Songs for Sunday, May 9, 2021

Over the past couple of weeks at Christ Community, we have been looking at a huge moment in the apostles’ lives and in the life of the early church. Peter and John get drug before the powers-that-be because they – through the power of the Holy Spirit – heal a man and share the love of Jesus with him.

They get threatened. They will eventually be imprisoned. Peter’s life would end as a martyr under similar wicked leaders in Rome. John would find himself in exile on a prison-island. And all of that found its beginnings on a random day when they were walking to the temple:

2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

Acts 3:2-8

What an amazing declaration – “what I do have I give to you”!

It is easy for us, 2,000 years later in a 1st-world country, to look at what these guys did and said – what they later suffered, what cost them their lives – and be amazed. But they knew that what they had in Christ was worth whatever. They had met Him, walked with Him, been forgiven by Him, saved by Him! Their lives had been eternally changed by Him.

Their lives were so changed – they had in fact gone from death in sin to eternal life (Romans 6:23), after all – that they were able to go unblinking before the tribunal. What we see as a confrontation with the chief priests was in reality a gospel proclamation offering them the same hope and eternal life through Christ Jesus that we are all offered through that same gospel. When Peter and John told them “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified” (Acts 4:10), it is less a satisfying yet stinging dart against those who plotted against Jesus and more of the same declaration made to/against us in Romans 5:8: “but God demonstrated His love for is in that while we were sinners Christ died for us”. What was greater – their sin or ours? I am so excited that the answer is God’s grace, mercy, and love is greater!

That gospel presentation that they made to those unrepentant priests is still good news for us:

11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:11-12

So, when we in our worldliness wonder what Peter and John knew or what drove them to be willing to follow Jesus with their whole lives, what we are really wondering was why they would do it. We are wondering if Jesus is really worth it. The answer to that is a resounding “yes”! He is worth it. He is worthy! In worship tomorrow, in the midst of our singing, we are going to be reading through Colossians 1 and seeing how worthy King Jesus truly is. And, it is my prayer for myself and for you, that we encounter Jesus – that we receive Him and follow Him – and worship Him.

Here are our songs:

  • Colossians 1:9-14

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

*This isn’t the version we do, but it’s fun!*

  • Colossians 1:15-20

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

  • Thank You Jesus for the Blood
    Scripture References/Inspiration for the Song:

We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have two services Sunday morning!

  • 8:00a for those who prefer greater social distancing and masks worn by all
  • 11:00a for everyone else

Refresh & Restore — May 6, 2021

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:7-21

Greetings, Sojourner!

I chuckle as I begin writing to you today because I have had a song running through my head; I have even caught myself singing it. If you have a church background, you may be trying to guess which glorious old hymn or praise song about God’s love I am singing. And, if so, you are about to be terribly disappointed (although I imagine many of you singing along as you read the lyrics). The song is from 1984 – Tina Turner’s classic, “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. Here is the chorus:

“What’s love got to do – got to do with it? 
What’s love but a secondhand emotion? 
What’s love got to do – got to do with it? 
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”

To answer and apply Tina’s questions to today’s passage: EVERYTHING! Love has everything to do with today’s passage and everything to do with the lives of those who profess to know Christ. Over the next few weeks, we will be walking through this passage and find out just what it means for us and our lives.

At this point in John’s letter, he is beginning to wind down toward a close. The first half of the letter was devoted to making sure his readers (then and now) knew what it was to have life in Christ and walk in His light. Now, love is being treated similarly – both as an example of what He has given us and as a test to find out if we indeed do “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (1:7).

To some it may seem like John is repeating himself, but it is important to note that he is not merely writing a letter. First, this letter reflects his heart as an apostle and teacher of the Word to see his readers know Christ more fully and walk in Him. Second, this letter is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) through John, giving his audiences the Word they/we need to hear from the Lord. So, this is not John repeating himself but the Lord emphasizing truths He knows we need to hear again and again. With that in mind, we can see the importance of reflecting on past sections of 1 John:

  • (1:5) This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.
  • (2:2) He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the world.
  • (2:5) …but whoever keeps His Word, in Him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him….
  • (2:29) If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.
  • (3:10-11) By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

It is easy to see how the Spirit builds these truths over the course of the letter, namely light, life, and love. Today’s passage begins the final build of the topic of love.

The teaching that we are supposed to “love one another” (v. 7) is not new. We have looked previously at how John’s message here comes directly from Jesus: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). The difference in John’s teachings on this in chapter 3 and our passage today is that John adds explanation to his earlier examples: “God is love”. Our lives cannot be characterized by hate and love at the same time any more than we can live lives that point to Christ while walking in darkness; we would be liars (1:5-7).

