Refresh & Restore — March 24, 2022

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.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.[1]

Colossians 1:15-23

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I have started this week’s Bible study over and over in my head.

Have you ever set out to complete a task and realized that you are woefully inadequate for the task? That is how I feel about this section of Colossians. It is magnificent. It is glorious. It is full to the brim of amazing truths about Jesus. The more I study it, I find myself praying along with the tax collector: “Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

The more I learn of Jesus – the closer I get to Him, the more I learn about myself. He, of course, does not change, but my perception of Him grows the more time I spend in His Word. The greater my perception of Him becomes, the worse I realize I am. The more grace I experience from Him, the more I realize the dangers of my sin. Understanding the cost of His sacrifice illustrates how woefully in debt I would be had He not redeemed me.

The good news (for me and for you) is that He is not dependent on the skill of anyone to make Him great. He already is. He does not need me to be eloquent or convincing. He is worthy. And I get to simply point you toward Him.

The Greatest Hymn Ever Written

This passage has long been one of my favorites. Every time I read it, it is like drinking ice-cold water when you are parched and hot. It is refreshes me. Looking at and processing how big and great – how preeminent, supreme, and sovereign – He is gives me indescribable relief.  

The general consensus of many theologians, writers, and preachers over the centuries is that this passage was a hymn in the early church. Since it is recorded in Scripture and all Scripture is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), this hymn is perfect. This hymn does not sing about the Word or what the Word says. This hymn is part of the Word! That, in and of itself, is enough to make it beautiful, but the way that it testifies to Who Jesus is adds depth and beauty that no human mind could think.

This explains why singing songs of the faith (“psalms” – singing Scripture, “hymns” – singing doctrine or what the Bible teaches, and “spiritual songs” – singing testimonies[2]; cf. Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16) are important: they help us carry our beliefs, our theology, from our hearts and minds to our mouths.[3]

There are many beautiful modern hymns that help us communicate deep truths about Jesus. “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (1680) highlights His care and strength:

“Praise to the Lord, who will prosper your work and defend you;
Surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend you.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriends you.”[4]

“How Great Thou Art” (1949) illustrates His greatness by reminding what He has done for us:

“And when I think that God His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin”[5]

And, more recently, “In Christ Alone” (2001) reminds us to hope in Christ alone:

“In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand”[6]

But, as beautiful as these songs are, they are not enough. Theology is important – sound theology is very important, but it all pales in comparison to Jesus. And the Colossian hymn – if it helps you to think of it that way – in 1:15-23 is better than the sum of every lyric of every worship song ever written about Jesus because it comes from Jesus Himself, the Word of God. He is more noteworthy than every note ever sung or that will be sung in worship of Him. Let’s dive in and seek to know Him more as we embark on today’s passage.

Diving In

In the last devotion, I tried to illustrate why Paul begins with this section on Jesus: to lay down the essential Truth of Who He is before he deals with the issues of false teaching that plagued the church at Colossae. There is false teaching today that still attacks Who Jesus is – Who the Bible proclaims Him to be. So, I want to be as careful as I possibly can – more carefully even than usual with my handling of this passage.

I always seek to take each passage (whether in my writing or while preaching/teaching) and treat it with the same care that Ezra did when they read from the Law – the Scriptures – for the first time when they came back home out of exile: “They read from the book, from the Law of God clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). On that day, all of Israel stood and listened. They were attentive to the Word because they had starved without it in exile. Dear, Sojourner, we are in exile, too, for “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Let us walk through this hymn together, verse-by-verse, looking at what is clearly seen, giving a sense so that we may understand our reading – that we may see Him.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (v. 15)

There are two descriptions of Jesus in this verse that are very important: “image of the invisible God” and “firstborn of all creation”. They run parallel to each other to help build our understanding of Who He is.

When I see the phrase “image of…God”, my mind is drawn back to the Creation account in Genesis:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

I love the language in that passage. If you look at the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the original language of Colossians, the word for “image” is the same. It’s the word eikon (pronounced and similar to our word icon). That word is used in other places in the New Testament when Jesus asks whose “likeness” is on the Roman currency (Matthew 22:20) and later on to describe the “image [or statue] of the beast” in Revelation 13:14.

Basically, this is the word used to describe a picture (2D or 3D) that represents something real. The eikon is a visible representative of the real thing. It might be helpful to think of the icons for apps on our phones or computer screens. Think of how broad and vast the internet is, yet all you need to do to access the web is to click on the icon. It seems to simple to look at Jesus on the terms of an app, but there is Scripture to back this up. Hebrews 1:3 is a beautiful picture of this as the author writes that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature”; Jesus is the literal embodiment of God’s glory and possesses God’s nature because He is God! Jesus said as much Himself in John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”) and 14:9 (“Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father”).

