Refresh & Restore — January 11, 2023

I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.[1]

2 Corinthians 12:1-10


Greetings Sojourners!

This week’s devotion is for me. I have been looking at this passage for a couple of weeks now and am so thankful that it exists! I need this.

But it is for you, too! We all need to be reminded of Jesus’ words here.

And there’s even better news: I aim to be brief in this week’s Bible study! The spring semester of school is well underway, and my classes at William Carey are back in full swing. So, I have several irons in the fire at the moment. This is important, though – too important to go unsaid, too necessary for me to say.

I hope it helps you as much as it has me.

A Thorn in the Flesh (vv. 1-7)

The content of verses 1-7 are widely debated, and I do not intend to wade into that debate today. When it comes to Bible interpretation, I tend to take the Alistair Begg approach: in Scripture, the main things are the plain things. Chas Rowland puts it a little clearer: in Scripture, the important things are clear, and the clear things are important. There are parts of this passage that are clear and parts that are purposefully unclear.

When I say purposefully unclear, I mean that the Holy Spirit obviously did not decide to give us the specific details regarding the content of the “visions and revelations of the Lord” (v. 1), what it means to be “caught up to the third heaven” (v. 2 – and which Paul himself did not know whether it was “in the body or out of the body”), what it means to be “caught up into paradise” (v. 3 – which Paul states only “God knows”). If I were to give my best and most theologically sound interpretation of these things, it would be two-fold: 1) I don’t know, and 2) it cannot be (fully) known.

It is okay to say “I don’t know” when it comes to Bible interpretation. That does not mean we do not need to study or that it is not okay to dig into God’s Word to search for answers. Those are good and valuable things. But it is important to be able to be honest about what we do not know or understand, especially if the alternative is to teach or proclaim things that may be untrue or dangerously heretical.

Some might balk at my saying that it cannot be fully known, but we are limited to what God has given us in His Word – and rightly so! The Bible contains everything that can be known about God. There are commentaries galore, but they are written by men. Peter’s second letter deals with this at length in a section that immediately precedes a section on how dangerous false teachers are. Look at this passage from 2 Peter talking about the importance of the revelation of God found in His Word versus the direction men (or women) may take it:

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:19-21

Peter is talking about the illuminating value of God’s revelation through Scripture. Man’s interpretation can be helpful, but it is the Word that is a lamp for our feet and light to guide our path (Psalm 119:105)!

So, here is what is plain or clear in verses 1-7 and therefore main or important.

  • Paul was given visions of “surpassing greatness” (v. 7). Based on the context (“third heaven” and “paradise)”, he was given some sort of glimpses into heaven.
  • These visions were so great that Paul wished to boast about and that took great pains to keep him from boasting. Paul had written earlier to the church at Corinth about the dangers of such boasting, explaining that is why God chooses “what is low and despised in the world…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29) and reminding them – and apparently himself – of the Lord’s words in Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.”
  • Paul was given “a thorn in the flesh” to “keep [him] from becoming conceited”. There are three main categories that interpretations of this “thorn” fall into: “(1) spiritual or psychological anxiety (such as anguish over Israel’s stubborn unbelief); (2) opposition to his ministry or message; and (3) a recurring and tormenting physical malady”.[2] Scholars and theologians find reasons in the text for all three. I have speculations but find no value in sharing those with you here. What is clear is that God allowed this “messenger of Satan to harass” Paul just as He allowed similar with Job – just for different reasons. It is the same God who decided not to give us more information in this section of Scripture. I trust Him and His wisdom.

If you are uncomfortable with not knowing more about this, let me give you a little guidance on how to proceed. First, I would tell you to dig into the biblical cross-references (those little letters that point you to other places in the Bible that talk about similar things/topics). Limit yourself to what can be known in the Bible. Second, be careful about letting your favorite Bible guy or gal tell you fully what the Bible limits. Our Father knows best, and if He has not fully revealed something, be wary of a “preacher” who touts full revelation. That means what has been revealed to him (or her) did not come from the Bible. I am scared of those people. I would rather be a Bible-guy, satisfied with what is in it, than a popular preacher spreading my own words.

The good news, especially for us in this Bible study is that what comes after verses 1-7 is clear and plain and, therefore, important and main!

