Out of Egypt (an advent devotion)

So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called my Son. ~ Matthew 2:14-15 (CSB), quoting Hosea 11:1

The book of Exodus details how God rescued his people, Israel, from their slavery and started them on the journey to the Promised Land. God had told Abraham that he would give a strip of land in the Middle East to his descendants, but first they would spend 400 years in a foreign country because God wasn’t yet ready to bring judgment against sin on the other peoples of the land (Genesis 15).

Israel’s time in Egypt started well, with Joseph (Israel/Jacob’s second youngest son) ascending to prominence and rescuing his family from famine. But Exodus begins by telling us that with the passing of time a new Pharaoh over Egypt arose who didn’t remember Joseph and enslaved and imposed harsh conditions upon the Israelites to keep them from becoming too large a people to control.

In response, once the 400 years were passed, God raised up Moses to deliver Israel and show judgment against Egypt. Through an array of miraculous displays of power, God crushed the Egyptian armies and safely led the people away.

Reflecting back on this, the prophet Hosea recorded God’s words, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

Several hundred years later, Matthew would apply these words not simply to his fellow Jews, but specifically to one Israelite—the child born to Mary to save the world. Jesus came to lead a new Exodus. Instead of calling a nation out of physical enslavement, he would call and enable his people to come out of their spiritual enslavement. He would defeat sin and death to pave the way. And he would lay the path for us to enter into the Promised Land of eternal joy—the new heavens and new earth to come at Jesus’ return.

Jesus could do this as the new and better Moses and the new and better Israel. Where both the leader and the people failed in various ways in the Old Testament and strayed from God, Jesus would never fail. And though he was a child, his life story took him into Egypt only to then come forth and deliver his people. Out of Egypt I have called my Son.

The Exodus, then, also serves as a reminder of the advent of Jesus and the hope that we have through him.

The Serpent Crusher (an advent devotion)

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “…I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” ~ Genesis 3:14-15 (CSB)

As we enter into the Christmas season, we will take a look at a few of the Old Testament prophecies about the advent, or coming of Christ. At many times and in many ways, the Old Testament foretold the birth of Jesus into the world to rescue his people from our sins and show us how to live lives of love. These began in Genesis 3.

After Satan had successfully tempted Adam and Eve into disobeying God and eating from the one tree out of many that God had said to avoid, God pronounced words of judgment upon the participants. In his words denouncing Satan, who appeared as a serpent, we also see a flash of hope for humanity. The woman, Eve, would have a child. The serpent would injure the child, striking at his heel, but the child would crush the serpent, striking at his head.

As with many prophecies in the Bible, this looked beyond the immediate time frame. It would not be Able or Cain or Seth or any of the other sons born directly to Eve who would deal the fatal blow to Satan. Instead, it would be a child born thousands of years later to a young woman who, on the surface, appeared insignificant. It would be a young woman named Mary from a tiny community who would give birth to the world’s Savior-King.

Then, as Jesus grew, Satan would strike at him in many ways from temptations to sufferings on the cross. Yet, by being the perfect man who could take his people’s sins as the perfect sacrifice, and then by kicking down the door of the grave that would not hold him, Jesus struck back at Satan.

In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we see Jesus return again to forever condemn Satan to the fires of hell, and he does so with the power of his words. The heel was struck, but the head is crushed. Now we celebrate the salvation that came through our Lord.

Christmas Eve / Christmas Day 2016

You have opportunities to join with us in worship of Jesus, our Savior, tonight at our Christmas Eve service and tomorrow at our Christmas day worship gathering. Check out the details below, and we hope to see you there!

Christmas Eve ~ 12/24 @6:30pm
We will remember the anticipation of the birth of Jesus and celebrate his birth at our annual candle lighting service. The service will be held in the auditorium with snacks and hot chocolate to follow in the gym.