Man was created in the image of God, but that image was disfigured by sin in the Fall. That is the reason that in salvation God begins restoring that image. How does He do that? In salvation, when the old flesh is replaced with “the new self” we begin being “renewed in knowledge after the image of [our] Creator” (Colossians 3:10), to “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). It really is a beautiful picture of God’s grace! He creates man in His image, but man tarnishes that image by continual sin. Rather than ending mankind, God made a Way for us by coming to earth in the Person of Jesus, living a sinless life, dying the death we deserve, and raising Himself from the dead that we can have eternal life in Him (John 1:14, 3:16, 14:6; Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He, “the image of the invisible God” gives the most beautifully visible representation of God – His love and His justice, His mercy and His wrath – making visible the “King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” – may He receive “honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17).

The second phrase in this verse describes Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation”.

This phrase has been used to present all kinds of false teaching throughout church history and even today. People try to take this and twist it to say that Jesus is a created being, that He is God’s firstborn. You can look back at the lists of Scripture in last week’s devotion or look throughout the Word for yourself. To say that Jesus is created is align yourself with people like Arius or modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons and not align yourself with the Jesus of the Bible who has always been, even “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

To understand why Paul refers to Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation”, you have to understand the context. For example, God tells Moses to explain to Pharaoh that Israel is His “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22). God was not saying that He was the literal father of the nation of Israel. He was referring to the status, the position of a firstborn son. All right and authority over everything a father had – the best of the estate and all status that comes with it – went to the firstborn. This matches with how God spoke of David in Psalm 89:27 when he said that He would “make Him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of earth”.

To say that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation is to say that He is indeed the King of kings and Lord of lords. It shows the authority He had on earth – that He has today.

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. (v. 16)

Look at the way that the verses in this hymn build on each other. Jesus, being the “image of the invisible God” establishes Him as God in flesh; His being the “firstborn of all creation” establishes His authority. Now, we see that He is the source of all that is, all that has ever been created! We have already traced Him being the image of God back to Genesis 1:26-27. But His presence at the dawn of creation can be traced back even farther. In fact, nothing can be traced farther back – He predates time and the existence of everything we can see!

Genesis 1:1-3a – the beginning – shows us the magnificence of God in His Trinity:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said….”

We see the Father and the Spirit clearly. The Son shows up in the speaking – the Word. That’s also where we see His authority. He says “light”, and light shines days before any source of light is invented!

We already looked at Hebrews 1:3 to affirm Jesus as the eikon of God. Now, we see it affirm His bringing all that exists into existence. He, being “the exact imprint” of God’s nature, “upholds the universe by the Word of His power”! That same voice that brought things into being is the very same power that keeps everything together. That creative power keeps the earth spinning at just the right speed, keeps it orbiting the sun at just the right distance and rate, and keeps it tilted at just the right angle to make all of life continue.

John 1:1-3 puts all of this together more beautifully than I could hope to explain:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”

All of creation, everything we can see on earth and all that we hope to see in heaven, everything from the majesty of the mountains and vast oceans to the microscopic atoms that are working below the surface of them all, all of it exists because of Him. There is no throne of man, vast dominating empire, or ruler – earthly or spiritual that can lift a finger against Him because they all originate from “the Word of His power”! Everything that is, was, or will be was created through Him. And everything that is, was, or will be belongs to Him – is “for” Him.

Verse 17 ties verses 15 and 16 together eloquently: And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Just as our Bible study title suggests, Jesus is over all, and He is all. And, just as His words were enough to light up the darkness in the beginning, they are enough to keep all of creation together. They are also better suited to tell us Who He is; in Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Wrapping Up

I plan on continuing to walk through this passage a few verses at a time. Nothing could serve our time together better than in “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

It is my prayer that I grow closer to Him in the writing and you in the reading. If you don’t know Him, I’m thankful to get to introduce you to Him.

I want to close out with some beautiful words about Jesus that, although written in the fourth century by Gregory of Nazianzus, still hold truth today:

He who gives riches becomes poor; for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the riches of His Godhead. He who is full empties Himself; for He empties Himself of His Glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His fullness.[7]

Hallelujah, and amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.

[2] This breakdown of the terms from Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 draw on conversations with pastor friends of mine many years ago and has evolved and grown over the years. I am not entirely sure where this particular breakdown came from, but the group effort and community of faith have been foundational in my understanding of this.

[3] This is also why we need to be vigilant in singing songs with good theology because they are saturated in God’s Word. I plan on writing on this more at a later date, but in the meantime, you can look at the Songs for Sunday section of the website for examples of looking at the Scriptures represented by songs sung in corporate worship.

[4] Catherine Winkworth | Joachim Neander, © Words: Public Domain; Music: Public Domain

[5] Stuart Wesley | Keene Hine, © Copyright 1949 and 1953 Stuart Hine Trust CIO Stuart K. Hine Trust (Administration: USA All rights by Capitol CMG Publishing, except print rights for USA, North, Central and South America administered by Hope Publishing. All other non USA Americas rights by the Stuart Hine Trust. Rest of World – Integritymusic.com.)