Sufficient Grace (vv. 8-10)

Whatever the “thorn in the flesh” was, it was so bad that Paul says that he “pleaded with the Lord” about it three times that it would “leave” him (v. 8). The word translated “plead” means to “call for or upon someone as for aid, to invoke God, to beseech, entreat”.[3] Paul was literally begging God to make this “thorn”, this “messenger of Satan” that was harassing him to go away – because God was the only one who could make it go away! Apparently, Jesus’ answer was a different one than Paul was looking for: no.

I know something of struggling and begging God to take the struggle away. I also know a little bit about the answer being no. Thankfully, Paul’s “no” carried with it an explanation. Paul’s “no” got a verbal answer from Jesus (notice the red letters). Rather than taking away this thorn (which again was allowed by God) was: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Rather than immediate – or eventual since we do not know if this thorn was ever removed – relief, Jesus told Paul that He would supply the strength to endure the thorn, that sufficient grace would be provided in his moments of need.

This may not seem like good news since we live in an era where immediate gratification is what many people are seeking, but it is truly good news. I am not saying this out of some sense of religious hocus pocus. When I cry out for God to rescue me from a struggle that has plagued and harassed me, I want immediate deliverance, too! I begged Him for relief earlier today and earnestly hoped that the malady would leave me right then and there. But it didn’t. It didn’t immediately go away, and it will be back. Paul’s “thorn” would not go away, but neither would Jesus! Jesus – Emmanuel (“God with us”) – would meet Paul’s weakness and provide sufficient – enough to overcome and get through – grace and strength to carry Paul through! Jesus meets me in my struggle and stays with me. He provides the same sufficient grace for you and me today.

Paul pleaded and begged and received more than a response from Jesus; he received the presence of Jesus and the full strength of God Himself to overcome the struggle! I hate my struggles. I hate being weak. More often than not, I find myself feeling hopeless when the struggles linger and return. But I am so thankful that in the midst of struggle, I find the presence of God. I find His strength. I find grace sufficient to do more than survive but to live and thrive in Christ. I find new mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23). I, like Paul, find Jesus.

The good thing for us is that we do not have to wait for a word from the Lord to intervene. The words – those red letters – in today’s passage are spoken to us as well. We don’t have to wait for God to speak because He has spoken!

Paul just thought that the visions he had were of surpassing greatness, but through the sufficient and continual grace of Jesus he grew to understand that there was something better than even the best visions. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi came at the end of his life, shortly before his death (by martyrdom). He did not talk to them of a thorn or visions. He spoke to them of the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ [his] Lord” (Philippians 3:7). He explained to the church at Philippi and to us that everything he had previously boasted in – his Hebrew heritage, his Pharisaical pedigree, his exorbitant education, and even his most-valued visions – was equivalent now and counted by him as “rubbish” (Philippians 3:8). For context, the word translated “rubbish” was the word used to describe “refuse of grain, chaff, or of a table, of slaughtered animals, of dung, and figuratively of the filth of the mind”.[4]

I want you to think about what these visions likely showed Paul and what this statement means. Paul’s vision was one of heaven – of paradise! But it paled in comparison to the “surpassing worth” of Jesus! Heaven, without Jesus, (pardon the crass language here) is crap. Read that again. Heaven without Jesus is nothing. A Jesus-less heaven is worthless – as the kids say, “straight trash”. Does that seem odd to you? If it does, you are boasting in the wrong things!

Paul was at risk of boasting in the wrong things in our passage today, but by the grace of God, he received a thorn. The Lord allowed something bad to bring about the grace to help Paul boast only in Christ. What did not seem like a blessing – and definitely would not have been had it not been for Christ – was a blessing because of the grace given to Paul to withstand. The question for us, and honestly the question I have to ask myself often, is whether or not I can be satisfied with the grace and presence of Christ in the face of continued difficulty.

Wrapping Up

I am thankful that Jesus is better than my struggles. His power is enough to withstand. His Spirit never leaves me nor forsakes me. And, just as He promised, He is with me always, “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). But I need constant reminding.