While v. 7 speaks positively to John’s “beloved”, what we find in v. 8 is tough love. A life that is absent of love is absent of God. I realize this sounds harsh, but the contrast is important. Just as you should love because “God is love”, hatred shows absence of God in one’s heart because “God is love”. This is meant to be tough because love, like we have seen throughout this letter (1:6, 1:8, 1:10, 2:4, 2:9, 2:11, 2:15-16, 3:6, 3:8, 3:10, 3:14, 3:17), is another means to test our lives. God very clearly wants us to know whether we are – or are not – His children (3:10), whether He does – or does not – abide in us (3:24). This is serious business and requires us to honestly check our lives.

On the subject of loving one another, it is important to see that John continues to emphasize this at the end of our passage. In v. 19, we see a bold statement that should give us pause: “we love because He first loved us”. This is reminding us of the love that Christ has shown us! And, while this is something that – if we have experienced it – we should not need to be reminded of, this is a common theme throughout Scripture. Throughout the Old Testament, God describes Himself as “abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18). The Psalms remind us that God’s “steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136). The most widely known verse in the Bible proclaims it beautifully (John 3:16): For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 

That is a rare, unique love, so special that it multiplies in the hearts of those who receive it. Think back to how, earlier in this writing, we love others because “God is love” and our lack of love shows a lack of God. People do not like being presented with stark realities like that (think right/wrong, love/hate, etc.). In today’s world people want to blur the lines or add gray areas to soften hard truths we are not yet ready to face. But the Holy Spirit through John does not allow for softening this hard truth; look at v. 20: “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar”. That, dear Sojourner, is a stark reality. He continues, “for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” 

Look at that word “cannot” – can NOT. This word pains me because I struggle with loving people, struggle with hate in my own heart. It seems to say that hatred of a brother and love of God cannot both be in my heart at the same time. And, no matter how hard I try to rationalize – no matter how hard I try to make this fit in my justifications as to why what I feel is right, the Word of God says what it says. What does that mean for me?

It means I need to repent.

It means I need the love that Christ has shown me to impact my life. 

I need to remember that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) – that He died for me knowing all my sin. At the same time, I need to remember how much that love has changed my life: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). Basically, I need to remember that, in my sin, I was an enemy to God and that, while I was His enemy, He loved me enough that He lived for me, died for me, and rose again defeating death, hell, and the grave. If He could show His love for me while I was His enemy, what ground do I have to hate anyone, especially a brother.

“What’s love got to do – got to do with it?” Everything when it comes to knowing I am in Christ. I have to look at my life and test it according to the Word of God, and the Word of God says that hatred – again, especially for a brother (another belonging to Christ) – is evidence that I am not walking with Him. When faced with that fact, those who are not in Christ will make excuses and, ultimately, justify their behavior or decide that their will, their hatred, their sin trumps the Word of God. But, when one of God’s children is faced with the reality of their sin (hatred or otherwise), they are driven to repent and turn back to God.

Where does this leave you? Is your life characterized by love or hate? Do you love (v. 7) or not love (v. 8)? Do you say “I love God” while knowing full well the hatred in your heart (v. 20)? These are questions that I must answer for myself. And they are questions you need to answer on your own, and I pray that you do.

As usual, know that I love you and am praying for you. This week, I am praying specifically that the love of God is poured out on you and that, if necessary, God grants you “repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25).

Songs for Sunday, May 2, 2021

If you are in or around the Grenada, MS area tomorrow morning, we would like to invite you to join us at Christ Community Church! Everyone is welcome!

Thinking on the Scripture passages that we are reading in worship in the morning, I hope it is evident that our goal is to point to Jesus — to point to Him only.

His name is to be praised forever (Psalm 113:2-3).

He, despite being God (John 1:1), humbled Himself – laid His divine glory and splendor aside – coming in human form to dwell among us (John 1:14) to live for us and die in our place (Philippians 2:5-8).

His loving sacrifice as our Substitute – according to the will of God the Father – set His name above every other name, making Him the ultimate object of worship for all of time (Philippians 2:9-11).

His name – that name above every other name – is the name of salvation. There is no salvation apart from Him (Acts 4:12).

Not only is His name above every other, but it becomes a synonym for hope! Nothing on earth can shake those who are His because He is the Creator. He is forever faithful. He executes justice, frees captives, gives sight to the blind, lifts the oppressed, loves the righteous, adopts the sojourner, husbands the widow, fathers the fatherless, and rightly handles the wicked. Simply put, He is the Sovereign, Holy, Omnipotent, Glorious God of the universe for all of time and into eternity. (Psalm 146:4-10)

If you find salvation in Him alone, He frees you from the sin that enslaved you. You are a slave to sin no more. He redeems you – has already paid the price for you, but He does not Lord ownership over you, instead adopting you as His child. And – this is good news – if He sets you free, you – are – FREE (John 8:34-36)!

Here’s what we are signing tomorrow:

  • Psalm 113:2-3

Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!

  • Philippians 2:5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

  • Acts 4:12

12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

  • Psalm 146:4-10

When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

    Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
    who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
       who keeps faith forever;
        who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

       The Lord sets the prisoners free;
        the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
       The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
    The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10    The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.                        
Praise the Lord!