Christmas Eve Music Selection
Special Music by Rick Thompson
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O Holy Night
Joy Has Dawned (special by Raelynn Kershner)
How Great Our Joy
Go Tell It on the Mountain
Candle light closing: Silent Night

Christmas Eve Devotional
“The Coming King” ~ Luke 1:26-33

  • Jesus is the God-Man King (1:31-32)
  • Jesus is the Savior-King (1:31)
  • Jesus is the Forever King (1:32-33)
  • Therefore, this Christmas season:
    • Know Jesus–trust him and follow him
    • Rest in Jesus’ grace, power, and love
    • Celebrate Jesus tonight, tomorrow, through this year, and through your life

Christmas Morning Worship Gathering ~ 12/25 @1045am
We will remember the birth of Jesus and ponder what it means now that Jesus, our King, has arrived.

Christmas Morning Music Selection
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (special by Jeremy Bridges)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
The First Noel
Emmanuel
Joy has Dawned
O Come All Ye Faithful

Christmas Morning Sermon Notes
“The King Has Arrived” ~ Luke 2:1-21

  • King Jesus is our end to fear (2:9-10)
  • King Jesus is our great joy (2:10)
  • King Jesus is our peace (2:13-14)
  • King Jesus is our Savior-King (2:11)
    • Our faith must be in him
    • Our righteousness comes from him
    • Our lives belong to him

Good Reads 12.21.16 (the Christmas edition)

Here is a collection of good reads on Christmas. Enjoy!

Why are Jesus’s Genealogies in Matthew and Luke Different? by Mark Strauss

The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would come from the line of David. Both Matthew and Luke provide genealogies of Jesus that confirm he was a descendant of David—therefore, a legitimate Messiah. He was a legitimate claimant to the throne of Israel.

But they differ in an important way: Matthew follows the line of David’s son Solomon, while Luke follows the line of Nathan, another Son of David. The end result is two distinct genealogies. How do we account for this? (click here to read more)

Are You Bored with Christ at Christmas? by Stephen Witmer

If this is true of any of us, it’s a sure sign we don’t really know him. At least we don’t know him nearly enough. Knowing Jesus is like knowing Mount Everest. For those who know it, Everest increasingly thrills, confounds, delights, eludes, and exhilarates. If people are bored of Everest, it’s because they’re learning facts about it in their living room, not climbing it.

Familiarity need not breed contempt. Instead, it can breed faith. (click here to read more)

Don’t Spiritualize Christmas by Jared C. Wilson

Don’t “spiritualize” Christmas. It isn’t a theory. It’s not a vague virtue or warm fuzzy. It smells like sawdust and straw and manure, and like myrrh and newborn baby skin. Christmas is a real thing that really happened. And it’s really good news. Take it personally. (click here to read more)

Waiting for More than Christmas by Betsy Childs Howard

Advent is about more than waiting for Christmas. The word means “coming.” During Advent, we not only remember that Jesus came to earth as a man; we also prepare our hearts for his second coming. When we sing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” we are not role-playing what the ancient Israelites must have prayed before the coming of the Messiah. No, we are praying that Emmanuel would return and make right all that is wrong with the world. When we sing, “Let every heart prepare him room,” we are not retroactively chastising the innkeepers of Bethlehem; we are preaching to all souls within earshot to be ready to meet their Judge and Maker unafraid. (click here to read more)

Christmas for the Weary by Trish Hedger

Christmas is for you, weary Christian. It’s for the parts of us that still feel the chill of the shadow of death.

May Christmas be our sacred reminder of God’s tender mercy that sent his Son from on high to give light to all who sit in darkness. Christ has come and his mercies rise with the sun each day to guide our blistered feet into the way of peace. (click here to read more)

 

 

 

What Child Is This? (an advent meditation)

What Child is this
Who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet
With anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ, the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring Him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

The Christmas song What Child Is This? asks as question that the world has pondered since the birth of Jesus. Who is this child-turn-man that claims to be Lord and Savior of the world?

Jesus once asked his first disciples what others said about him. They answered: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, speaking for the group: “You are the Christ [Savior-King], the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16).