If I am not careful, I can be so boastful. God’s power becomes eclipsed in my mind by my pride. His grace gets masked by my desire to be my own man and get through in my own steam. Thankfully, I have the Word of God and passages like ours today to remind me of the gift of God’s sufficient grace!

What about you?

Are you satisfied with the idea of heaven apart from Jesus? Would you rather have a mansion and immediate release from your earthly troubles rather than be in the presence of God and experience His sufficient grace?

These are difficult questions, but they are necessary ones. They are questions that I struggle with as I plead for relief. But God is big enough and strong enough for our questions. His loving-kindness can withstand and carry us through our doubts. His mercies and sufficient grace are enough to get us through whatever thorns tear at us.

I pray that I can boast like Paul did at the end of today’s passage that he was able to be “content” – to “be well–pleased”[5] – in “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” because when he was weak, he was strong because of Jesus’ sufficient grace. I am not there yet, but there is sufficient grace to get me there eventually. That’s good news! And I needed to hear it today. I hope it helps you as well.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 12:1–10.

[2] Douglas J. Moo, “The Letters and Revelation,” in NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2096.

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

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

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

Refresh & Restore — December 29, 2022

17  Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty;
they will see a land that stretches afar.
18  Your heart will muse on the terror:
“Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed the tribute?
Where is he who counted the towers?”
19  You will see no more the insolent people,
the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,
stammering in a tongue that you cannot understand.
20  Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts!
Your eyes will see Jerusalem,
an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent,
whose stakes will never be plucked up,
nor will any of its cords be broken.
21  But there the Lord in majesty will be for us
a place of broad rivers and streams,
where no galley with oars can go,
nor majestic ship can pass.
22  For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver;
the Lord is our king; he will save us.[1]

Isaiah 33:17-22


Greetings Sojourners!

It’s that time of year again. Lord willing, a new year approaches. We have just moved out of a time of eating and gathering, and now, we move on to a time of resolutions and restarts.

For some, this is a time of regret, looking back over a year that just did not seem to go their way. For others, it is a time of remembering loss. And for some, although this seems to be the smallest group, this is a time of looking back at achievement and growth while looking forward to whatever challenges and victories await them on the horizons of 2023.

I am not quite sure which group I fall into regarding 2023, but I do know that my outlook regarding the future is changing.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had big plans. I was with the love of my life, and anything seemed possible. We were setting out to achieve our goals. She was going to be a pharmacist. I was going to be a teacher. We would get married and use her (much higher) income to pay off whatever student loans we incurred in pursuit of our goals while living off my salary. Once the loans were paid off, we would buy a nice house, fill it with kiddos, and I would head towards my Ph.D. and becoming a principal. From there, the sky, and my ambition, would be the limit.

Out of that list, I am blessed to get to still be with the love of my life, and we have filled a much smaller and less nice house with two kiddos. I cannot fathom what my life would be like with out them. I did eventually become a teacher, but neither a Ph.D. nor becoming a principal are ambitions anymore.

There was a time when these changes were regrets, like ghosts of Christmas future. But God’s plan has been much better than mine. My wife did not become a pharmacist because she got to realize she was a gifted teacher. Her impact on children (with math, no less) is incalculable. I became (and quit and became again) a pastor. My time in the classroom, although it took a decade to get there, meant and means more to me than any of the hypotheticals or the draw of being wealthier ever had. The allure of such things is no longer there.

I get to be a husband. I get to be a daddy. I get to serve the Lord as a teacher, pastor, and even a writer. If the Lord tarries His return, I look forward to whatever He lets me do, and I am excited to follow Him – an excitement that was missing in my earlier ambitions. But more than all those things, I look forward to His return. I look forward to that day when the clouds will part and Jesus will return for His bride, the Church. I anxiously await the return of the King!

The King is Coming (vv. 17-20)

In Isaiah 33, God was using His prophet to deliver the promise of some woes against Israel’s foes and peace to His people. Assyria was and had been waylaying Israel, but God was coming to their rescue. It is important to note that this rescue is not because of the righteous way in which Israel worshipped and followed the Lord. No, this rescue is in spite of their unrighteous rebellion against Him. Much of Isaiah is written prophesying the eventual downfall of Israel and Judah and their eventual capture by and captivity in Babylon. Even with that future coming, this rescue is a picture of the love that God had for His people – and has – despite their rebellion and idolatry.