  • John 8:34-36

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Refresh & Restore — April 29, 2021

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish….

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.[1]       

Greetings, Sojourner!

Have you ever had something on your mind so much that you cannot let it go? When that happens, it is like you feel like it shows up in everything you look at – commercials, conversations, stores. It even seems like it is all you can talk about. That is what the past few weeks have been like for me, and the topic that has been the epicenter of my focus has been church – not a church, my church, or your church: the Church.

I have preached on it several times during these weeks. Even as I studied and planned to write on 1 John 4:7-21 today, the Church has been on my mind. Verses like 1 John 4:11 (“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” and 4:20 (“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen”) have me thinking of the way that the Church is to share the love of God with each other and the world around them. In 1 John 4:9 when John says that “the love of God was made manifest”, that is the love that was shown to, and now through, the Church. And, when you read passages like ours in Ephesians 5, you see that love is to be at the center of everything in the Church because Christ loves His Church and calls her His Bride.

What a beautiful image that is – the Bride of Christ!

Look at how the voice (“of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder”) speaks of the Bride of Christ in the end times:

Let us rejoice and exult
and give Him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”…. (Rev. 19:6-8)

The picture I see painted in Scripture here is the arrival of Christ’s Church in Heaven to be a marriage celebration – His Bride will finally have arrived! I think back some fifteen years ago when I laid eyes on my bride when the back doors of the Church open. That moment is seared into my memory and is clear and fresh on my mind today; it is a watershed moment for me. But, the magnitude of that moment, is but a tremor compared to Christ receiving His Bride.

Yet many of us do not see the Church in the same light. When we think of the Church, we think of buildings or denominations or traditions or religion or someone who professes to be a member of a particular church who we think lives more like Hell than Heaven. I have heard people say that they do not have a problem with Jesus; their problem lies with the Church (or with a particular church they have in mind). How does that fit with the way God’s Word talks about His Bride?

In Ephesians 5, we see a passage that often appears only at weddings. It seems to talk about this ideal marriage where a husband loves his wife with this self-sacrificing love. It absolutely is! It lays out that husbands are supposed to give themselves up for their wives in the same way that Christ did for His (v. 25). It shows how husbands are supposed to set their wives apart, loving them with the same care that they give to their own bodies (v. 28). But, while it highlights the way that earthly husbands should absolutely love their wives, it does so by looking at the way that Christ loved/loves His – He died for her, but He also lived for her!

It seems so easy to look at the church as a building or a house of religion. It is another thing entirely to look at her as Christ’s bride. Take the example above where people say they have no problem with Jesus, just the Church. How would that work if said to an earthly husband (even a mediocre one)? “Hey, man, I like you well enough, but I cannot stand your wife!” Any husband worth his salt would at least have a salty retort, and, at most, feelings would not be all that get hurt!

Jesus loves His Bride. He gave Himself up for her, knowing full well her faults and all the difficulties that would come as He – through His Word and His Spirit – grows her, sanctifies her so that “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (v. 27). He knew her/our blemishes. He knew the wrinkles. He knew the sin. Yet “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

He gave us the example of Hosea who loved his wife even though she was a prostitute when he met her (Hosea 1:2-3) and had sold herself into physical bondage to another man. Just as Hosea went to that man and purchased his wife from him (Hosea 3:1-5), Jesus paid the price for us – His life – so that we could be free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:6) and be His alone (1 Peter 2:9). Except in this scenario, the Church has a husband who loves her enough to die for her – but He LIVES for her despite death, “because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24)!

What a beautiful image that is! Yet I find my heart hurting as I think about the Church more and more. You see, part of the reason that the Church has been on my mind is noticing that the more I study the Word and the closer I get to Christ, the more precious the Church becomes to me – the more precious getting to be part of the Church becomes. And, when I see how the Church is treated around the world, facing persecutions and distress and dire circumstances, it both breaks my heart and fills it with joy and hope.

It breaks my heart because I am afraid that I would fail and fall away if such treatment began here. I am afraid that I would care more for the safety and comfort of my family than I would being a part of Christ’s Church. As bad as I hate to say it, I am afraid.

I see how many churches have shuttered their doors, even before the onset of the pandemic. I hear of people citing the recommendations – yes, they were merely recommendations and not laws where I live in Mississippi – of our state government as reasons to shut the doors of our churches. Now, I realize that most of this was done out of an abundance of caution (the recommendations and the decisions), but I wonder what the cost has been. I also do not fault the government for recommending such things. Are we to expect worldly government to recommend biblical teaching? I do not fault churches who, out of caution for their members, made decisions to go virtual or meet outside or have church in the parking lot or gather in homes. The Church is not a building, remember?

There are churches like Grace Life in Alberta, Canada who, when it was genuinely against the law to gather and worship Christ in their location, kept gathering anyway. Even when their pastor was arrested and jailed and fences (yes, plural) were built around their building, the Church was not stopped because “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48). The same goes for His Bride.

