question. “Simon, son of John …” not agape, not will you sacrifice and obey, but “do you phileo me?”

Why is Simon Peter grieved? The questions go from, “do you love me so much it hurts, that you will do anything for me,” to “Simon, are you my friend?”

Imagine what it sounds like: “Are you sure you’re my friend? Do you really love me as your friend?”

And how does it play out?

“You know everything. You know I love you like a friend.”

“Then YOU follow me. Act like a grown up, because you will have times that you will be treated like a child.” And Jesus alludes to Peter’s death.

And Simon holds on just a moment longer as the child: “But what about him? Why don’t you ask that disciple the same questions? How is he gonna die?”

“I. Said. Follow. Me. Stop worrying about others. Follow me. As I feed and tend to my sheep.”

What about us?

What does it all mean for us.

Firstly, to deal with any possible rumors, yes, A Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorite stories, even though Scrooge meets his long-dead business partner. Even though the only time we see that sort of thing in the Bible is when a wicked king (Saul) seeks a witch to talk to his dead friend (who rebukes him. It really was a Christmas-Carol-esque story.)

For the sake of the story, I am okay with some wiggle-room of what is okay. Especially if you read a recent sequel, Jacob T. Marley, that shows a “why” the dead business partner returns. And for the Spirits of Christmases, we could easily argue they are ministering spirits, a.k.a. angels.

But like Scrooge, Peter was one who turned from those he loved. Like Peter, we often do our own thing to avoid pain.

Like Scrooge, Peter had to confront his past, all of the hurts, the boasts, the selfishness, and the loss.

  • Maybe 2021 has been a hard year for you.
    Follow Jesus.
    It won’t necessarily make all the pain go away, but Jesus can lead you through and out of the pain.
    Maybe 2021 was great for you.
    Follow Jesus.
    You might lose everything you’ve gained, you might keep it all, but your focus should be on the one who gave up everything to save you.
    Maybe you made mistakes, lied about things, turned on your loved ones. Maybe you’ve denied your Savior.
    Follow Jesus. The only faithful one.

Like Scrooge, Peter had to confront his present.

  • Maybe you’re finishing 2021 holding on to your past.
    Follow Jesus.
    Maybe you’re currently struggling with something.
    Follow Jesus.
    Let Him tend to your needs. Trust others to tend to your needs as they are following Jesus. Tend to others as you follow Jesus.
    Follow Jesus, now. Don’t wait. Follow Jesus. Now.

Like Scrooge, Peter had to face the future and his death.

  • And it is scary.
    Maybe you’re afraid of what 2022 holds. Maybe the finances of this year mean next year will be tough. Maybe you wonder where this church will be meeting next month. Maybe those in power in the government have you worried for one reason or another.
    Follow Jesus.
    Don’t worry about what others are doing. Don’t worry about their walk with Jesus or lack thereof.
    Don’t ignore others or the happenings in this world, but don’t worry.
    Just follow Jesus for yourself. Trust Him. He is the God who saves, the One who holds all things together. It may not be easy in this life, but we know we can trust in the One who is guiding history and has overcome death and the grave.

Go Forward

In Christ.

What does it look like to keep Christmas in your heart all the year, and keep it well, like the renewed Ebenezer Scrooge?

It is seeking the Kingdom of God first.

We realize our need to read and memorize Scripture. We seek to live out the commands to love God and love others, as Christ lives in us by His Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father.

It is seeking the Bread of Life.We realize our need for spiritual nourishment through Bible study and encouraging each other to become more Christ-like.

Taken outside the church just before preaching!

It is bowing before Immanuel – God with us.

We realize The Father sent the Son to cleanse us and restore us, and they sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us until Christ’s return. We acknowledge His authority and power.

And we follow.