Isaiah 33:1-2 set the stage and give context for our passage for today:

Ah, you destroyer,
who yourself have not been destroyed,
you traitor,
whom none has betrayed!
When you have ceased to destroy,
you will be destroyed;
and when you have finished betraying,
they will betray you.
O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you.
Be our arm every morning,
our salvation in the time of trouble.[2]

Isaiah was declaring this on behalf of the Lord over Assyria, but He was also praying on behalf of the people to the Lord that they would receive grace in their time of need.

The problem is that Israel did not take the words of God’s prophet warning them of their own future seriously. God had told them through Isaiah what was coming. They knew what the Lord said about sin and what His Law said about it. Isaiah’s ministry telling people “Thus saith the word of the Lord” lasted thirty-nine years and was filled with calls to repentance and pleading with God’s people to listen to what God was saying and look to Him. All that got Isaiah was a martyr’s death (Hebrews 11:32, 37) at the hands of His people, at the hands of God’s people.[3] Yet here, he asked God to give them grace. He asked God to be their strength “every morning” and to be their “salvation in the time of trouble”. And, consistent to who He is, God was “gracious and merciful” to Israel while pouring out His strength on Assyria; He was “slow to anger” toward His people despite their idolatry because He is always “abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8).

Isaiah’s prophecy here stretches beyond the conflict with and rescue from Assyria. It even stretches beyond Babylon, which was only a few decades away on the horizon. He told them what their eyes “will behold” despite what their heart will “muse” on and their eyes could currently see. Their hearts were musing – meaning their thoughts were absorbed – on terror because that is what they were currently experiencing. They failed to look toward what Isaiah was telling them because their eyes currently beheld the “insolent people” who rained “terror” down on them. Isaiah wanted them to “set their minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2) and see what came beyond their field of vision. He wanted them to “behold the King in His beauty”!

Isaiah was not talking about any earthly king of Israel or Judah. The people would have long since been over the allure of their earthly kings because they had suffered – and would suffer again – because of their foolish and idolatrous pursuits. The best of their kings was plagued by the same sin and faults as the people. David, Solomon, and Josiah all suffered injuries and loss at the hands of their enemies, too, with no ability within themselves to turn the tide of battle. And David, “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), was still a sinner who fell “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) just as all men do. Isaiah was talking about the King!

While Isaiah did not know fully what He was talking about, we can now. He was talking about the “Child” who would come to shine a “great light” on “the people who dwelt in a land of deep darkness” (Isaiah 9:2, 6). He was talking about the “man of sorrows” who would bear “our griefs”, carry our “sorrows”, get “pierced for our transgressions”, and be “crushed for our iniquities” – the one whose “wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5). He was talking about the Savior who was coming in their future, Him who would be “gentle and lowly” (Matthew 11:29) and “give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He was talking about the King who would enter Jerusalem, greeted by palm branches and cries of “Hosanna!” and “King of Israel!” (John 12:13) a week before He “died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures”, who “was buried”, who “was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In fact, it was because God’s Holy Spirit spoke through Isaiah that Paul spoke of when He said, “in accordance with the Scriptures” (Isaiah 53)!

Neither Israel nor Isaiah could understand then, but God used Isaiah to point them to a greater hope in Jesus than they could imagine – greater than the threat the Assyrians were that day or than Nebuchadnezzar would be in their near future. The eyes of God’s people will eventually see “the King in His beauty”. Their eyes will a new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-11) that will be “untroubled” (v. 20) and truly a city of peace because it will be graced with the presence of the “Prince of peace” and because of whom “the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).

Those who trust in Christ today need to keep in mind that our “eyes will behold the King in His beauty”. We “will see a land that stretches afar”.

The King Will Save Us (vv. 20-22)

Verse 21 starts with the phrase “But there”, speaking of the Jerusalem of the future. The conjunction “but” carries in it everything that comes before and cancels it out in favor of what comes after it. In this case, the before is different than the descriptions of this new Jerusalem found in vv. 20-21. What it says would be “there” will cancel out what is there at the time Isaiah was written.