Multiple churches in California faced similar situations and, pending legal appeals, face tens if not hundreds of thousands in fines even today.

I am trying to be careful and gracious when I talk about this, but I am reminded of Peter and John’s words when they faced something a bit stiffer than recommendations: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). If you keep reading, Peter and John did not heed the threats of the powers-that-be but kept preaching (Acts 4:23-31). And the result was more people added to the Church (Acts 4:32-37).

Where does that leave us today? I want to ask you where you stand regarding Christ. Do you belong to Him? Are you a part of His Bride, the Church?

Where I live in the Southern U.S., we have largely lost what it means to be a part of the Church or to be a part of a local church or congregation of believers. We use the word “member” like we would a member of a country club or a fraternity or sorority. But that is not the way the Bible uses it:

  • Ephesians 2:19: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God….
  • Romans 12:4-5: For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:12: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

Are you a member (like a dues-paying, sort of part ownership), or are you a member (like an arm or a leg)?

Pardon the pun, but I feel like my message here is a bit disjointed. I do not want you to miss my heart. So I will speak plainly: the Church has been on my mind, and I am afraid that we treat her too casually. I fear we have grown complacent and comfortable, not realizing our playing around is dismembering Christ’s Bride.

There is a set of verses that often get quoted in this context. I have quoted them myself often and increasingly more recently, but I think there is a greater message here:

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

It is not hard to see why this verse seems so appropriate. But, I think I have been emphasizing the wrong part. I have been focusing on what “is the habit of some” and not why that is not good. Plain and simple, we need each other. No, we do not need bodies to fill roles and carry out programs and ministries. We do not need teachers and leaders. We need the members of the body of Christ – we need the members of His Bride – to “hold fast” to “He who promised” more than His promises. We need each other to “stir [us] up…to love and good works”. We need to be “encouraging one another” – and “the Day” is “drawing near”! We need the body of Christ to be whole once more.

I pray this helps whomever it is meant to. If you need help finding a church home, I would love to help you.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 5:25–32.

Songs for Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sundays are a special blessing for God’s people.

Every single time He graces us with another Sunday, we have a reminder that “He is not here, for He has risen as He said” (Matthew 28:6).

Every single Sunday we get to gather, we are reminded that those who have been saved by His grace have been “buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

I think that, sometimes, we allow ourselves to lose a little bit of that understanding. We let the random Mondays, Fridays, and the continual frustrations of every day life take away the joy and miraculous nature of the resurrection.

We can even lose some of that by focusing on church as a meeting or appointment instead of an opportunity to gather with your faith family, gather with the Church, in the presence of our resurrected King — don’t miss this: gather in the presence of King Jesus who is alive and well and seated at the right hand of the Father!

What will you do with your Sunday? He’s still risen!

That’s who we’re singing to and what we’re singing about this Sunday. We are coming together in worship of God the Father because of the finished work of His Son Jesus Christ while filled with His Holy Spirit. It is all about Him, and we are going to worship in that knowledge this Sunday. And we will have hope that can only be found in His Name!

Here are our songs:

  • Galatians 1:3-5

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

  • Acts 4:12

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have two services Sunday morning!

  • 8:00a for those who prefer greater social distancing and masks worn by all
  • 11:00a for everyone else

Refresh & Restore — April 22, 2021

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.[1]   

1 John 4:1-6

Greetings, Sojourner!

You have been on my mind a lot over this past week. Thinking through the way that John talks to his audience – little children, beloved – makes me think of the great care he uses when talking to them. As I write to you, Sojourner, I hope you see my heart for you as well – my heart to see you grow closer to Christ through studying His Word and my desire that your relationship with Him become deeper through the process.

In thinking of you this week, I have also been thinking about the assurance that John offered us last week. It is good to be able to know where we stand with Christ and not have to wonder whether we belong to Him because of the hope and truth found in His Word. Part of trusting that the Word we have is true and comes from Him is that we are able to know what does and does not come from Him by how it fits with the Scriptures. This is what John talks about in our passage today – testing the spirits so that we know what comes from God’s Spirit or the spirit of antichrist.

Think back to the way John speaks of the Spirit in verse 3:23 from last week: “And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us”. Today’s passage flows directly out of this, and for good reason. We can be sure that what we are taught through our pastors, Bible teachers, and Christian literature is of God by testing it according to the Word of God and the Spirit of God.

The idea of testing is a little too close to judging for some people’s tastes, but verse 1 here clearly tells us we need to “test the spirits”. The word translated test here means “to try to determine the genuineness of”[2] or “to make trial of [or] put to proof”[3]. Basically, whenever we encounter someone teaching, preaching, or writing about the Bible, we should test it – check its proof/genuineness by what it says about God’s Word. And, before you dismiss this, look at the way that the Berean believers were heralded for doing this very thing in Acts 17:11:

Now these Jews [in Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Yes, they were eager to hear what was being preached, but not so eager as to take whatever was offered as truth simply because a “preacher” told it to them. I fear that we are not nearly as cautious as we should be.  

