Categories
Advent / Christmas Hope Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore — 12/3/2020

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23    “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

Greetings, Sojourner!

It is hard to believe that Christmas is almost here! Even though Christmas trees have been out at Wal-Mart since before Halloween, the events of 2020 just have not allowed for the regular passage of time. But, in just a few short weeks, ready or not, it will indeed be Christmas.

The purpose of these devotions has always centered around the idea of being refreshed by the presence of King Jesus while we wait for Him to restore everything as He promised (Acts 3:19-21). It is my hope that this Christmas we will be able to feel the presence of Jesus, especially in the middle of everything that this year has thrown at us. Over the next few weeks, we will look at the hope, joy, and love that come only from the Lord. For us today, what could be more fitting a beginning than hope?

Can you imagine what it was like to be the earthly, adopted father of Jesus? A lot of people (and rightly so) have spent a great deal of time wondering what it must have been like for Mary, and I do not want to downplay what all she must have gone through. I have no doubt that her community was quick to brand her with a scarlet letter and cast her out as a loose woman. I cannot imagine how hard that must have been. But, today, I find myself looking through Joseph’s eyes.

The Bible describes Joseph as “a just man” who was “unwilling to put [Mary] to shame” (v. 19). While this seems to be a complete description of him, I believe that these two things contradict each other. You see, Joseph could have still been just had he brought Mary before their village and had her put to death for her apparent adultery (Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22). Before you rise in anger here, imagine whether you would have believed in the virgin birth if you had lived down the street from Mary. As bad as I hate to admit it, I would likely have been casting gossip and selecting rocks. But Joseph was different – at least a little different.

Joseph was indeed a just man, but he was also a man of grace and mercy. Grace and mercy always contradict justice. They swap the pain of punishment on the part of the one who committed the injustice and place the burden of pain and shame on the one giving the grace and mercy. Joseph was unwilling to put her to shame, which means he was going to bear the shame himself. People always look at Mary and can see why God would choose her to be Jesus’ mom, but it is noticeably clear here why Joseph would get to be the man to raise Him.

This, in and of itself, should give us hope. We do not have to quake in fear of the justice of God if we have received His grace and mercy. Mary had to be scared, but, all of a sudden, the one man who could have called for her life did not seek to heap shame upon her. We do not see much of Joseph, but what we do see of him points to the God who put on flesh, grew up in his house, and took up his profession (John 1:14, Mark 6:3)!

The very same night he decided to show Mary the mercy of a quiet divorce, an angel came to him in a dream (v. 20). The angel let him know that Mary’s claims of a virgin pregnancy were true and that he should not be afraid to continue as her husband. This is good news for us as the Church, the bride of Christ! Rather than casting us away because of our legitimately sinning against Him, He gave Himself for us (James 4:4, Ephesians 5:23-27). Although their earthly relationship would be subject to gossip and ridicule, it would actually be a beautiful picture of the gospel and redemption! And there is always hope to be found in the gospel. There is always hope for the redeemed.

The angel continued to tell him that Mary’s son should be named “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (v. 21). This may not seem to be a big point, but the name of Jesus is something special. In Hebrew and Aramaic it would be Yeshua, which means whose help is Yahweh or the Lord is salvation. This should not be glazed over, because there is no other name like the name of Jesus. There is “no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The name of Jesus is the name that God the Father “bestowed on Him…that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…” (Philippians 2:9-10). The Father “exalted [Jesus] at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).

Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, would grow up and learn to be a man in Joseph’s house. He would grow to be the mediator between Joseph and God by giving His life as a “ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5). He would learn to work and form wood in Joseph’s workshop before He would hang on the tree in Joseph’s (and our) place (Galatians 3:13).

That night, while Joseph slept, the uneasiness and fear at the prospect of divorcing Mary gave way to peace. And it gave way to hope.