Israel, namely Judah, during the time of Isaiah 33, could celebrate all the “appointed feasts” in Jerusalem, but there would be a time coming after Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem that no feasts – not Passover, the feast of tabernacles, etc. – would be observed. For a few centuries after they returned from Babylonian exile, they could observe the appointed feasts, but they would gradually morph into celebrations that are pale imitations of what is laid out in the Bible. Even today, there is much turmoil in Jerusalem and many who claim to be children of Abraham but who have denied His Christ, His Messiah. But there will come a day when a greater feast will be celebrated – the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9)!

Isaiah speaks of the future Jerusalem as being “an immovable tent”. In the wilderness, God’s people did not have a temple but a tabernacle. It was portable and crude compared to Solomon’s temple – even the temple after Babylonian captivity or Herod’s temple. When God moved His people around in the wilderness, they would take up its stakes and cords and move it, too. Later, Israel rejoiced greatly when the tabernacle was replaced with the temple. The temple was not meant to be portable and did not need cords or stakes to hold it down.

Both the tabernacle and temple represented the presence of the Lord. Both held the holy of holies hidden behind a veil where the ark of the covenant – and the Mercy Seat – was kept. This was the representation of the throne of God where atonement was made for the sins of Israel. Yet the temple turned out to be as movable as the tabernacle. It was destroyed by the Babylonians, rebuilt after the return from exile, and destroyed again in 70AD. There is currently no temple. Well, a temple does reside on the temple mount, but it is the Dome of the Rock and devoted to Allah instead of Yahweh.

That is the sad reality of those looking to the current Jerusalem to be their hope. There is no hope in Jerusalem today nor has there been in nearly two millennia.

What Isaiah was talking about here in Isaiah 33 was better than the tabernacle or temple because he is pointing to what the holy of holies pointed to: the presence of God in Jesus! In Jesus, God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). That phrase “dwelt” (Gr. eskenosen) can be translated “to have one’s tent” or to tabernacle.[4] God left His throne on high and came to tabernacle with His people! Look at the significance of this in Matthew 27:50-51:

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.[5]

When Jesus – God become flesh – died on the cross, the curtain (veil) separating the holy of holies from the rest of the temple was ripped “from top to bottom” (see footnote [6] for some cool word-nerdiness). Man had access to God as never before because God came to them! That’s good news! Jesus tabernacling with His people means that He is the “immovable tent”!

But there’s greater news yet! Look at the way Revelation 21:1-5 describes the Day we will “behold the King in His beauty”:

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.”[7]

That is the place Isaiah spoke of where “there the Lord in His majesty will be for us”. It is a land where none of the troubles of the earth can reach us – even the most advanced and dangerous “galley with oars” or “majestic ship” of the most terrible enemy – because the King will have already struck down the nations and “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:15)! This is the Day when all of the sad things of this earth come untrue because God will be dwelling with His people. The eyes that were once blurry with tears will be able to look upon the King face to face!

Wrapping Up

I do not know if these words were a comfort for Israel during this time. I know the Assyrians were sent packing and were unable to overtake Israel. By Isaiah’s day (which was also Jeremiah’s, Amos’, etc.), their idolatry had already reached a point of no return. The Father had promised punishment for their sake and was to fulfill His word to them. They, just like our children, had a penchant for ignoring warnings of punishment until it is too late or forgetting former punishments after their sting has faded. What about us?

There is no shortage of troubles. And no matter our plans or hopes for 2023, the only sure hope is that there will be a day when we “behold the King in His beauty”. But we have yet to deal with v. 22: “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our King; He will save us.” If we belong to Him – if we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus, that is good news for us.

When He comes to judge, He will see Jesus’ righteousness instead of our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 2:1-2). Jesus came to fulfill the Law because we cannot (Galatians 4:4-5), so our faith is counted as righteousness (Romans 4:2-4).

When Jesus returns as King of kings and Lord of lords on that glorious future Day (Revelation 19:11-16), His enemies will fall, but those who have been redeemed – purchased – and reconciled by the death of Christ will no longer be enemies but part of His Kingdom (Romans 5:9-10)!

I am reminded of the words of one of my favorite hymns that is based out of today’s passage:

“I know I shall see in His beauty / The King in whose Law I delight / Who lovingly guards my footsteps / And gives me songs in the night // Redeemed, redeemed / Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb / Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it / His child and forever I am!”