We have seen warnings like this from John already in 1 John 2:18-27 where he showed us the influx of antichrists – those who are literally against Christ and bring a false gospel to tear up churches and lead people astray. The primary issue with the message of the antichrists was first brought up in 1 John 2 (“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”) and now emphasized more in today’s passage: “every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (v. 3). That word translated “confess” there in verse 3 is the same that is used in Romans 10:9 to describe the declaration or profession that Jesus Christ is Lord that accompanies salvation. Basically, these false teachers are professing false gospel and false truth to keep people from being saved. And anything that keeps people from salvation wants to see them kept in bondage to sin and death. This is serious business because they are presenting a false Christ!

Look at the way that Danny Akin puts the issue:

“If [Jesus] is just another enlightened religious teacher, He is permitted and tolerated as one opinion, one option, among many. If, however, He is the very incarnation of God, then the gospel and only the gospel is true and He is the only viable option for salvation amid the multitude of imposters.[4]

Basically, altering the truth of who Jesus is according to the Bible alters the gospel. An altered gospel holds no power – it points away from Christ, away from His life, death, burial, and resurrection. And anyone who preaches “a gospel contrary to the one you received” in the Word of God, that preacher is “accursed” – lost, damned, and devoid of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 1:9).

It is tempting to begin to list some people who I believe are marketing a false gospel here, but I believe it best to let God’s Word and His Spirit handle that Himself. Instead, I want to point you to the Truth – to Christ. Look at how verse 4 tells us “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them”. Christ is already victorious over these false teachers, and, if you are in Christ and have received His Spirit – “He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world” (v. 4). Christ is greater than the false prophets. Christ is greater than the antichrists. Christ is greater than the Antichrist. Christ is greater than Satan. He has won, is winning, and will ultimately reign forevermore over them – “they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with Him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). The Jesus of the Bible – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – is greater.

If you are His, you have nothing to fear from false prophets. But, even though there is nothing to fear, we need to spend more time in the Word of God in order to “rightly [handle] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and adequately test the spirits – to know the difference between “the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (v. 6). To help with this, I would like to show you some more warnings in the word of God regarding these antichrists, false prophets, and false gospel preachers:

  Jesus’ WarningsMatthew 7:15-20: 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.Matthew 24:11-14: 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.Mark 13:21-23: 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
  Paul’s WarningActs 20:28-30: 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
  Peter’s Warning2 Peter 2:1-3: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
  Jude’s WarningJude 4: For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

I urge you to take these warnings seriously. There are many voices that try to speak and have influence over you, and we need to be more and more vigilant and guarded over who we let speak truth in our lives. One of the gifts that God has given us is His Church. Our Christian walk is personal between us and our Savior, but it is not meant to happen in solitude. We are made to be members of the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 27; Ephesians 2:19). And God has called pastors to these churches to make His Word known and shepherd the “flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2, Ephesians 4:11). Sitting under the teaching of these pastors – Bible in hand following the example of the Bereans in Acts 11 – we get to hear from God.

If you are not a part of a local church, I urge you to find one where the Bible is preached, and Jesus is proclaimed. As much as I love you and enjoy writing – as much as I hope that these writings help you get closer to Christ, they are no substitute for being a part of a body of believers in a local church who will hold you accountable and walk with you (Hebrews 10:23-25). If you do not have a church family, feel free to contact me, and I would love to help you find one where you live.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 4:1–6.

[2] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 331.

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[4] Daniel L. Akin et al., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2014).

Refresh & Restore — April 15, 2021

18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.[1]

1 John 3:18-24

Greetings, Sojourner!

It has been a few weeks since we have been in 1 John together, and I think that today’s passage is quite an appropriate diving board for us to get back into the swing of things.

Part of the purpose of 1 John is to help people know that they have the Life of Christ, that the Light of Christ has shone on them, and that the Love of Christ has been extended to them. That knowing is called assurance, which basically means that we can be sure –  we can truly know – that we are children of God. Throughout the first half of 1 John, the idea of walking with Him in the light “as He is in the light” (ch. 1:7) and abiding in Him and His truth (ch. 2:27) is used to help us see what it means to be God’s children who do not have to “shrink from Him in shame at His coming” (ch. 2:28). Today’s passage continues that in helping us have confidence in His promises to know who we are in Him, and more especially whose we are – His, even in the presence of doubts.

Doubt, believe it or not, is not necessarily a bad thing. It can keep us real and honest. It can make us double-check our motives. But it can also freeze us up and make us ineffective. There are five truths in today’s passage that can either help overcome our doubt or show us that we need to repent – both of which are blessings in and of themselves. If, through the reading of God’s Word, His Spirit lets you know you have no reason for doubt, you will no doubt feel blessed. But, if through reading He shows you that you are not His, this is a more gracious blessing than we could understand in the moment.