We don’t get stuck in the same old rut or in our past mistakes and sins or in our worries and concerns or our own lusts and wants or in our own glory. We go forward toward the future glory that awaits us in Christ Jesus, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

The true Spirit of Christmas is the same Spirit that overshadowed a young woman to bring forth a Savior; a Savior who would die for our sins and rose again; a Savior who is one day returning to make all things new.

And He is with us always until He comes.

Like Scrooge – like Peter – we seek to spread the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control of the Spirit of Christ who indwells us. (Galatians 5:22-23)

All through the year.

So go forward. Follow Jesus.

Prayer

Our gracious heavenly Father, You who has been denied by us through our actions, our words, and our thoughts; You who have been pushed away by our own sinful desires, we praise you and worship you.

You could have left us in our misery. You could have wiped us out, like with the Flood. Instead, You became one of us.

We were stuck wallowing in our past, unable and unwilling to let go of the hurts, the glories of youth, the fame, and the fear.

We were stuck wallowing in our current pains and fears, our own glories and strengths, unwilling to help our neighbors, either because we felt we lacked the ability or because they deserve what they get or because “they should help themselves.”

We were stuck wallowing in our future, afraid of what may come or hoping for what we cannot get for ourselves or think we can get for ourselves.

You could have left us in our misery or removed far more than the surplus population.

But You came to us.

We praise you, because we could not get to You, but You made a way for us. We deserved death, but you offered us life. We have feared the world and death more than we feared You, and we confess it to you now.

Because You see our past, You change us in the present, and You give us a hope for the future, through Your Son – The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Help us to seek You every moment of everyday. Help us to help each other seek You and grow in You everyday. Help us to become more loving and kind – more like Jesus. By the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Help us follow Jesus.

In His Name.

Happy New Year 2021!

Apparently stuff happened this year. (*sarcasm)

We will avoid the political stuff for now, some the results of media drama, and much of the sadness, stupidness, and crazy surrounding … 2020.

On some positive notes, my wife finished her Masters degree in May! She has been utterly amazing in the current state of education, teaching English Language learners in the very much upturned education landscape this year.

My friend’s coffee shop – Third Shot Coffee – definitely defied the trend of many businesses this year to thrive amidst shutdowns, lock-downs, and distancing. That is pretty cool.

Overall, we had a good year. Yes, we went through the ‘rona things, being secluded for a few weeks with very mild symptoms; but we also did a lot of upgrades around the house, got much of our debt under control, and otherwise have done many things we wanted/needed to do.

And God is still good and in control.

This next year will definitely be … 2021.

In any event, may you receive an abundance of bunches of blessings this year. And though life may take some effort to trudge through, fall on the promises of God, this year and always.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24‭-‬26 ESV

In His Love,

Daniel

Topical Children’s Lesson: Resurrection Sunday – John 20:19-29

This is still happening online because of the current mandate for isolation for the C-19 pandemic.

After the lesson for Palm Sunday that my lovely other-half, Caitlin – who is our Children’s Director at the Church Next Door – made, we had her record another lesson!

So, gather up the kiddos (or enjoy this at any age), and enjoy another mashup from a weekly sermon and children’s curriculum:

Questions to consider:

Was there a time in your life that you thought everything was going wrong? How did you feel?

Have you had a fight with someone and  you could not ask for forgiveness or were you ever not able to see someone for any reason, to say goodbye?

Resurrection Sunday – John 20:19-29

Jesus is the Son of God, God’s only Son by birth.

Remember last week’s big idea? That Jesus is the Son of God, God’s only Son by birth.

He was nailed to a cross to save us from our sin, but His own disciples did not understand it.

Jesus died. Their leader was gone. His friends felt abandoned by Him. They thought they would never have the chance to see or talk with him again.

But then … He is alive?! Now what?

John 20:19-29

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus’ resurrection shows us that:

  • We can be afraid in our circumstances, but Jesus can comfort us;
  • We can push God away with our sin, but by His sacrifice He draws us back to Himself;
  • We can misunderstand God’s plan, but Jesus draws us close with the Holy Spirit to give us forgiveness;
  • We can doubt, but Jesus comes to us and overcomes our doubts. Because He was dead, but He is alive!
  • Now, we tell the world that Jesus is alive!