In his book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis said that when a person looks at the claims of Jesus in Scripture, one must conclude he is either Lord, liar, or a lunatic. Some may go a step further and say that the Jesus of the Bible does not exist; but if we start with the historical existence of Jesus as detailed in Scripture, then only those three options remained.

Jesus claimed to forgive sins (Matthew 9:1-8); accepted Peter’s claim to be the Messiah/Christ, Son-of-God King (Matthew 16:13-19); claimed to preexist Abraham and at the same time took for himself the name of God (John 8:56-58).

With what he claimed, Jesus was no mere good teacher or religious prophet. He either lied about himself, had delusions about himself, or was the Lord he claimed to be. The Christian faith is built on the latter, as the song affirms: This, this is Christ the King!

So, this Christmas, who do you say that Jesus is? May you celebrate, worship, and follow him as your Savior-King!

Christmas Week 2016

A reminder for your week:

Children’s Christmas Program, Wednesday 12/21 @7pm (if you have children in the program, please have them to the auditorium by 6pm for costumes and a final dress rehearsal). This date is the rescheduled date due to weather conditions.

Christmas Eve Service, Saturday 12/24 @6:30pm. Join us for our annual candle-light service, with snacks and hot chocolate to follow.

Christmas Day Service, Sunday 12/25 @10:45am. We will gather at our normal time on Christmas morning to celebrate Jesus. Sunday School will also be at 9:45am for those able to make it. There will be no evening church activities on 12/25, 12/28, or 1/1.

christmas-05

Good Reads 12.15.16 (on: God’s silence, identity, Christmas, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On God and silence: The Wisdom in what God Doesn’t Say by Jon Bloom

So much more could be said about what God doesn’t say. But what’s important to remember is this: God is very wise and intentional in what he makes clear to us and does not make clear to us.

Jesus understands the cry of “why?” that pours out of a heart in pain. He too made this cry in the hour of his greatest agony: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). And there was no thunderous answer. So in dark silence he endured the cross in faith for our salvation and our example (Hebrews 12:2).

God wants us to live by faith, trusting his reliable promises more than our unreliable perceptions (2 Corinthians 5:7). But a thorough, careful reading of the Bible causes us to detect in God’s wise silence the dark matter of divine revelation: God’s trustworthy purposes in not telling us everything. (click here to read more)

On Jesus and your identity: The Identity Beneath Your Identities by Liz Wann

On the surface our identity is always changing, but we can find comfort in the fact that God rules and reigns over our shifting identities. And underneath the shifting sand of our identity he gives us the solid foundation of identity in Christ. It is ultimately our identity in Christ that grounds us. He will hold us fast. He doesn’t change. His identity doesn’t shift. He has no identity crisis. So, Christ is the perfect source for fixing our identity. (click here to read more)

On God’s commands and our exceptions: When God Goes Big and I Go Small by Tim Challies

What troubles me, though, and especially as I examine my own heart, is the speed with which I appeal to the exceptions. When I read Mark 11:25 (“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone…”) my first thought is not, “God forgive me for my lack of forgiveness!” or “Okay, so who do I need to forgive?” My first thought is “Yeah, but what about this situation or that situation?” When God goes big, my first tendency is to go small. When God speaks universally, my first thought is to look for exceptions, for the nuances that allow me to wiggle out from under his commands. (click here to read more)

On Christmas and sadness: It’s Okay to Feel Sorrow During Christmas by Matt Rogers

Without Jesus, our current reality would be a mere foreshadowing of the horror of our eternal reality. But, Christmas reminds us that we can have hope, even in the most dire circumstances.

God invaded our sin-drenched world because He knew we were broken. He lived and died because things weren’t the way they were supposed to be. And, because of Jesus’ work, we can have hope that there is a new world coming—one that will be different. One without pain, suffering, death, or sin. One that is the manifestation of the life we wish we had now.

For this reason, sorrow is actually a great gift this Christmas. It continually points our hearts to the tragedy of sin. It orients our affections away from fleeting hope in a temporary world. It reminds us of the futility of life in a fallen world. It points us to Jesus. (click here to read more)