It is my prayer that whichever you find – doubt or repentance – that you, ultimately find yourself closer to Him.

Truth #1 – Love Reassures Our Hearts (vv. 18-19)

Verse 18 is like a hinge of a door, opening up from John’s discussion about the love of Christ and how it does (or does not) show up in our lives. I believe that we underuse this verse and just kind of tag it onto other verses to prove what we want to say. Look at what it says about how we should love – it does not exist in “word or talk” but in one’s actions, “in truth”. I work with kids every day who are not fooled with the words of love – they understand what love is through experience, through truth.

In the case of the love John speaks of here, it is the love that comes from Christ (Romans 5:8, Galatians 2:20). Those who are in Christ (who is Himself the Truth – John 14:6) have experienced His sacrificial, never-failing, never-ending love. And part of being in Him is sharing the love that He has given us with others –
“He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (ch. 3:16). Loving others with Christ-like love trumps any “I love you”, it triumphs over any promise or lie but is true through and through because He said it was:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

The Truth has spoken on the matter, and, when His love shows up in our lives and practices, our doubting hearts can be reassured that they belong to Him.

Truth #2 – God is Greater Than Our Hearts (v. 20)

Rather than diving into an analogy or illustration, I think we need to get down to the truth regarding our hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our hearts lead us to sin. Despite what we would want others to believe, we enjoy sin (just not necessarily the consequences that come with committing it). Sin is the sum of our heart’s desires. Yet the most common advice I hear given to people who are seeking truth or counsel on big decisions in their lives is for them to follow their hearts!

In the context of today’s passage, John talks about the heart acting as our conscience. This can be a good thing, but, remember, the heart is “deceitful” and knows how to trick you better than anything else because it is truly and foundationally you. Why else would our hearts lead us to sin that leads only to heartbreak? Why else would pursuing the “loves” (word and deed) that end up being lusts?

Sometimes, our heart – our conscience – cues us into something wrong. And, in those times, it serves us well. But, sometimes, our heart merely aches because we do not get what we want – that missed opportunity, that time you chose this over that, that time you could have gotten ahead and could have prevented so many struggles. Jeremiah 17:9 ends with a question: “Who can understand [the heart]?” Today’s passage answers that: “God is greater than our heart” (v. 20).

You see, when one repents and believes in Christ and becomes born again, God performs a heart transplant. He gives a “new heart” and a “new spirit” to replace “the heart of stone” (Ezekiel 36:26). I have already said that our hearts give us what we want whether or not it is what we need, but the new heart that God gives us beats for Him and what He knows we need. He alone is the one who “search[es] the heart and test[s] the mind” so that He can know who we are and whose we are (Jeremiah 17:10).

So, if your heart – your conscience – is condemning you because you have sinned, it is God working in you to bring you to repentance. But, if your heart is doubting and dragging you back into former sin, be reminded that “God is greater than your heart” and what He says about you is what matters into eternity.

Truth #3 – Prayer and Assurance Go Together (vv. 21-22)

I remember vividly receiving my first Walkman[2] and Garth Brooks’ debut album. If I close my eyes, I can take myself back to walking around the yard and having the music pour directly into my brain (no doubt too loud). There was a song on that album whose lyrics try to speak to me even some thirty years later: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers…”. While this is a song about a man reminiscing on an earlier love not coming about in the light of his current romance, it illustrates John’s point here. How we pray and what we pray for – counting our motivations and desires and hopes – shows our hearts and can either reassure us that we belong to Christ or not.

John, here, illustrates that those who are in Christ have “confidence” to come “before Him” that leads to an openness in prayer (v. 21). That confidence is not in ourselves or our actions but in the fact that He has produced a change in our lives that led us to “keep His commandments and do what pleases Him” (v. 22). When you pray, are you seeking the Lord’s will and wanting what He wants? The answer to that question will either reassure us, drive us to repent, or condemn us. May we find confidence in what He has done in us.

Truth #4 – Biblical Beliefs Produce Biblical Results (v. 23)

Truth in the world today is subjective. I hear more and more people saying things like “this is my truth” or “it is the truth to me”. True truth does not work like that. And Biblical truth does not deviate from what the Bible says because it shows Jesus saying that He is the Truth (John 14:6) – that He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And, if it is lying about Him, nothing is true.

John references “His commandment” in verse 23. He speaks of this with respect and authority, almost as if acknowledging Jesus’ authorship of the Word in the way He says it. Jesus’ commandment here is two-fold: 1) “we believe in Jesus Christ, and 2) we love one another (“just as He has commanded us”). If you have doubts and need reassurance, this truth gets to the heart of the issue. If you do not believe that Jesus is who the Bible says He is, you cannot be saved (Romans 10:9). He is strong enough to take our questions and our doubt, but what His Word says about Him is true or it is not. The way that John writes this in the original language shows how we can truly know if we believe this: love. Belief, or faith, in Christ is an action that is defined by whether we continue on (ch 2:19, 3:10) in Him, whether or not His love shows up in our lives. This is where it gets tough and ,trust me, I have to wrestle with this more often than I would care to admit, because it is easier to hate others or love myself than love God and show His love to people.