Today is Resurrection Sunday! The one holiday we celebrate 52 times a year!

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

Memory verses: Ephesians 5:2:

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

HE IS RISEN, INDEED!

Video Lesson: The True Passover

At the time of upload, the Passover starts tomorrow! Thursday evening, the ninth of April in the year of our Lord Two thousand twenty. It is still fitting that we are currently in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic at the time of posting this!

Why? Because the Passover started during … THE 10 PLAGUES ON EGYPT!

Even why-er? Because we are talking about THE ACTUAL PASSOVER!

You should read Exodus 12 before reading/listening to this lesson.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

Why is blood so important for salvation?

What are some of the mighty works that God has done in history?

What about in your own life?

What are we expecting from God? What does He expect of us?

Now, to the big question of the day:

What is the True Passover?

The True Passover
Exodus 12

We are continuing to look at the importance of Passover.

The final plague against the Egyptians was the Plague against the Firstborn:

  • Israel was told to sacrifice a lamb, and its blood was to painted around the door posts.
  • They were to be ready to leave in a moment’s notice.

[READ Exodus 12:29-36]

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord , as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!” The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

Firstly, we know the connection that Jesus, God’s Firstborn, is the Lamb that was sacrificed so that death would not have a hold on us anymore. (1 Corinthians 15, 1 Peter 2:22-24)

Secondly, as the Israelites were to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, we are to be ready to share the gospel at any moment and give a defense for our faith. (Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Peter 3:15)

Thirdly, we know that Jesus Christ is coming again to free the world from the stain and bondage to sin, removing those who remain in rebellion, and instituting heaven on earth for all eternity, and giving us new clothing – heavenly, glorified bodies. (Philippians 3:17-21)
The book of Revelation lets us know that He will bring His army of angels along with His faithful to cleanse the Earth. Afterward, just as Israel left with the silver and gold of the Egyptians, we – His faithful, the Christians – are given crowns of glory. The riches we inherit are our lot in Christ’s inheritance.

So, the True Passover comes, first, when we accept and believe that Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb, and, second, when He returns and we pass over from a fallen world in time to pure glory in eternity.

So make sure you are good with the King of Glory!

Palm Sunday Sermon 2020 – Worship Without Understanding

I preached, again! And this time, THERE’S VIDEO!

Because this is in the middle of the C-19 pandemic, so we are not supposed to meet in person.

And a reminder that the notes below are merely my notes, not every word I said in the video!

There is also mention of the children’s lesson based on this sermon that Caitlin recorded earlier!

Read Matthew 21:1-11 before starting:

The Triumphal Entry

21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Palm Sunday 2020 (The Church Next Door) – Matthew 21:1-11 – Worshiping Without Understanding

Imagine being a 1st Century Jew. 

  • A hostile government 
  • Foreign soldiers walking the streets 
  • Turncoats siding with the hostile government (tax collectors, joining the army)
  • Weak and compromising leadership 

And here comes Jesus, the one everyone is calling the Savior of Israel! Finally! Someone to throw out the Romans and restore Israel to greatness! Here is a great prophet and king! Save us! 

And then there is Jesus. He knows our expectations, but he subverts them. He knows our longings, but He has His purpose. 

Triumphal Entry: Celebration 
“God has come to do what we expect!” 

But the cross … Not what we expected. 
“In this world you will have trouble …” (John 16:33) 

Triumphal Entry: Worship 
Christ still receives worship, even amidst our misunderstanding. 

So, the cross … Shows us why He can accept. 
So, we should show grace to our brothers & sisters in error of understanding. 