[6] Keith Getty | Stuart Townend, © 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

[7] Elliot Ritzema, 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Early Church, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).

Refresh & Restore — March 10, 2022

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.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.[1]

Colossians 1:15-23

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

We are moving into the most important part of Colossians – the beautifully Christ-centered hymn-like section of Colossians 1:15-20 (and 21-23, too)! I thought I would have this ready by last week, but it is too important to rush.

Why is it so important? It’s important because it is a passage of Scripture devoted to exalting and explaining Who Jesus is! It’s also important for the Colossians (and us today) because it presents the Biblical Jesus – God in flesh – as the response to the false teaching that had begun to infiltrate the church in Colossae. He – Who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing – is better than any possible response to false teaching because He is Truth – and represents the truth of the gospel as the only Way to salvation (John 14:6). Also, He is the best response because false teaching typically errs by presenting a false version of the gospel and lies about Who He is and What He has done.

False teaching is literally as old as time itself. But, praise God, Jesus has always been and always will be – before time and after it ends!

Heresy (False Teaching) v. Truth (Jesus)

Think back to the earliest false teaching by the oldest false teacher, Satan, in Genesis 3. The question that he asked Adam and Eve in the garden is the same basic outline of all false teaching (Genesis 3:1b): “He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’”[2] That “Did God actually say ___” is more dangerous than they knew. He was calling into question what God had actually said. He literally spoke a command – a Word – to Adam. Adam was responsible for sharing that command with his wife. Look at her response (Genesis 3:2-3): “And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’”[3] The problem, then, was that God did not actually say “neither shall you touch it” when He spoke the command to Adam in Genesis 2:15-17. She lied (or was misinformed by Adam). More false teaching regarding what God actually said is a poor response to false teaching. It was a dangerous response that led to breaking God’s command by eating of the forbidden fruit and opening the door to sin and death into their lives and all their descendants (that’s us) for the rest of time.

I have been thinking about this a lot because it has been the subject of discussion for the past few weeks in a Historical Theology class I am taking. If you look at the battles over what teaching is false and what is true in the early church, most of the big debates (Council of Nicaea, Council of Ephesus, Council of Chalcedon) centered around Who Jesus is – specifically Who the Bible says He is. Multiple heretics (false teachers whose teachings have been clearly and categorically ruled unbiblical) were challenged by believers, church leaders, and pastors from everywhere the gospel had been preached, and Who the Word says Jesus is was eventually affirmed time and again.

This matters because (again, I am showing my nerdy nature) over the course of Church history, the same heresies kept popping up as false teachers continue to do what they do. Similar heresies still pop up today, they just use different names like Scientology, Mormonism, or the Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses)[4]. Satan is still bringing confusion regarding what God actually said.

Now, as excited and nerdy as I get over things like early church councils, I will not bore you with facts – because there is no salvation in historical facts. Instead, I want to do my best to present to you the same type of response that Paul did in our passage for today: I want to present to you Jesus – the Word Himself. And I want you to see various passages (honestly, I will barely be able to scratch the surface in a single Bible study) from the Word that present Him. These passages – not my explanations – have power! These passages show us Him – not Who He is to me, Who He says He is!

Who Does the Bible Say Jesus Is?

To start, let’s look at a simple summary of Who the Bible says Jesus is: “Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever.”[5] We will use this summary as a basis for understanding what we are to see in the Bible. I will format it as questions with Scripture[6] passages as the answer. This is what God actually said!

What does the Bible say about Jesus being “fully God”?

  • Colossians 1:19 – For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him….
  • Colossians 2:9 – For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form….
  • John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • John 1:18 – No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.
  • John 8:58 – “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
  • John 20:28 – Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
  • Romans 9:5 – Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
  • Titus 2:13 – …while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ….
  • Hebrews 1:8 (which actually quotes Psalm 45:6 about Jesus) – But about the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of Your Kingdom.
  • 2 Peter 1:1 – Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours….

What does the Bible say about Jesus being “fully man in one person”?