So, today’s Bible study can either be good news for you or bad – not both. Just as there will be days in 2023 that are good or bad, the Day of the Lord will only be good if you can look forward to the coming of the King. If you have been redeemed, then you can look forward to seeing “the King in His beauty”, but if you do not know Him, you get the rider on the white horse – the full wrath of God in His might and strength. A few decades after today’s passage, there were people who understood this more than they had hoped. They stopped receiving grace and mercy and experienced wrath. The saving and powerful hand of God was lifted, and Nebuchadnezzar was allowed into Israel. What will it be for you?

But for those whose boast is in being redeemed by the King…. Their entire life is altered changed because of what He has done for them and in them. His Spirit dwells within them, and He is on the throne interceding on their behalf. And His return is promised.

But just because He has not yet returned does not mean He is distant. Just as God became flesh and tore the veil that separated us from Him, He is still approachable today! No other king on the face of the earth gives access to all his subjects. Even the prime minister of England cannot waltz into Buckingham Palace, roll into King Charles’ private quarters, and merely ask him for whatever he needs. There are protocols. He is the king of England, after all. But the King gives His people access.

In Hebrews 4:16, we are told: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We can fix our eyes upward where He is and look forward to His return, but in the meantime, He gives us access to Him on His throne! The grace Isaiah prayed for is available to us today. All we must do is approach.

That is my prayer for you and yours, me and mine, in 2023. I want every day that the Lord tarries to be one of anticipating His return. I want my actions, hopes, and desires to be dripping with longing for Him and obedience to His great commandment and commission. I want my life to exude gospel at every opportunity. But I am so thankful that the King is available in my waiting.

I know there will be days when I will fail and be filled with doubts and fears, but I also know that I can approach His throne with confidence because I know it is not empty.

The King who sits there cares for me. He is approachable. He has the grace and mercy I need and will give it to me when I need it.

The King redeemed me, loves me, and is coming again. Hallelujah! And amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 33:17–22.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 33:1–2.

[3] Donald E. Hartley, “Isaiah the Prophet,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[4] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 27:50–51.

[6] But wait, there’s more! In case you like interesting tidbits (or are nerdy like me), there is another layer to this. In Hebrews 9, the writer of Hebrews is describing the elements of the tabernacle/temple in order to show how Jesus is the substance to their shadow. The mercy seat was on the lid of the ark of the covenant and was representative of the throne of God. It is where the priest would sprinkle the blood each year on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement). The word translated “mercy seat” in Hebrews 9:5 (hilasterion) is only used in that form one other place in the NT. In Romans 3:25, it is translated “propiatiation” – the sacrifice made to trade our sins for Jesus’ righteousness! Written right into the fabric of Scripture by God’s Holy Spirit is the beautiful truth of Emmanuel – God with us – showing us that Jesus is the mercy seat and He is the sacrifice!

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 21:1–5.

Songs for Christmas Sunday

What a beautiful opportunity it is to get to gather on the Lord’s day to adore Him in worship, thinking on His first coming, life, death, and resurrection, and looking expectantly toward His return!



Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | Luke 2:8-17

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.

  • Song | Go Tell It on the Mountain
  • Song | Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • Scripture | 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2

     5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

     6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

       “In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

  • Song | The Son of God Came Down
  • Song | Joy to the World
  • Invitation | What Child is This?


Advent 2022 — The Story of Christmas

Throughout this Advent season, we have continually discussed the “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) that the angels spoke of to the shepherds. That good news – that gospel – is as sweet and good for us today as it was two millennia ago.

Paul gives a succinct picture of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:

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

That is going to be our focus. This Christmas, we are going to look at what is “of first importance”, just as it was “received”. We are going to read the accounts of the birth of Jesus from the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and we will read through them chronologically. You can find a link to the audio below, but it will not contain verse references. Those can be found below.