January 17: Took Caitlin to the airport, stopped at a favorite coffee shop. 
Was updating the owner about my 10-month-old nephew being hospitalized with Hand Foot Mouth, Pneumonia, RSV, and other stuff. 
Customer asks if has gotten better, and I mentioned that as a Christian I believe all of the prayers helped get him home on Christmas night. 
Oops. Angry atheist. If any god exists, he “royally ****** up with humans. So you probably believe he made your nephew sick, which means he’s evil! If anyone helped your nephew it was the doctors.” 

I went from celebrating my God for healing my nephew to getting attacked for my faith. 

But I had a peaceful calm the moment this man blew up. And, how come our world is so messed up? “Short answer: sin. God gave us free will, and we choose to mess up this world by rejecting Him. But He plans on fixing it one day.” 
I did not get to share the full gospel with this man, but he respected meeting a Christian not afraid to tackle the hard questions. God gave me His grace to peaceably talk with a hostile man, calm him down, and even get a “It was nice talking with you! Have a nice day!” as he left. 

Why? 

Because I celebrated, without knowing what was coming. (But I also put in the groundwork of worshiping with my heart, soul, mind, and strength, studying the Word and answers people have provided.) 

But because of what did come over the week after Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem – the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus – I could still worship Him by loving one who hates Him. 

Think back to those worshiping on Palm Sunday: (Matthew 21:11) “This is the prophet Jesus.” 
They see Lazarus – the man who was dead just a week earlier! – and think of Elijah and Elisha raising women’s sons. 
They see the donkey, and they think of Zechariah 9:9 prophesying the King coming on a donkey, and then probably skipped ahead to Zechariah 14: (vv. 1-5)

Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

Here comes the King, on the Mount of Olives, to fight off the invaders and restore our nation! Especially with the other events of the week: 

  • Clearing the Temple with zeal for God’s house 
  • Rebuking and shaming the Pharisees and Sadducees 
  • Celebrating the Passover, the first time a mighty prophet led Israel out of subjugation into freedom 

But our Lord does not meet their expectations. What else happened that week? 
The arrest. 
The abuse. 
The crucifixion. 

No one saw it coming. (Even with Jesus’ own warnings!) 

If only they had continued reading in Zechariah [14:6-9]:

On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.

On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

When coupled with Daniel 9:24, 
“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place
we see that the Messiah would bring an end to sin and then establish His worldwide, eternal Kingdom. 

So, on Palm Sunday, we are reminded of three things: 

  1. Jesus accepts our worship, even when we misunderstand and believe wrongly about Him. 
    1. So, we need to show grace to those we disagree with. 
      1. The disciples did not understand that this King was going to die in just a few days time, and it caused them to scatter. (Self-isolate?) And Jesus still loved them!
    2. There are many who teach things wrongly, but they may still be our brothers and sisters. 
    3. Though, just as Jesus rebuked and shamed the leadership in His day, we must watch for and correct false teachings. 
      1. If the teachers repent, awesome! 
      2. If not, then we distance ourselves from them. 
    4. NOT EVERYTHING WE DISAGREE WITH IS NECESSARILY FALSE TEACHING! 
      1. Look at George Whitefield and John Wesley: a Calvinist and an Arminian who were dear brothers in Christ. 
  2. We worship and celebrate God without knowing everything that is coming. 
    1. The disciples did not understand that this King was going to die in just a few days time, and it caused them to scatter. (Self-isolate?) But it led to our salvation from sin! 
    2. Palm Sunday during C-19 Pandemic 
      1. Didn’t see it coming, but look at us trusting our Lord and meeting in innovative ways (such as Zoom!) 
    3. We know God leads us through hard things, and we rejoice and share the Gospel. (2 Corinthians 5 – Ambassadors for Christ sharing the message of reconciliation and peace) 
      1. Just as I was ready with an answer for an angry atheist, we are all commanded to be ready to give a reasoned defense for the faith that is within us, especially when bad/hard things happen (1 Peter 3:14-15). 
  3. We remember that our King shall return triumphantly to institute His eternal Kingdom! 
    1. Jesus warned (yes, warned!) and promised us He will return. 
      1. He was the gentle lamb in His ministry, but He is returning as a strong Lion and conquering King! 
    2. We need not imagine what ancient Israelites thought about our coming King. The book of Revelation shows us that God’s wrath will be poured out on the entire earth, all of Creation will be renewed through fire, and His eternal Kingdom shall be established as heaven and Earth become one. [READ Revelation 22:1-7, 20-21] 

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

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.

