The Mighty Hand of God

Twice this week, I have been taken aback by something my son has done.

He has always wanted to seem bigger and older than he is, which is typical of little boys. He has never liked having to hold someone’s hand whether it be to cross the road or to help him walk when he was first learning. He places a high value on being independent – on showing he can do [whatever] all by himself. Yet twice this week, he has reached up and wanted to hold my hand.

Both times were identical in circumstances. Both times were in Buccees (once going on vacation and the second on the return trip). Now, if you have ever been in Buccees – at least all of the times I have been – it is crowded and busy and loud and boisterous. Picture a gas station with the energy and chaos of a toddler. It is almost too much for me, and, apparently, it was too much for him because he reached up to hold my hand.

Don’t get me wrong here: I was glad to be needed, glad to be a comfort to him. But it threw me nonetheless because my little, independent-not-scared-of-things-he-should-be son was unnerved and a bit frightened. I tried to ask him if he was okay, but he didn’t want to talk. I tried to tell him it was okay to be nervous – that I myself was nervous, too. Both times, his response was the same: “I just want you to hold my hand”. Both times my response was merely quiet contemplation.

Today, we just walked around Buccees hand-in-hand. He slowly came out of his shell and was pointing to this and that as we navigated the crowd to walk where he wanted to walk and look at what he wanted to look. While we were walking, I saw something that filled my eyes with tears then and does now even as I type. I saw the same event between father and son taking place in a different perspective.

The dad was likely in his late fifties or early sixties, dressed as dads of that era do all Americana on vacation. That was not different as I was sporting my generation’s dad travel gear. What was different was that he was holding the hand of his grown son – every bit my age with special needs. They were talking about how Buccees was too much for the son but how everything was okay because daddy was there. And, sure enough, as long as he was holding his daddy’s hand, all was right and all of the frightening and alarming and anxious events taking place around droned out because he had his daddy’s hand in his.

What a beautiful picture. What a sobering and humbling reality.

See, the other dad surely knew what I did – that there was nothing magical about our hands, that there were dangers that we are not enough to battle against as much as we would try. That’s why I tried to talk to my son both times, to help him more that I felt my hand could accomplish on its own. But there is a hand that is stronger than ours.

I have been thinking of 1 Peter 5:6-7 ever since we left Buccees:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

The “mighty hand of God” is a symbol of His strength and His power. That strength and power protects His children, but it also disciplines. It chides against enemies but also chastens His children. It is a hand of unimaginable strength, but it is also gentle and loving.

The same hands that formed Adam from dust and Eve from a rib are the same hands that can strike down mountains and nations.

They are the same hands that became small when He came as an infant. They are the same hands that did hard labor as a carpenter.

They are the same hands that were strong enough to carry our cross and bold enough to take the nails in crucifixion.

They are the same hands that eternally bear scars from those nails.

And they are the same hands that will one day wipe away the last tears from our eyes.

Things are often overwhelming, and life is hard. Some things are more than we can bear. Our Father knows that. He does not seek to beat us down but that we would humble ourselves, repent and cry out to Him to be lifted up.

The picture of 1 Peter 5:6-7 is the same that I saw in Buccees, a Father reaching down to His children to lift them up when the world is too much. And, thankfully, I can share with my son about the “mighty hand of God” to carry Him through when my own hands are too weak for the task.

Maybe things are too much for you right now. Maybe you feel like there is nowhere to turn or no one to turn to, but let me assure you there is a hand that will reach down and can pull you out of death and give you life. If you would humble yourself and come to Him, He will lift you up because “He cares for you”. And His hands are strong enough to care for “all your anxieties”.

That’s good news.

Songs for Sunday, June 27, 2021

Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?

There is no telling how many times we have all heard that in our lives. Sometimes, we pick the bad news first because we want to soften the blow we are about to receive. Other times, we seek out the good news first to prepare us to deal with the bad.

The Bible has a special word for “good news” in the Bible – the word gospel. And there is no better news in all the universe than the gospel.

What is the gospel you ask? Rather than defining it in human terms, I would like to point you to a few passages of Scripture that define it better than I could:

  • 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.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21: For our sake He (God) made Him (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

In those verses, we find the good news as well as the bad.

The bad news is found in the reality of “sin” and is seen in both passages. When we see “for our sins” and “for our sake” in these two verses, we see the reality that we have sinned against (committed wrongs against) God. He created everything and, therefore, gets to decide how everything is intended to be. When we rebel against that, it is called sin. And the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

There is no worse news than death, and that’s what makes the good news of Jesus so good – He offers a path out of death! If we finish out the bad news verse above, we see that it gets to the good: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ”! Even though we are “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked” (Ephesians 2:1-2), He offers us life because He is “rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4).