The Beginning of the Good News

Mark 1:1a The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.[1]

Dedication

Luke 1:1 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. So it also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.[2]

Prologue

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life,, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ ”) 16 Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.[3]

The Record of Jesus’ Ancestors

Matthew 1:1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

Abraham fathered Isaac,
Isaac fathered Jacob,
Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers,
Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar,
Perez fathered Hezron,
Hezron fathered Aram,
Aram fathered Amminadab,
Amminadab fathered Nahshon,
Nahshon fathered Salmon,
Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab,
Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth,
Obed fathered Jesse,
and Jesse fathered King David.
David fathered Solomon by Uriah’s wife,
Solomon fathered Rehoboam,
Rehoboam fathered Abijah,
Abijah fathered Asa,
Asa fathered Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat fathered Joram,
Joram fathered Uzziah,
Uzziah fathered Jotham,
Jotham fathered Ahaz,
Ahaz fathered Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah fathered Manasseh,
Manasseh fathered Amon,
Amon fathered Josiah,
11 and Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers
at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon
Jeconiah fathered Shealtiel,
Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel fathered Abiud,
Abiud fathered Eliakim,
Eliakim fathered Azor,
14 Azor fathered Zadok,
Zadok fathered Achim,
Achim fathered Eliud,
15 Eliud fathered Eleazar,
Eleazar fathered Matthan,
Matthan fathered Jacob,
16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary,
who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, fourteen generations.[4]

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

Luke 1:5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified and overcome with fear. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.”

18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen. You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was making signs to them and remained speechless. 23 When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”[5]

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged, to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”

34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?”

35 The angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38 “See, I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary. “May it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.[6]

Mary Visits Elizabeth

Luke 1:39 In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah 40 where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! 43 How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what he has spoken to her!”[7]

The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise

Luke 1:46 And Mary said:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 because he has looked with favor
on the humble condition of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations
will call me blessed,
49 because the Mighty One
has done great things for me,
and his name is holy.
50 His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear him.
51 He has done a mighty deed with his arm;
he has scattered the proud
because of the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has toppled the mighty from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.
53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he spoke to our ancestors.

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home.[8]

The Birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son. 58 Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her his great mercy, and they rejoiced with her.

59 When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But his mother responded, “No. He will be called John.”

61 Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” 62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they were all amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard about him took it to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.[9]

Zechariah’s Prophecy

Luke 1:67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited
and provided redemption for his people.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 just as he spoke by the mouth
of his holy prophets in ancient times;
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of those who hate us.
72 He has dealt mercifully with our ancestors
and remembered his holy covenant—
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham.
He has given us the privilege,
74 since we have been rescued
from the hand of our enemies,
to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness
in his presence all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called
a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare his ways,
77 to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God’s merciful compassion,
the dawn from on high will visit us
79 to shine on those who live in darkness
and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

80 The child grew up and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.[10]

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

Matthew 1:18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name him Immanuel,

which is translated “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. And he named him Jesus.[11]

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.[12]

The Shepherds and Angels

Luke 2:8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people he favors!,,

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.[13]

Jesus is Presented in the Temple

Luke 2:21 When the eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus—the name given by the angel before he was conceived. 22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord,) 24 and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,).[14]

The Prophecy of Simeon

Luke 2:25 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,

29 Now, Master,
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory to your people Israel.

33 His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary, “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed—35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”[15]

The Prophecy of Anna

Luke 2:36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,, 37 and was a widow for eighty-four years. She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. 38 At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.[16]

The Visit of the Wise Men

Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.

“In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah:
Because out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”,

Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship him.”,

After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen at its rising. It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route.[17]

Amen!




[1] Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Mk 1:1–4.

[2] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 1:1–4.

[3] Christian Standard Bible, Jn 1:1–18.

[4] Christian Standard Bible, Mt 1:1–17.

[5] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 1:5–25.

[6] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 1:26–38.

[7] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 1:39–45.

[8] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 1:46–56.

[9] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 1:57–66.

[10] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 1:67–80.

[11] Christian Standard Bible, Mt 1:18–25.

[12] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 2:1–7.

[13] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 2:8–20.

[14] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 2:21–24.

[15] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 2:25–35.

[16] Christian Standard Bible, Lk 2:36–38.

[17] Christian Standard Bible, Mt 2:1–12.

Advent 2022 — December 15


For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised up on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, the majority of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15;3-6

21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.