  • Colossians 2:9 – For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form….
  • He was born – specifically born to a virgin according to Old Testament prophecy.
    • Genesis 3:15 – And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”
    • Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel.
    • Matthew 1:18 – This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
    • Matthew 1:20 – But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
    • Matthew 1:24-25 – When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.
    • Luke 1:34 – “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
    • Galatians 4:4-5 – But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
    • Romans 9:5 – Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
  • He had a human body, mind, emotions, and soul – people are noted as recognizing Him as a man.
    • Luke 2:7 – …and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
    • Luke 2:40 – And the child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.
    • Luke 2:52 – And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
    • Matthew 26:38 – Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
    • John 12:27 – “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.
    • John 11:35 – Jesus wept.
    • Matthew 13:53-58 – When Jesus had finished these parables, He moved on from there. Coming to His hometown, He began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t all His sisters with us? When did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him.
           But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”
           And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
    • He was able to become tired (John 4:6). He was able to be thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matthew 4:2). He even had to physically carry the cross on which He was crucified up to the point where His body was too physically exhausted from receiving torturous beatings to bear the load (Luke 23:26).
  • But He was the only human to ever be sinless.
    • Isaiah 53:7-9 – He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away. And who can speak of His descendants? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.
    • Luke 4:13 – When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.
    • John 8:29 – The One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.”
    • John 15:10 – If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.
    • John 18:38 – “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against Him.
    • Romans 8:3 – For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.
    • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
    • Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.
    • 1 Peter 1:19 – …but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
    • 1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
    • 1 John 3:5 – But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin.

Why is it important that we believe Jesus is Who the Bible says He is? Well, if He is not, we “have hope in this life only” and “are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

  • Romans 10:9 – That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
  • Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
  • John 1:29 – The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: 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….
  • Philippians 2:5-8 – Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
  • Hebrews 2:16-17 – For surely it is not angels He helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.
  • John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • 1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
  • 1 John 4:10 – This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

What’s the Point of All This?

If Jesus is not Who the Bible says He is, nothing I write matters. And nothing I could write about Him could remotely hope to testify to Who He is, yet His Word can!

As we move into this section of Colossians next week, let me challenge you to take the apostle John’s advice: “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” (1 John 4:1). Test the spirits next to Jesus. Next to His glory and magnificence, nothing false can stand. After they are long gone, He will still be Who He says He is. Hallelujah, and amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.

[2] ESV, Ge 3:1.

[3] ESV, Ge 3:2–3.

[4] Notice that this list does not contain denominations. Denominations are often differences between secondary and tertiary doctrines and teachings from the Bible that lead to differences in interpretation. If one differs on who the Bible says Jesus is, that is a primary issue and a different Jesus presents a different religion – essentially cults or heresies. If you look up Arius and Arianism, it is very similar to the way that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses teach a different Jesus. In the case of Scientology, some aspects are similar to a heresy known as Gnosticism.

[5] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 529.

[6] These passages come from The Holy Bible: New International Version (1984).

Refresh & Restore — March 3, 2022

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.

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.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.[1]

Colossians 1:13-24

Greetings Sojourners!

This week’s devotion is going to look a bit different.

The passage you see above is the end of the one we’ve been studying and the one we will be studying over the next few weeks. The focus of both is Jesus, the “beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vv. 13-14).

Since the subject is Jesus – God in flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords, I want to spend a little more time on the devotion that was meant to go out today.

In the meantime, take a look at this video that creatively shares the gospel – the Story:


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:13–23.

Songs for Sunday, February 6, 2022

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | Psalm 96

1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
tell of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
bring an offering, and come into His courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before Him, all the earth!

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord, for He comes,
for He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

  • Song | The Son of God Came Down
    Scripture References / Inspiration for the Song: Luke 2:7, John 1:1-5, John 1:14, John 1:34, Ephesians 2:14-16, Philippians 2:5-8
  • Scripture | 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.


If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. Various variants are still issues in this prolonged pandemic, but prayerfully consider gathering in the 10:00 Bible study where there is plenty of room for social distancing and one could slip out before the worship crowd comes in for the 11:00 service.


Songs for Sunday, January 23, 2022

It’s almost Sunday!

I find myself excited at the prospect of Sunday every week. I find myself needing it. More than an experience or a service, I find myself needing Jesus – needing to worship Him and hear from Him.

I know He is Emmanuel and with me always, but there is something about gathering with my faith family to worship Him. There is something about hearing from Him in the preaching of His Word. There is something about hearing about Him from the voices of my brothers and sisters pouring out their hearts to Him. There’s something about knowing that in seeking Him He is always found.

I know that all of that can be true on any day of the week and in many applications, but there is something special about Sunday.

It all hails back to that one Sunday when the tomb was empty, when death was defeated, Hell was silenced, and the defeat of the devil was sure. It hails back to that one Sunday where the angel preached the good news that “He is not here! He is risen as He said!” Every Sunday joins that one because every Sunday the tomb is still empty. Every Sunday He is still risen as He said. That’s still good news!

We are singing a new song Sunday that proclaims that good news beautifully:

For my life He bled and died
Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied
He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life
He will hold me fast
‘Til our faith is turned to sight
When He comes at last!

“He Will Hold Me Fast”

And, Lord willing, we will gather tomorrow and celebrate that one Sunday as we wait to celebrate Him face-to-face when He comes!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | Jude 24-25

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

  • Scripture | 1 Peter 1:17-21

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.