Ultimately, you know how this plays out in your life. Does it lead you to reassurance or repentance?

Truth #5 – Only His Children Have His Spirit (v. 24)

As I type this section, I can hear my father-in-law singing John 15 as a song; look at verse 5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in Him, He it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” The final truth to reassure our hearts is whether Christ – His Spirit – abides (lives, dwells) in us. Paul says it thusly in Galatians 5:16, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh”.

John here carries out the same analogy that Jesus did in his gospel. He shakes our tree to examine our fruit. If He is not abiding in us, our fruit is sinful, rotten, dead. If His Spirit is in us, His fruit is evident – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Are you connected to Christ? Are you rooted in Him? Is the fruit of His Spirit growing in your life?

I stated at the beginning of this week’s devotion that rooting out doubts would either lead to being reassured – finding renewed confidence in Christ – or it should lead to repentance. Maybe, after reading through 1 John 3:18-24, you have come to realize that you do not belong to Christ. Maybe the fruit – the proof of His Spirit, His love – is not in your life. Let me assure you of this: it can.

The Bible tells us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). So, if you have found that you do not have Him and want to receive Him, call out to Him and be saved.

If you read these verses and find that you are in Him but need to repent of sin and walk with Him in love and truth again, let the words of the writer of Hebrews be a comfort and guide to you: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). No matter how far you have strayed, He has not moved. He is still on His throne. And His throne is one of grace where you can surely receive mercy and find grace – where you can surely find Him. Beloved Sojourner, know that I am praying for and love you. If you need to talk, need someone to listen, or would like to pray, I am here for you and would love to point you to the throne of grace today.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 3:18–24.

[2] For those of you too young to know what I mean, Google it. It was a portable cassette player (cassettes fit in between records and CDs in the time line), had head phones, and was a symbol of cool and a source of music.

Songs for Sunday, April 11, 2021

There are some verses that have been on my heart for quite some time, but I have hesitated to post them here because I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Isn’t that a scary thought — that I could have a portion of God’s Word on my heart, meditating on it, being convicted by it, and too afraid to put it out because of people’s feelings?

Hebrews 10:23-25 says:

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

For the over a year now, we have lived with Covid-19 – and, yes, there are those who have died as a result of it, too. I do not seek to argue against the virus or against those in government positions who have made mandates and recommendations as they saw fit in their positions. I am not waging war for or against vaccines. I am not diminishing the fear and caution that we have all struggled with. And I am especially not taking lightly those loved ones who have lost their life due to this virus or those who have had to make difficult decisions in the name of protecting those who are at-risk – those who would quite possibly die if they ever contract this coronavirus.

But I cannot help but see a trend – a trend of returning to “normal”, whatever that is. There is talk of states being fully opened for the sake of the economy. School has been in session for nearly a full year. Many have never stopped going to work – essential or not. Stores have been backed and crowded for months now. And, through all of that, these verses from Hebrews 10 have been on my heart.

I am afraid that we have wavered from our the confession of our hope and forgotten that “He who promised is faithful”. Did the same God who prophesied at length about so many things miss the global pandemic of 2020-21? Did He cease to be faithful this year or take a break? The obvious answer is no. Hope in Him “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

I am afraid that even though I try through writing devotions and posts like this, times of teaching and leading in worship, and opportunities that I have had to preach and proclaim to others about Jesus that I have neglected to “stir up” many of my brothers and sisters “to love and good works”. My fear of hurting people’s feelings who are making hard choices due to this virus has caused me to be silent – or at least quietly careful.

I am afraid that we are “neglecting to meet together” and that over this past year our neglect has grown into “the habit of some”. Thankfully, Christ Community has not closed her doors during this pandemic. This is not to criticize or condemn those churches who have made hard decisions. This is not knocking the various creative means of live-streaming, drive-thru-ing, parking lot or outdoor services, or any other means that people have tried to allow people to gather in difficult times. It is simply saying that we have held to the belief that gathering together as believers in worship of the King of kings and Lord of lords – of “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) – is essential.

In regard to staying open, it has been a blessing that there have not been any mandates against the church in our state. Yes, there have been government recommendations that gathering be limited and that people be cautious. But haven’t there been recommendations about tobacco and alcohol and driving speed – each of which are accompanied by rigorous laws – that have been ignored for years and all of which carry high mortality rates? There are churches in California that have had to fight lawsuits from their cities because they believe the church is essential. Just this past week, GraceLife Church in Alberta, Canada saw local authorities build a fence around their church building so that they would no longer gather together.