After all the many years that the Lord had been silent with His people, He fulfilled His promise to them by sending them Emmanuel. The word Emmanuel is incredibly special. God showed it to His people through the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 8:8-10). He spoke of nations rising against God’s people. Their fierce armies would threaten doom and destruction. But Emmanuel would fill the land and make all their threats against the Lord’s people amount to nothing. The fierceness of their armies and might of their threats “will not stand, for God is with us” (Isaiah 8:10), which is exactly what Emmanuel means – God with us.

This gave Israel hope during their exile in the land of Babylon. It gave hope to the early believers who realized that the Messiah had come. And it gives hope to us still today.

We do not have to fear all the things that come against us because God is with us. We do not have to worry about the impending doom on the horizon because God is with us.

While this passage is not often cited in the context of Christmas, I believe Romans 8:31-34 is the epitome of Emmanuel:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

We have nothing to fear because God is with us, His name is Jesus, and He loves us. He will never leave us. He will never stop loving us. Those are immovable truths. They are facts. And they give hope.

I have no doubt that 2020, the gift that keeps on giving, still has more surprises in store. I know that there will be dark days we have yet to experience. They will shake us and our faith. But there are no days that will shake the throne of heaven – the throne of the King of kings. I know that God has all of this under control – that He has not and will not be caught off guard or surprised. These facts should give us hope.

I like the way that the Jesus Storybook Bible (yes, a children’s book) reflects today’s passage. When you read these words, notice the hope that comes from what it says about Jesus:

“Mary and Joseph named Him Jesus, ‘Emmanuel’ – which means ‘God has come to live with us.’ Because, of course, He had.”

Just as Joseph rested as he dreamt of the hope yet to come in His life, may we rest and hope in the promises of Emmanuel – of God with us. Because, of course, He is.

Categories
Advent / Christmas Songs for Sunday

Songs for Sunday — November 29, 2020

Hope.

We need it to survive. It gets harder and harder to come by. But it can be found in abundance in Jesus.

We can have hope because God is faithful to keep His promises.

Let’s look at a few of God’s promises:

Most of the time, we merely hope that people will keep their promises. They may or may not follow through. But we can hope in God’s promises. We can trust them and let them form our understanding of the future. And His hope never – never – puts us to shame (Romans 5:5)!

We have the privilege of worshiping the one, true God, who – before the foundation of the world – gave Himself so that we might have our sins forgiven through Jesus Christ. This was/is Plan A. This portion of Advent looks at how God, through His Word, showed how He would come to earth centuries before that day in Bethlehem. As we look at how God promised Christ, let us find hope and security in Him.

Here are our songs:

  • What a Beautiful Name
  • Matthew 1:20-23

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • Born to Die
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

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, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

  • At the Cross (Love Ran Red)
  • (invitation) Jesus at the Center

—–

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

Categories
Songs for Sunday

Songs for Sunday — November 15, 2020

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

Categories
Hope Songs for Sunday Stuff I've Been Writing Worship

Songs for Sunday — November 8, 2020

What a week this has been!

If you are looking for nonstop surprises, 2020 does not disappoint – or it does absolutely disappoint! So, if you would like a reprieve from the counting of votes, let us look to the One we can always count on.

Psalm 130 is fitting for times such as this because it illustrates how we should reach out from the depths of uncertainty and despair to the Lord as our only hope.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!”

Psalm 130:1-2

The psalmist is crying out, begging God to hear his cries for mercy. It is good to be reminded that – whatever our desperate situation – there is a God in heaven who hears and rescues (1 Samuel 17:46, Daniel 2:28).

“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.”

Psalm 130:3-4

If we are going to cry out to God, it is important that we understand the reality of our sin (Romans 3:23, 6:23). We need a Savior before we need rescuing from whatever dire earthly situation. Understanding our need for a Savior leads us to rest and relish in the joy of forgiveness! Knowing that King Jesus would be absolutely righteous to condemn us to hell but chose to love us and give Himself for us drives us to our knees in worship and prayer rather than trembling in fear (Ephesians 5:25, 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 2 Timothy 1:7).