2 Corinthians 5:21

But what does it say? “The word is near to you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), 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. 10 For with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who is rich to all who call upon him. 13 For “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:8-13


“Good News of Great Joy, or A Weary World Rejoices

We have spent a good bit of time this week in Luke 2:10 and the verses around it. The declaration of the angels to those poor and frightened shepherds should just about be memorized at this point: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring good news to you of great joy which will be for all the people”. Good news. Great joy. For all people.

The word translated “good news” is often translated gospel, and the message that the angels proclaimed on that hillside 2,000 years ago is a beautiful and succinct picture of the gospel. They preached that the Savior “who is Christ the Lord” was born for them – for those dirty, stinky shepherds – and that He could be found that very day in Bethlehem. It was news that would and could change the trajectory of their lives. They just needed to believe in Him and receive the salvation He had to offer – they would receive grace by faith through Him.

Now, I know that on the day they heard that gospel message Jesus was still laying in the feeding trough, still an infant, and was decades away from His death, burial, and resurrection. But the babe in the manger was still “the Word [become] flesh” (John 1:14). He was still the Lamb slain “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

We sometimes want to overcomplicate things. We know the whole story and want to add and fill in the gaps in the angels’ proclamation that day, but the “good news of great joy” is still just as simple. In fact, Paul gives very succinct proclamations of the gospel, too. The first can be found in 1 Corinthians 15 where he tells the church at Corinth that he is passing on to them the most important message he had to offer – the very same message that he received himself: Jesus died for our sins according to the way that the Bible said He would, He was buried, and He rose from the dead on the third day exactly as the Bible and Jesus’ own preaching said He would. That’s good news!

Paul’s second succinct gospel summary comes in his next letter to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 5:21. In one little complex sentence, he shares that God put the sins of those who would be saved on Jesus. Jesus had never sinned and did not deserve any condemnation, but He willingly bore our sin on our behalf. Those who trust in Him no longer are under the condemnation and shame due to their sin; Jesus bore that (Colossians 2:13-14). In a great exchange, Jesus traded His righteousness for our sin. He bore the wrath of God and exchanged it for God’s favor. Basically, He traded His extravagantly full bank account for our bankrupt one so that when God looks upon those who Jesus has saved, He does not see their sinfulness but Jesus’ righteousness! That’s good news!

The gospel is good news, but there is also bad news. Those who do not confess Jesus as Lord and believe He died for their sins and rose again do not receive part in that great exchange. They remain in their sin. Their condemnation remains their own. It does not have to be that way. All who call out to Jesus in faith will be saved. Anyone who believes in Him will not be but to shame (Romans 5:5), but not believing leaves the shame where it belongs – on the sinner (John 3:18).

Look at how the Christmas hymn “O Holy Night” puts it:

            Long lay the world in sin and error pining
            Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
            A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
            For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
            Fall on your knees!

Those who are without Jesus are still in their sin and “pining” after the wrong things, sinful things. But everyone – all people – have the opportunity to fall on their knees, believe in Him – confess Him as Lord, and repent of their sin. And those who do will not only have heard the good news of great joy but also to have believed it and received the salvation Jesus offers.

I love the phrase “good news of great joy” because 1) it is straight from the Bible, and 2) it captures what Jesus offers. But I also love the way the writer of “O Holy Night” captured what it is to be a sinner and receive Christ: “a weary world rejoices”. If you have been reading with us over these past two weeks, you have read snippets of the “good news of great joy”, but have you received it? Have you believed on Jesus, or are you still on the fence? If you haven’t, I urge you: fall on your knees, believe what the Bible says about Him, confess Him as Lord, and rejoice in the salvation He brings!

Songs for Sunday, December 11, 2022


Below, you will find the Scripture passages and songs for worship tomorrow at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS. You’ll also find our daily advent readings!


Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | 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.”

  • Song | O Come All Ye Faithful
  • Song | Adore Him
  • Scripture | 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.

  • Song | Noel
  • Song | Your Great Name
  • Invitation | God With Us
  • Offertory | Light of the World

If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. We have a 10:00 Bible study where Jamie Harrison is walking us through the book of Revelation. If you are at-risk, this Bible study would be perfect for you so you can spread out (and even dip out the side door before the 11:00 worship gathering begins).


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


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


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.