If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. Various variants are still issues in this prolonged pandemic, but prayerfully consider gathering in the 10:00 Bible study where there is plenty of room for social distancing and one could slip out before the worship crowd comes in for the 11:00 service.


Songs for Sunday, December 19, 2021


“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.”

1 John 4:10

“The Advent story is the most beautiful rescue story ever. The Son of God leaves the Father’s side, becomes a man to rescue us from us.”

Paul Tripp

If you talk to me for very long the joys in my life are going to come up. I can’t help it (well, maybe I can, but I won’t).

I love to talk about Jesus. He loves me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). He took me at my worst as a spiritually dead sinner and gave me new life in Him (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5) – because of His great love! And He still loves me despite my continuing imperfections and foolishness, with the informed consent that comes with His infinite knowledge He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).

I love to talk about Candice. I very clearly married outside my station in life. She loves me. Unlike God, she had no idea all the imperfections and foolishness she was getting into, but she has stuck with me all the same. She deserves more but wants me. I get to be her husband. I am blessed and get to grow in and follow Christ in such a way that maybe one day she will have the husband she deserves (and he still be me, ha).

I love my children. There are a lot of things I have failed at in life, but there is nothing I have given more effort to try to do right than to be their daddy. They have all of my quirkiness and weirdness, and they are beautiful and intelligent like their mom – what a lovely combination! I get to be their daddy. I am blessed and get to grow in and follow Christ in such a way that, whether they ever learn anything of worldly value from me, they will know what it looks like to lean on, serve, and be sanctified by the Savior.

The best part of having these joys in my life is that they love me.

My kiddos love me. They love me despite failures and flaws. But I have loved them since I first found out they existed. The moment Candice told me they had been conceived a whole compartment of my heart was renovated and designated for the love that I would have for them. Some other joys and other loves were shoved to the side. I don’t know what those joys and loves were – they paled in comparison and are not remembered.

Candice loves me. She would argue against this, but I loved her first. There is no one on earth more acquainted with my failures than she is, yet she chooses to love me and put up with me. She has flaws, too, but, rest assured, they are much harder to see (or believe) and you will never hear of them from me. I can remember the exact moment that I “fell in love” with her (or “caught feelings” as my school kiddos would say). May 30, 2003 changed my heart and life. In that moment, a whole compartment of my heart was renovated and filled with love for her. Just like the love I found for my children, it changed me.

But the most staggering – most surprising – love comes from God. He loves me. No one has ever loved me more than He loves me – not parents or grandparents or wife or children.

You see, His “eyes saw my unformed substance” and in His book “were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). He knew every sin, every fault, and every flaw yet He still loved me. In fact, He showed His love for me (and you) “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). No one loves like that, but God does.

He loved the whole world so much that “He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). I know me, and I know there is no classification of worthiness in which I would be worthy of such love. But that’s not how love works. No one on earth loves this much, but God does.

God’s love is set apart from all other loves by a word that you may have never heard before that changes everything: propitiation (Romans 3:23-25, 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 4:10). Propitiation is a sacrifice that changes status and categories – in fact, it swaps them.

In the case of the love of God, His sacrifice for those He loves in Christ took the favor that the only Son of God deserved and swapped it for the shame earned by our sin (Colossians 2:13-14). His sacrifice took the righteousness that only Jesus could be capable of and traded it for our unrighteousness – His righteousness was credited to and traded for the negative balance of our righteousness accounts (2 Corinthians 5:21). His sacrifice took the eternal life that comes from the Light and Life Himself, Jesus Christ, and traded it for the death we deserve as sinners (Romans 6:23).

No one is capable of such love. And none of us are worthy of it. But God loves us eternally. We sing of the love manifested in His first coming. We sing of the love manifested in His death and resurrection. And we sing of the love to be had when He returns.

It’s His love that will be the inspiration and subject of our worship tomorrow and every day.

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • The Son of God Came Down
  • John 3:16-21

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

  • Midnight Clear (Love Song)
  • You’re Here
  • 1 John 4:9-10

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.

  • Noel
  • (invitation) Make Room
  • (offertory) O Holy Night

As a church, we are reading through the gospel of Luke each from December 1-4 as part of our Christmas to Calvary advent focus. You can grab a paper copy in the church lobby or download it here.

There are also daily audio uploads if you prefer to listen rather than read. Here’s Luke 18 for today’s reading:


If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. Various variants are still issues in this prolonged pandemic, but prayerfully consider gathering in the 10:00 Bible study where there is plenty of room for social distancing and one could slip out before the worship crowd comes in for the 11:00 service.

Songs for Sunday, December 12, 2021


The Christmas story is summed up aptly by the angels to the shepherds: good news of great joy!

CCC Advent Guide

I love the preaching of the angels in Luke 2!

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

I love this passage because of its truth! I love it because of the mercy it displays on those who normally would not be considered worthy to get such news! And I love it because that “good news of great joy” is still – don’t miss this, STILL – good news and for all people even today!

Let’s break this down together.

Mary and Joseph had journeyed to Bethlehem together to be registered counted for the census. For whatever reason, “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7) and were forced to camp out in the stable area. Mary had just given birth to the Messiah, the Son of God. Instead of a baby blanket, she swaddled him in strips of cloth. Instead of a bassinet or crib, she laid in a manger – a feeding trough for animals.

While the most important birth – fulfilling prophecy since the beginning (Genesis 3:15) – was occurring without pomp and attention, there were shepherds in the nearby countryside camped out caring for their flocks. They were no doubt dirty. They were definitely the last group to expect to receive an angelic royal birth announcement. Yet it was for them Christ had come, and, to them, would come this beautiful gospel (good news) message that still rings through the years.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

The gospel message is not for fear but faith and hope. There is no greater joy than celebrating that the lost has been found (Luke 15). The beauty of this gospel of great joy is not in the reality that befalls those who reject the message but in the amazing reality of the eternal life that comes to those who believe – that dead men and women find life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5) and find a place in the Father’s house as His adopted children (Galatians 4:4-5)! And it is beautiful because it is for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16-17), whether you be shepherd or king, poor or rich, look-like-you-have-it-together or clearly-a-hot-mess, “all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13)!

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

These shepherds were the first to hear the news that the Messiah had been born. Herod remained ignorant. Scribes and Pharisees were left in their legalism. Everyone, from the priests to the powerful, heard after these lowly shepherds that the promised Messiah had arrived in the “city of David”, Bethlehem. So, the best “good news” in history rang out to the most insignificant group of people in the most insignificant city and the least significant time of being counted in a census. And it still rings true to those the world deems insignificant in places that seem insignificant and in times that seem like hope is gone or at least quickly leaving. It still rings true because it IS true. What a beautiful reminder that there is this day a Savior. His name is Jesus. And He cares for us!

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

The shepherds needed a sign to point them where they needed to go. They needed to find Him to worship Him. Praise God, we do not have to look today! They sought Emmanuel (“God with us”) to lay their eyes on Him, yet all we have to do today is believe. He was born, and the shepherds were His witness. He died, and Scripture and, even, history are His witnesses. But He rose again and has given His Spirit. He was and is and is to come (Revelation 1:4). We do not need a sign because we have access to the Savior!

While I write this, “What Child is This?” is playing in the background. There is busy-ness happening all around me. People are buying coffee to fuel their busy-ness. There is chatter throughout the coffee shop. People are driving and walking by. And the poignancy of the words of the song echo the hope I find in this “good news of great joy”.

Read these words and ponder their reality and beauty to prepare your heart to gather with a faith family tomorrow in worship:

What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King!
Haste, haste to bring Him laud!

Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and beast are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading!

Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through!
The cross be borne for me, for you!
Hail, hail the Word made flesh!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!

Raise, raise a song on high!
Joy, joy for Christ is born!
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Joy to the World
  • Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.            
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

  • We Have a Savior
  • Luke 2:8-20

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14    “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

  • Away in a Manger (Forever Amen)
  • Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

  • Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)
  • (invitation) The Son of God Came Down
  • (offertory) Mary, Did You Know?

As a church, we are reading through the gospel of Luke each from December 1-4 as part of our Christmas to Calvary advent focus. You can grab a paper copy in the church lobby or download it here.

There are also daily audio uploads if you prefer to listen rather than read. Here’s Luke 4 for today’s reading:


If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. Various variants are still issues in this prolonged pandemic, but prayerfully consider gathering in the 10:00 Bible study where there is plenty of room for social distancing and one could slip out before the worship crowd comes in for the 11:00 service.

Songs for Sunday, December 5, 2021


God kept His promises; the Savior was born in Bethlehem.

CCC Advent reading guide

One of the most beautiful reminders of God’s love for us in the Christmas season is how God has always been faithful to keep His promises and was especially faithful in keeping this particular promise.

To share what I mean, look at two verses that are often used to herald God’s love for us:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

and

…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

When the prophet Micah shared God’s promise for Bethlehem (who he was was “too little to be among the clans of Judah”) that “from you shall come forth for me One who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2), no one realized how much that promise would cost the God they hoped would be faithful to His promise. Those in his day (around 750-700 BC) were not focused on faithfulness at all. In fact, much of Micah’s promises to Judah during those years were about the coming judgment from God in exile due to their faithfulness and idolatry. Israel fell during his life and ministry, showing Judah that God was indeed a keeper of promises.

I imagine that it hurt God to allow His people to go into exile. He had promised them time and again that exile was where their faithfulness would lead, but they were proud – more than a little bit arrogant – and thought their ways were best. But, even in the midst of God promising judgment for their sin, God promised the coming of the Messiah to one day rescue them from their sins, and the cost for this rescue would come from Him alone because He alone was faithful enough, powerful enough, and loving enough to carry it out.

God left the glory of Heaven and took on flesh (John 1:1, 14), being made in every way like us (Philippians 2:5-8), to come and bear witness to the truth (John 5:33-36, 14:6). He lived the life we could not live and died the death we should have died (2 Corinthians 5:21) – God the Father pouring His wrath on God the Son, the substitutionary sacrifice for those who would repent and believe in Him (Romans 3:21-25, 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:4-5; Colossians 2:13-14; 1 John 2:1-2).

Just as Bethlehem was a seemingly insignificant town, many of us today feel insignificant on a regular basis, yet God loves and cares for you (1 John 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6-7)!

Tomorrow, we will gather together celebrating Him – joyously praising His faithfulness in looking at His humble birth and humbly rejoicing over the hope that comes to ones as insignificant as us through His death and resurrection!

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • So Will I
  • Luke 1:46-55

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

  • O Come Let Us Adore Him
  • Adore Him
  • Luke 1:67-79

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

  • King of Kings
  • (invitation) Joy to the World (King is Coming) —

As a church, we are reading through the gospel of Luke each from December 1-4 as part of our Christmas to Calvary advent focus. You can grab a paper copy in the church lobby or download it here.

There are also daily audio uploads if you prefer to listen rather than read. Here’s Luke 4 for today’s reading:


If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. Various variants are still issues in this prolonged pandemic, but prayerfully consider gathering in the 10:00 Bible study where there is plenty of room for social distancing and one could slip out before the worship crowd comes in for the 11:00 service.

Songs for Sunday, November 28, 2021

Advent – waiting on the arrival of something, or someOne, big and important.

It seems so easy to get lost in all of the busy-ness of the season with the passing of hours, days, weeks, and months that we forget the anticipation.

For Israel all those centuries ago, waiting had become their norm. They had awaited the Messiah for hundreds of years. Exile had come and gone. They tried to make their own way. God’s Word was silent until “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The silence of hundreds of years waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled was broken by the cry of God Himself coming to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) as the promised Emmanuel, “which means, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

This is why it is fitting that the first week of Advent is remembering prophecy and looking forward to hope: We can have hope because God is faithful to keep His promises!

So, tomorrow, as we begin tuning our worship with the sounds of Christmas, let us look in anticipation to the coming of our Savior because “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)! We do not wait in silence because the Word has already dwelt among us – and after His resurrection, He has sent His Spirit to dwell with us so that there will never, ever be a time for God’s people without Emmanuel!

May our hearts cry out as with the hymn of old: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel…Rejoice!”

And that is what we are singing about tomorrow: rejoicing that God is with us and trusting in all He has faithfully done – all the promises He has already kept and fulfilled in the first coming of King Jesus – so that we can hope and rejoice in His imminent return!

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope 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.

  • God With Us
  • Born to Die
  • Romans 5:6-11

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 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. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

  • In Christ Alone
  • What a Beautiful Name
  • (invitation) Make Room
  • (offertory) He Will Hold Me Fast

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

We have Sunday School classes for all ages at 9:30a and worship – everyone is welcome – at 11:00a!

If you are concerned about social distancing or are at-risk, consider gathering with us at 10:00a for a small group Bible study in our worship center. There is plenty of room to spread out, but there is also opportunity to gather with others at the same time! No one will crowd you, and you can exit out of our side door and avoid the crowd coming in to worship after the Bible study!

We also continue to live stream from Pastor John Goldwater’s facebook page and have current and past services on the CCC YouTube page.


Songs for Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sunday.

For some, it means the last day of the weekend before jumping back into the grind of the week. For others, it is a peaceful first day in preparation for whatever the week may bring. Across the United States, it will be filled with brunches, golf games, traveling, sporting events, and diversions of every shape and kind. Yet for those who belong to Jesus – those He has saved and redeemed, those He has brought from death to life (Ephesians 2:4-5) – it is a day of joyful remembrance and expectation.

For centuries before the birth of Christ, Saturday – the Sabbath day of rest – was the centerpiece of worship. It was a day of rest following the example of God Himself (Genesis 2:2) and set aside as holy (Genesis 2:3, Exodus 20:8). The shift of focus from Saturday to Sunday was as simple as shifting from Sabbath to celebration – from resting to rejoicing. Just as on that original Easter Sunday when the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb and He walked out alive and well – shaking off the pangs of death and crucifixion in His own resurrection power, Sunday became a day for the people of God to gather together in worship and joy at His resurrection and recognition that Jesus “is not in [the grave], for He is risen (still today) as He said” (Matthew 28:6)!

Every Sunday since then, followers of Jesus have gathered. They have gathered through persecution. They have gathered through prohibitions against gathering. And they have even gathered during plagues (and even pandemics)!

There has been a piece of a quote from Martin Luther floating around social media, but it lacked context. It has been used to spur gatherings and to spurn them. Being a lover of context and authorial intent, I looked further for the context of the quote. Here are a few quotes (with the typical social media selection italicized, and, should you desire, you can read the original letter in its entirety):

“You wish to know whether it is proper for a Christian to run away from a deadly plague. I should have answered long ago, but God has for some time disciplined and scourged me so severely that I have been unable to do much reading or writing. Furthermore, it occurred to me that God, the merciful Father, has endowed you so richly with wisdom and truth in Christ that you yourself should be well qualified to decide this matter or even weightier problems in his Spirit and grace without our assistance.”


“To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague. Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment. They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office.

“I cannot censure the former for their excellent decision. They uphold a good cause, namely, a strong faith in God, and deserve commendation because they desire every Christian to hold to a strong, firm faith. It takes more than a milk faith to await a death before which most of the saints themselves have been and still are in dread.”


“In the case of children who are orphaned, guardians or close friends are under obligation either to stay with them or to arrange diligently for other nursing care for their sick friends. Yes, no one should dare leave his neighbor unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them. In such cases we must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me …” (Matt. 25:41–46). According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.”


“Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together (as previously indicated) so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another.”


“It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.

“No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”


As you can see, there is context in history regarding plague and pestilence. Martin Luther wrote this in the midst of the second pandemic of the Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death. The first wave in the 1300s had a survival rate of about 50%! Knowing that, it is interesting the perspectives that Luther held regarding this. Trying to be as objective as I possibly can, here is what I got from reading the entire letter (especially the quotes above):

  • Ultimately, there is grace for needing to avoid gathering for the purpose of protecting one’s self and family in times of deadly pestilence.
  • Consequently, there is also grace for consciously deciding to forsake one’s health to care for the sick and serve the Lord even in times of pestilence.
  • Even pastors and those active in ministry get to choose whether to stay/gather or flee/quarantine as long as there are still pastors and ministers to carry on the work.
  • He spends a significant amount of time clarifying the difference between external persecution and personal decisions for safety, even governmental decisions to try to help keep people safe and the support of such things from Scripture. My understanding of his points in those sections says that 1) there is a difference between persecution and personal/governmental decisions and 2) none of them excuse God’s people from carrying out His work. Personal safety does not excuse obedience to His commands, especially regarding caring for one’s neighbor.
    • Interestingly, this does a lot for both camps – gather & separate, but what it does not do is leave room for complete isolation from God’s calling on the lives of those He has saved. Both camps have something to learn here!
  • The last section has a few gems that I find quite interesting:
    • If you need medical help or have medical reasons for not gathering, don’t be foolish! This should go without saying, but, even in the midst of so much talking, it should be recognized that God’s Holy Spirit is sufficient for the wisdom individual believers need.
    • There is nothing wrong with measures for safety in gathering. He speaks of fumigating. Later this afternoon, that’s exactly what will happen to Christ Community (and, consequently, it has happened nearly every Sunday since the onset of the pandemic – every, single chair and all high traffic areas/surfaces, and increasing with every aspect we have reopened/started again). If you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you want to sit in the back away from others, do it. If you want to come to 10:00a Bible Study, sit away from others, and slip out the side door before the worship crowd comes in – do that!
    • Know that God is ultimately in control. He has called us to love our neighbors and our families. Yet He has called us to serve Him and give our lives for Him. And He called us to all that fully knowing everything ahead of time!

I know this has been longer than usual, but I felt it would do us good to hear from a voice from Church history instead of the talking heads from contemporary media. Ultimately, all of us need to be seeking the Lord regarding all of this. And we need to look to Him in faith before we make any decisions in fear.

Basically, that’s what we’re singing to Him tomorrow. We are going to seek that He give us insightful wisdom by His Spirit to help us lift up His name. We are going to consider the awe worthy to His greatness and majesty. And we are going to beseech Him to come quickly!

I hope your voice will be lifted with ours!

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Ephesians 1:7-14

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

  • Open the Eyes of My Heart
  • Great I Am
  • Ephesians 1:15-21

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

  • Forever Reign
  • Come, Jesus, Come
  • (invitation) Battle Belongs

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

We have Sunday School classes for all ages at 9:30a and worship – everyone is welcome – at 11:00a!

If you are concerned about social distancing or are at-risk, consider gathering with us at 10:00a for a small group Bible study in our worship center. There is plenty of room to spread out, but there is also opportunity to gather with others at the same time! No one will crowd you, and you can exit out of our side door and avoid the crowd coming in to worship after the Bible study!

We also continue to live stream from Pastor John Goldwater’s facebook page and have current and past services on the CCC YouTube page.