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in His Word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.”

Psalm 130:5-6

I have never been a night watchmen, but I am a perpetual sophomore. This, in my mind, is similar to the way that kids look toward the final bell during the last month of school. They feel the relief and rest of summer like the glow of the sun playing on the edge of the horizon. They watch the time, some knowing down to the second how long it is until the bell.

For us, we wait on Him with that same fervency and desire.

We wait on Him with the same pregnant joy of an expectant mother – the joy of motherhood outweighing the discomfort of the last trimester.

We wait with that same hope of relief and joy that comes from feeling complete.

We can hope in His Word. We can hope in His presence. We can hope in His forgiveness. We can hope because He does not disappoint.

And that’s what we are singing about this Sunday – the never stopping, never giving up, always and forever love that the Father has for us and His gift of love and hope in giving His only Son for us (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

Categories
Songs for Sunday Stuff I've Been Writing Worship

Songs for Sunday — November 1, 2020

We have a saying here in the South that we use to describe someone who is – for whatever reason – indescribable. We will say that person is “something else”. That “something else” can be good, or it can be bad.

You could be telling a story about someone’s exploits that seems beyond human abilities and say, “That guy is something else.” Or you could be describing some deplorable action of an individual and be awestruck at how bad their behavior is and say the very same thing.

But let me tell you that our God is truly something else! The Bible word for this is holy. This means that He is set apart, high above all of everything that there is. He has this sense of otherness because there is nothing that can compare with Him.

I think that Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord gives a good picture of just how holy – how “something else” – God truly is:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of His glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of Him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and you sin atoned for.”
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Isaiah 6:1-8 ESV

Isaiah found himself in the presence of God and was overwhelmed by the holiness of God. He was overwhelmed by the sheer glory that he was confronted with – and he was only able to see the tail end of God’s garment. Just being near to God convicted him of his sin. Sheer proximity produced a desire for repentance, worship, and faith. And this is exactly how we should be in the presence of God.

I think that, sometimes, we can forget just how “something else” that Jesus is. But we need to retain that sense of awe. We need to continually look in His Word and see how special He is. We need to be reminded of the “first importance” of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) and have our eyes opened afresh at the splendor of our King. I think Micah gives us a good lens for such a view:

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain His anger forever,
because He delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:18-19 ESV

This is what we are singing about Sunday – God’s holiness and majesty on display. We will be reminded that He is truly “something else” and always has, is, and will continue to be forever. We will celebrate Who He is, what He has done, and we will lift our voices to the King of kings and Lord of lords – Jesus Christ!

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

Categories
Songs for Sunday

Songs for Sunday — October 18, 2020

Often I find myself sitting at this computer, praying and searching for the best words to prepare our hearts for worshiping our King on Sunday. Today, I am sure that I have the best words – perfect words.

I did a Bible search for verses referencing praising the name of the Lord. Here is a small sampling that show us the scope and depth that our worship should contain for the One with a name above every other:

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!

Psalm 113:1

Let them praise the name of the LORD! For He commanded and they were created.

Psalm 148:5

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; His majesty is above the earth and heaven.

Psalm 148:13

Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with tambourine and lyre!

Psalm 149:3

Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame; let the poor and needy praise your name.

Psalm 74:21

And now we thank you, Our God, and praise your glorious name.

1 Chronicles 29:13

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69:30

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Joel 2:26

Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.

Psalm 142:7

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

Psalm 7:17

And it is in the name and to the “glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) that we will praise and have hope as we sing tomorrow!

These passages were on my heart as the worship set came together this week:

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

Categories
Songs for Sunday Uncategorized

Songs for Sunday — October 11, 2020

Last week, Big John said something that has stuck in my head all week. He talked about how earthly parents are limited in how much they can do for their children.

They want to take away pain, but there is only so much they can do to relieve their children’s suffering. They want to save them from trouble, but – again – they have limits. But our God is not limited!