The gospel tells us that He offers us life because “He died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3), because “for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sins” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He died the death we deserve on our behalf. Oh, what a love that is! “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

If you are thinking that it sounds like He took the bad news to give us good news, you are not wrong! “He who knew no sins” bore our sin so that the price/debt (think “wages” from the verse above) our sin cost could be paid. Look at the cool way Colossians 2:13-14 put it:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Amen! Hallelujah!

But, just as the bad news of our sin is replaced with His good news, there is better news yet – Christ did not stay dead! Yes, “He was buried”, but, most importantly, “He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4)! And He is still alive today!

So, how would you like some more good news? Jesus offers people life today out of the death their sin has earned. Look at the invitation to come to Him in Romans 10:9-10:

“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

There is life to be found for the dead. There is good news in the midst of the bad. And all of it is found in Jesus!

That’s what we are offering Sunday morning – to point you to Jesus. That’s what we are singing about – the good news, the gospel. And we hope to see dead come to life! We hope those living in Him will be living for Him!

The

Here are the Scriptures & Songs:

  • Scripture Reading | Titus 3:1-7

1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

  • Scripture Reading | Galatians 2:19-20

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

  • Scripture Reading | 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


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

We have two services Sunday morning!

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

Refresh & Restore — June 3, 2021

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.[1]       

1 John 5:6-13

Greetings, Sojourner!

As I sit and write to you today, I find my mind fixated on this past weekend spent at the Beautiful Feet ministry in Ft. Worth, TX. I could write to you about how jarring it is to see people living in such poverty-stricken conditions. I could write to you of the desperate situations that led many of the people that we met, talked to, and prayed for onto the streets, but, instead, I find myself thinking about John’s words in v. 13 of today’s passage: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” – and that is what stands out in my mind about Beautiful Feet – the eternal life offered and the example of those who are now believers.

This was my second time to go and witness the work that God is doing through Beautiful Feet (the Feet), but there were two things that grabbed my attention this time: 1) the impact that being saved (truly brought from death in sin to eternal life in Christ) has on people, and 2) the beauty of the testimony that God Himself bears about His Son. I believe both fit hand-in-hand (or in-foot, as seems appropriate here) with this week’s passage.

As John continues bringing his letter to a close, he focuses in on the testimony concerning Jesus. We focused last week on how God molds the beliefs of those who are “born of God” (5:1) to share in His love (5:2) and exhibit that love in keeping His commandments (5:3). This week’s passage shows the three-part testimony of the Son (water, blood, and Spirit) through the Father and what it is like for Him to be the object of our faith!

The Testimony of Water – He Was Born

When it talks of water here, it is referencing Christ’s birth (think of a mother’s water breaking when it is time for a baby to be born). The birth of Christ is important, and more than a mere holiday, because it shows His humanity. Part of that testimony is that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). We see in these verses that Jesus’ birth was one of extremely specific timing and circumstances – at just the right time in human history, “foreknown before the foundation of the world but…made manifest in the last times for” our sake (1 Peter 1:20, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Because “sin came into the world through one man” (Romans 5:12), Adam, all men would inherit a sin nature and the struggles that come with it. None of the sacrifices of the Old Testament system could take away sin, they could only point to the One who could, Jesus. Sin produces death (Genesis 3, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:1-2), and, as we have seen earlier in 1 John 1:9, we need God “to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – to cancel “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (Colossians 2:14). Our debt from sin needs to be paid, but everyone on earth is in debt just the same, unable to pay their own way much less anyone else’s.

The only acceptable payment would be via propitiation (2:1-2, 4:10), but no one on earth is worthy to make the sacrifice for us (Romans 3:10, 3:23). So, God Himself stepped down to sacrifice Himself (John 1:14) meaning that the eternal God willingly became mortal. He lived the life that no other human on earth was capable of living (1 John 1:8, 10) – sinless perfection (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15) as the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). And He, in the Person of God the Son – fully God and fully man – “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant…[and] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-7), which is the second testimony.

The Testimony of Blood – He Died (Yet Lives!)

Blood was an important part of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament. Just as we saw our need for salvation through our forefather Adam in the first section, we see that the first physical deaths (God taking the lives of animals in the garden for their skins) were to cover the shame of Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 3:21). In the same way, our sin – and its shame – can be covered and cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1:7).

Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners shows love like nothing else (John 15:13). As I write this, it is Memorial Day, and I cannot help but think of those who gave their lives for the United States where I live. The way of life that is celebrated in America is bound up in the sacrifice of those brave men and women who died for their country and the ideals it represents. Their sacrifice points to the greater sacrifice of Christ, and we should be moved by and appreciate what He has done for us.

Think of the magnitude of His dying in our place: the God of the universe, “who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it” (Isaiah 42:5), “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Just as it was important that He was born “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), we see that “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). He died the death that would provide cleansing of sins for all who trust (believe, have faith) in Him! Through His death, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, [makes] us alive together with Christ”, saving sinners by His grace (Ephesians 2:4-5). On the cross, He took the “record of debt that stood against us” because of our sin and “set it aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). The old hymn “It is Well” sums it up beautifully[2]:

“My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought – my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more; praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul!”

We do not have to mourn His death – thanks be to God! Jesus did not stay dead, and we can rejoice with the angels who said, “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6)! The “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) was different than other sacrificial lambs – He is risen forevermore as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David”, the “Lamb standing as though it had been slain” on the throne (Revelation 5:5-6)! And through His death, and especially His resurrection, we see the victory that overcomes the world (5:4-5) and can echo Paul when He praises God for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” who is alive and well!

The Testimony of the Spirit
(and the Evidence of Eternal Life Where He Abides)

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are irrefutable evidence from heaven, but He shows Himself to be true here on earth because His “Spirit is truth” (v. 6). This is important because His Spirit dwelling in those who are born again is how God abides in His children (4:16). If we claim to have Christ, we have His Spirit. Now, this is difficult because many people treat the Spirit awkwardly by either keeping Him at a distance and calling it reverence or treating Him like parlor tricks and calling it charisma. This is where last weekend at Beautiful Feet challenged what we far too often are willing to accept regarding being filled with God’s Spirit.

Beautiful Feet is more than a ministry that feeds hungry and clothes the poor. If you read the history of their ministry, you see their motto “Sharing the Gospel, Serving the Poor”, which is the entire scope of their ministry – the heart that God Himself has given them for the least-of-these in Ft. Worth. They want to share Christ with people in equal portion to the physical needs that they meet. They want to bless those who cannot bless them in return by giving them everything that Christ has to offer (and food, clothing, medical care – which pale in comparison to the gift of His grace). The thing that was most striking to me is the number of people who 1) are born again because they found faith in Christ through His grace and mercy and 2) those who are saved, after being discipled in the Word and finding employment and housing (which they desperately needed), are seen returning to the Feet to share the gospel (and meet physical needs) with others who were like them.

The Spirit is evident in their lives because they live out the gospel. The Spirit is not a parlor trick for them because tricks do not save (2 Corinthians 4:2); fake does not fool those who have been turned out on the streets; and only the love of Christ transcends “word or talk” to live in “deed and in truth” when sharing His love with others (3:18). God blessed these disciples through the Feet and servants of God who had “the world’s goods”, saw their brother and sister in need and opened their hearts because of the love of God poured forth in their hearts by His Spirit. These servants shared that love by laying their own lives down as worship – in response to the Life God gave them (3:16-17). How sad it is that this seems so foreign among church-people today!

Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7 in Romans 10:15: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” This is more than a theme verse for this ministry – or evangelism in general; they literally seek to be God’s feet as part of the His body – the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12). And, in serving with them this weekend, I realized that my feet do not carry the gospel as readily as they should. Forgive the crude parallel here, but I need a bit of a spiritual pedicure – for Jesus to cleanse my gospel feet that I may have share with Him (John 13:8).

John says that “the Spirit and the water and the blood” testify to who Jesus is and agree (v. 8), but he tells us that the “testimony of God is greater” than that of men because “whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in Himself” (vv. 9-10). I have had to look at my life and ask whether it agrees with the testimony of God, and I am asking that He arrange my life so that it testifies more to Him than about me, that my feet can be about His business rather than shod in Sunday shoes in the comfort of a church building or propped up serving my own laziness. I ask that He help you to do the same in your own life and grant the repentance and cleansing to walk His gospel out in the community He has planted you.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 5:6–13.

[2] Horatio Spafford, “It is Well

12 Days of Christmas — Reading Guide

Christmas is a time where we are able to remember hope, peace, joy, and salvation — to focus on the One who is the brings those things to us.

The idea of the “12 Days of Christmas” comes from the popular song that talks about one’s true love bringing various gifts. But, this Christmas, may we focus on the gift of Jesus and the true love that can only be known through Him.

This reading guide is an opportunity to spend time reading God’s Word, singing His praises, and meditating on the Gift – Jesus Christ. You can access the reading guide below, free of charge:

Download your reading guide here.

Thanks, God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

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