Yet, we, in our freedom, have not remembered that we are free to worship – free to gather – not because of a benevolent and constitution-respecting government but because of a gracious and loving God who freed us from the bondage of sin and the death that accompanied it (Romans 6:23) and told us to “stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Government mandates and/or recommendations have not slowed the gathering of believers in persecuted countries. When the governments in those countries arrest, beat, torture, imprison, and, yes, even murder believers, their zeal to gather – their zeal to “not [be found] neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” out of grateful hearts to the One who died and rose for their salvation is not diminished one, single bit.

More than anything, I am afraid that we have forgotten that we have stopped looking and remembering that “the Day is drawing near”. We have gotten so wrapped up in fear and death and surviving that we forget that “He who promised is faithful” and that He – King Jesus – is coming back! And we have forgotten that, while we are waiting for His return, He has given us a mission. He has given us a “ministry” and “message of reconciliation” to remind people that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). He has called us to be “ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us”, begging and imploring people “on behalf of Christ [to] be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I am afraid that, just as we have forgotten His second coming, that we have forgotten what He accomplished for us when He came the first time: “For our sake He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Brothers and sisters, I think it’s time for Christ’s ambassadors to come back to our embassy – the local church to which He called – yes, called – you to be a part of. The local church – the local body of believers to which you were called to be a member – has been missing appendages that God intended for that local church to function as His body in the community where He planted it to be a lampstand (Revelation 1:20) “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16).

While I am afraid of these things, I serve a God who is greater than my fear. It is my prayer that He helps with your fear as well me with mine.

I hope you can see my love for you in these words, and I genuinely do not want to hurt your feelings or to hurt you in any way. My words may be inadequate to relay my heart, but God’s Word does not come up short or “return to [Him] empty, but it shall accomplish that which [He purposes]” (Isaiah 55:11).

Here are the songs we’ll sing tomorrow:

  • Romans 8:12-18

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

  • Chain Breaker
  • Goodness of God
  • Acts 2:22-24

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

  • Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)
  • So Will I
  • (invitation) Grace Has Called My Name

Easter 2021 — He is Risen!

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word Easter? It is probably things like…Easter Bunny, eggs, chocolate, candy, and baskets, right? But that is not what Easter is all about. Easter is all about how Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead!

The Bible says that this is the most important thing:

For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples. He betrayed Jesus by leading an army to Him. Some people did not believe Jesus was the Son of God, so they paid Judas to lead them to Jesus. Since the Romans were the only people allowed to kill prisoners, the leaders told them about Jesus claiming to be the Son of God. Jesus is the Son of God!

The leaders thought if Jesus was the Son of God, He could save Himself. He could have called an army of angels to save Him, but He knew that dying on the cross was the only way for us to be saved.

After beating Jesus, Roman soldiers gave Him a crown made out of thorns, made fun of Him, and made Him carry the cross they nailed Him to. Even though Jesus was perfect, He chose to die on the cross to rescue us from our sins.

Three days later on the first Easter, Jesus rose from the dead!

Mary and some other women went to the tomb to wash Jesus’ body. When they got there, though, the stone was rolled away from the tomb, and Jesus was gone. There was an angel that said, “Do not be afraid; Jesus is alive!” Mary ran because she was scared and confused. Then, she saw Jesus! He told her to tell everyone that He was alive again! He is still alive today and will always be alive!

By dying and raising from the dead, Jesus made everything new. It is almost like the world was starting all over. Everything sad could be happy. And, one day, all of the sadness will – POOF! – disappear right out of the world when Jesus comes back again!

Holy Week 2021 — Black Saturday, April 3

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:3-5, 12-20

I think that Saturday’s title in Holy Week is quite misleading. “Black Saturday” sounds so terrible. But only one Saturday in the last nearly 2,000 years could be called “Black Saturday” – the one when Jesus was actually in the tomb, when the Savior of the world was dead in the grave.

The good news for us is that no Saturday – or any day for that matter – has been the same since! As we read earlier in the week, the borrowed tomb has been returned! Jesus is the only person in history to walk out of His own tomb, and, since He did, death, hell, and Satan have been defeated.

So, today, I want you to contemplate the resurrection. Tomorrow will be busy and exciting – the first Easter for a gathering of the church since 2019.  As sad as it is to say, we could miss Jesus – the resurrected King of kings – in all of the hullabaloo of the holiday. May it not be so for us!

Let us use today’s verses to meditate on King Jesus and the power of His resurrection:

  • (v. 3) The gospel – good news – of Jesus’ death burial and resurrection is supposed to be of “first importance” in our lives.
  • (vv. 3-4) Everything that Jesus went through was “in accordance with the Scriptures”. It all happened exactly as God had planned it from before the beginning.
  • (v. 14) Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the basis for our faith.
  • (v. 15) Belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is a non-negotiable belief for Christians. Not believing in the resurrection means not believing in Christ.
  • (vv. 16-18) If Jesus stayed in the tomb, our salvation would be in there with Him. Every other religion has faith in a dead man. Our resurrected Savior continues to save and redeem!
  • (v. 19) Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we have a hope that endures and lives. Hope is more than an idea or a belief; hope is a Person, and He is alive!