Topical Children’s Lesson: Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-11

This is still happening online because of the current mandate for isolation for the C-19 pandemic.

As I, Daniel, am preaching for Palm Sunday, my lovely other-half, Caitlin – who is our Children’s Director at the Church Next Door – recorded a related lesson! Therefore, instead of my wonky mug, you can see her lovely face this week!

So, gather up the kiddos (or enjoy this at any age), and enjoy the collab between a youth pastor and children’s director:

Questions to consider:

Have you had to change your thinking about something? Think of a time you thought you knew what your parents or your friends were doing, but you were wrong.

Even when you have been wrong, did your family still love you? Did you change your mind or make different choices when you found out the truth?

Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus is the Son of God, God’s only Son by birth.

He was coming to save us from our sin, but how did the people see Him?

On the first Palm Sunday, when the people laid down palm branches for this king they had been expecting, they had no idea what his real mission was.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

They saw:

  • A king coming to change the government
  • A leader kicking out the bad army
  • A prophet, a person who speaks God’s word, making God’s house great again.

Look at verse 11 (read again), here comes Jesus, the one everyone is calling the Savior of Israel! Finally! Here is a great prophet and king like Moses or David! He will save us!

The people expected Jesus to change the government, kick out the bad army, and make Israel God’s country, again. He did kick out the businesses selling in the Temple. And He corrected the teachers for teaching the Bible wrong.

And then Jesus, knowing what the people expected of Him, did something unexpected. He was arrested, beaten up, and killed on a cross.

They did not understand that Jesus had to save us from our sins before He stopped all the bad guys.

Remember, Jesus took everyone’s punishment for sin by giving His life, and He gives us righteousness. That does not mean he will remove all of our problems now, but He will provide the solution.

And Jesus our Prophet, speaking the word of God, did promise that His first triumphal entry into Jerusalem was not His last. He is coming back to change the world and stop all of the bad things from happening forever. And we will be with Him forever on a new Earth.

Today is Palm Sunday, everyone, and our King is coming!

Memory verse:

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

Revelation 22:20

Video Lesson: Holy Cow! Heifers & Cleanliness

We are getting close to the Passover time of year! How fitting that we are currently in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic at the time of posting this!

Why? Because the Passover started during … THE 10 PLAGUES ON EGYPT!

Even why-er? Because we are talking about keeping clean!

You should read Numbers 19 before reading/listening to this lesson.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

What can we do to be clean? (Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually)

What is a heifer (heffer), and what is so significant about red?

Is there a purpose to sacrifices and blood offerings?

How can we deal with isolation from community? [Bonus for C-19: How are we handling isolation from each other during crisis?]

Now, to the big question of the day:

What does a sacrificial cow have to do with the Church?

Holy Cow! Heifers & Cleanliness
Numbers 19

We are continuing to look at the importance of Passover.

What is a red heifer?
A female cow that is reddish-brown (the word “red” comes from the same root for “man” in Hebrew, thus “earth-colored”)

How rare are red heifers?
Not too rare, but a perfect sacrificial red heifer must be at least 3 years old and must not have more than 2 or 3 white/black hairs nor any blemishes/disfigurements, never worked (even to have a person lean on it), and never been with a bull (no babies!)

The heifer is to be taken outside of the camp/city, slaughtered, then burned completely. While burning, cedarwood, hyssop, and a red (scarlet) yarn will be thrown in. Then, (vv. 17-19) the ashes are collected to be mixed with fresh/living (flowing) water into a container, and hyssop will be dipped in this ashy water to sprinkle the home and people who have sinned by touching a dead body. Those who refuse to be cleansed are cast out of the community (v. 20).

And this means what to me?

From our birth, we “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV)

Therefore, we all have been constantly in contact with dead bodies our entire lives.

So we now turn to Hebrews 9:11-22 (ESV).

Hebrews 9 is all about our Great High Priest who offered the ultimate sacrifice.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

How does this all connect with the Passover?

Jesus was crucified at Passover. Also, just as the blood of a lamb was painted over the doors of the Israelites and protected them from death the night before they were allowed to leave Egypt, we escape God’s wrath and judgment of eternal death.

Just as the blood protected those who obeyed, those who did not lost their firstborn, similarly, if we are sprinkled with the living water of the Holy Spirit mixed with the sacrifice made outside of the city – of God’s firstborn, Jesus’ body and blood – we are made clean of our living in death, while those who do not believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection can not be included in the House of God, the Church.

Back in Hebrews 9:23-28:

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jesus is our holy cow. (Not to be confused with the Hindu idea of holy cows, and this is not blasphemous, because …) The red heifer and all other sacrificial rites were mere shadows of the work of Christ.

If we refuse to believe that Jesus was the perfect human sacrifice, that He died and rose again, we cannot be made clean and therefore enter God’s community, the Body of Christ, the Church – eternal life.

But if we believe, we are made clean of our sin and death and enter eternal life by grace through faith in the Son of God who redeemed us by His blood.

Happy New Year 2020!

So, a lot happened this year.

We will avoid the political stuff for now, some the results of television and cinema drama, and much of the sadness, stupidness, and crazy.

On some positive notes, my wife started her Masters degree and should be done in five months!

Our friend started his Doctorate, and he and his wife had their adorable daughter.

I began working for my friend at Third Shot Coffee. That is pretty cool. I have not given up on my own dreams, either, but they are not at the forefront at this time.

Oh. And we have a house of our own again!

But this next year should be … 2020.

In any event, may you receive an abundance of bunches of blessings this year. And though life may take some effort to trudge through, fall on the promises of God, this year and always.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24‭-‬26 ESV

In His Love,

Daniel

Still Saying Thank You

Most people agree: 2019 was rough.

So, if you are reading this, be thankful you made it through the year!

Even if 2019 was the hardest year of your life, or you hate the politicians, or circumstances could have been better …

… give thanks to God. And start the year in thanksgiving.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15, NIV

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:18b-20, NIV

We can do it with the words of Mikeschair:

All I Can Do (Thank You)

I could write a love song
Tell you what I think you want to hear
But it wouldn’t be good enough, no
Yeah, I could try so hard
To give it everything I’ve got
But I’m not ever gonna measure up

(Chorus)
All I can do is thank you for this life I never deserved
Wanna thank you for the grace I know I don’t have to earn
You love me, you love me, your mercy is proof
All I can do is say thank you
All I can do is say thank you

It would have been easy
But I’m glad you never walked away
Cause your love runs deep for me
And I see this beautiful world and it brings tears to my eyes
And I think it’s beautiful to be free

(Chorus)
All I can do is thank you for this life I never deserved
Wanna thank you for the grace I know I don’t have to earn
You love me, you love me, your mercy is proof
All I can do is say thank you
All I can do is say thank you

For love, for hope, for all the ways
Yeah, for everything you do
What else can I say but thank you
Thank you

I could write a love song
Tell you what I think you wanna hear
But it wouldn’t be good enough

(Chorus)
All I can do is thank you for this life I never deserved
Wanna thank you for the grace I know I don’t have to earn
You love me, you love me, your mercy is proof
All I can do is say thank you
All I can do is say thank you

All I can do, all I can do, all I can do is say thank you
(repeat)

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