Romans 8:31-39 tells us about the everlasting love of our heavenly Father:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:31-32

What powerful and humbling questions!

He goes on to tell us more about that love:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Romans 8:35

Any of those things would be enough to thwart me as an earthly Father. Again, I – as all earthly fathers are – am limited. But our Father is not! Look at the answer to all of these questions:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

That’s good news! And that never ending, never stopping, never failing, never giving-up love of our God and Savior is what we are singing about this Sunday!

These verses were on my heart as the worship set came together this week:

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

Categories
Songs for Sunday Uncategorized

Songs for Sunday – 9/27/2020

This Sunday at Christ Community we get to celebrate new life! We celebrate the Life – our resurrected King Jesus! It is a blessing to get to be a part of what He is doing!

Speaking of what God is doing, we will get to celebrate believers’ baptism Sunday afternoon! I have always found that baptism Sundays are the most exciting ones in every church I have served, but there is only one party that outdoes Christ Community’s baptism services – when the angels rejoice over saved sinners (Luke 15:10)!

It is no less miraculous to see someone born again than seeing someone born the first time! You see, a lost sinner – dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) – repenting of their sin and putting their trust in Christ – being raised to life in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5) is a miracle. I mean, how often do we see the dead raised?

Baptism – as Paul describes it in Romans 6 – is a beautiful picture of this miracle:

We were buried therefore with Him in 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

When a new believer is submersed under the water, it symbolizes the death of the old self, the flesh. It represents the death we deserve that was earned by our sin (Romans 6:23). But, typically, the grave is a one way trip. Gravediggers only dig entrances.

Jesus makes a Way for us. He died for our sins and rose from the dead. He invites us to have faith – believe and trust – in Him. And, if we do that, the Bible teaches that we share in His Life, His resurrection:

For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

Romans 6:5

That’s good news that’s worth celebrating! And that’s what we’re singing about this Sunday morning! It’s my prayer that, if you do not know Him, that you see the surpassing worth that is in Jesus (Philippians 3:8)and trust in Him!

These verses were on my heart as the worship set came together this week:

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

Categories
Songs for Sunday

Songs for Sunday – 9/13/2020

Over the past week, it seems like we are hearing a lot about repentance at Christ Community.

Big John showed us our need to return to the Lord as a nation in Jeremiah 4. The last two weeks of our Refresh & Restore devotions have looked at repentance — how sin works and our need to repent and beginning to look at how to repent in Psalm 51. But, as much as I would like to tell you that we have a big plan where we have coordinated with each other, it is pure coincidence on the part of me and John. The plan goes above our pay grade.

L.G. tells us often that God has a plan for our lives, but it is different when we see it begin to form before us. It is different still when that plan involves repentance. You see, repentance is not fun. It is not enjoyable. Nor is it meant to be. Being corrected is never fun – never enjoyable. But it is always necessary. And, while the process is not enjoyable, the results are blessing and restoration!

Psalm 32 is considered a penitent Psalm (basically a Psalm of repentance). But look at how positively it teaches us to view repentance:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 32:1-2

The blessing comes from the forgiveness! This does not do away with the pain or consequence of sin. It highlights the fact that we have a loving Father waiting for us on the other side of the process (Luke 15:11-32)! We have the opportunity and the privilege to get to repent. And when we turn away from our sin and back toward our Savior — oh, what a blessing it is to return to Him!

And that’s what we are singing about tomorrow — the joy of returning to the Savior in repentance!

These Scriptures were on my heart as the worship set came together this week:

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

Categories
Songs for Sunday

Songs for Sunday – 8/30/2020

Tomorrow is the Lord’s day. It is the day that His people gather together and celebrate the resurrection of King Jesus! We plan to make much of Him tomorrow!

All of the songs we sing make much of Jesus because He is everything. Tomorrow, all of our songs are stemming around the great Christ hymn found in Colossians 1:

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Colossians 1:13-23

It is all about Jesus! May our lives and praises reflect this!

Here are our songs: