12 Days of Christmas — Reading Guide, Day 9

Praise Through Reading the Word:

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

   He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
   By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
   And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10   Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11   Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12   Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:4-12

Praise Through Song:

Meditation & Prayer:

  • What are some things that “dismay” you in your life right now?
  • What does it mean that He was “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities”?
  • Thank God for being your Savior.
  • Look back over today’s Scripture reading, and praise God for specific things that He promised in this prophecy and fulfilled with His Life.

12 Days of Christmas — Reading Guide, Day 8

Praise Through Reading the Word:

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

2 Timothy 1:8-14

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 2:11-14

Praise Through Song:

Meditation & Prayer:

  • How, specifically, is Jesus our “blessed hope”?
  • Thank God for the gift of His Holy Spirit.
    • Ask Him for opportunity to “not [be] ashamed” of Him and His gospel this week.
  • Pray and ask for strength in specific situations.

12 Days of Christmas — Reading Guide, Day 7

Praise Through Reading the Word:

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!”

Luke 2:13-14

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:5-14

Praise Through Song:

Meditation & Prayer:

  • Think/talk about the songs that the angels were singing in today’s passages.
  • What songs do we sing today that are similar?
  • Look again at the angels’ songs in today’s passages and pray these to God.
  • Ask God for the opportunity to be a “herald” for Him this week.

12 Days of Christmas — Reading Guide, Day 6

Praise Through Reading the Word:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:34-40

Praise Through Song:

Meditation & Prayer:

  • What does it mean to “love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”?
  • What does it mean to “love your neighbor as yourself”?
  • Tell God you love Him.
    • Be specific about your feelings toward Him.
  • Ask God to give you opportunity to love your neighbor this week.

12 Days of Christmas — Reading Guide, Day 5

Praise Through Reading the Word:

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. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
—————-
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5; 9-14

Praise Through Song:

Meditation & Prayer:

  • What does “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men” mean?
  • What does “all who did receive Him, who believed in His name” mean?
  • Talk about how special it is that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.
  • Thank God for the truth of His Word.
  • Specifically praise God for truths about Him that we see in today’s Scripture reading.
  • Thank God for the gift of Life. 

Songs for Sunday — December 20, 2020

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
1 John 4:10

Jesus is absolutely the reason for the Christmas season, yet He is often overlooked. People are always asking others what Christmas is all about. The answer is simple: love.

God loved the world in this way, that He gave His one and only Son – the only begotten of the Father – to die as a substitute for sinners such as us. This portion of Advent magnifies how deep the Father’s love for us is!

Here are our songs:

  • O Holy Night —
  • 1 John 3:16-18 —

16 By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

  • 1 John 4:7-12 —

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.

  • Midnight Clear (Love Song) —
  • You’re Here —
  • Galatians 4:4-5 —

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

  • Noel —
  • (inv) Make Room —

*Note*

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

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

12 Days of Christmas — Reading Guide, Day 4

Praise Through the Reading of the Word:

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
  All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10   For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
11   Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
12   I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13   For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Psalm 86:8-13

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:15-17

Praise Through Song:

Meditation & Prayer:

  • Why is God’s love described as “steadfast”?
  • What are some things that make our God unique?
  • Sing today’s hymn and think of three things you are thankful for.
  • Tell God why you adore Him, and thank Him for your three things above.

12 Days of Christmas — Reading Guide, Day 3

Praise Through Reading the Word:

But 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

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:16-18

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Praise Through Song:

Meditation & Prayer:

  • Think about how the gift of Christ’s life and sacrifice has impacted your life.
    • If you are reading as a family briefly share your testimony with each other.
  • How can you share this gift with others during this season?
  • Thank the Lord for the gift of salvation.
    • Individually, think on the sin that has enslaved you and thank God for purchasing your freedom from it with Jesus’ sacrifice.
    • Ask God to deliver you from specific sins and/or situations that you are struggling with/in currently.
  • Pray specifically for people in your life who you believe do not know Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Refresh & Restore — December 17, 2020

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

John 3:16-19

Merry Christmas, Sojourner!

The Christmas season can feel a bit like tug-of-war sometimes. There is the pull of the world and commercialism. There is a definite push toward giving – and especially receiving – and going and doing and seeing. Yet there is always a tug at our hearts that is reminding us that there is more to Christmas than lights and presents. That tug prompts our hearts to look for something holy rather than a holiday.

I find myself pondering, year after year, how God feels about all of this. How much of Christmas focuses on or even includes Christ?

Much time is spent this time of year discussing and debating what is the true meaning of Christmas. Many argue for joy or peace or hope or family or giving or kindness. And it is almost certainly each of those things, at least a little bit. But the meaning of Christmas is most definitely love – the steadfast, always-and-forever, never-stopping, never-giving-up love of God.

God’s love for His people is unbelievable. Arguably, the greatest verse that describes His love is the one that is most familiar to us – John 3:16. In this verse, we see the heart of the Father. We see a love that outshines any earthly love. And, as a father, I cannot fathom loving anyone or anything that much. Our Father loved so much that He gave His only Son.

I have been blessed with two children. I would not put up with either of them being harmed, much less killed, for any of you. I remember the day that my oldest child was born. As I stood there, terrified and holding her in my arms, Daddy leaned in and whispered: “Now, you understand Christmas; now, you start to understand Easter.” That moment, when my heart was filled with more love than I could ever imagine, is the first moment I could feel the anguish and care – but still only a glimpse – that God the Father has for us. Yet I would deny you all to save my children. But our Father is not like that.

God demonstrates His love for us in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). His love flows from Him “being rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). He loves us enough that we can “be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). And it is because He “did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all” that we can trust that He will take care of us and keep His promises to us (Romans 8:32).

The way that Jesus describes the love of God in John 3 is simple enough that new believers can drink of it and deep enough for those who have believed for decades can eat and still be full. How beautiful and fulfilling it is to be loved by God and get to love Him in return.

Let us dive a little deeper.

God gave Himself for us in the person of Jesus so that we could have everlasting life. He did not come to condemn us or beat us down in our sin. He came to rescue us from our sin and the condemnation that it already deserved! This confuses some because they feel the need to beat people down for their sin, but there is no need for beating down or condemnation. The Law has already done that (John 5:45). One must look no further than their own hearts to believe that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). We have enough condemnation on our own merits and minds to last us a lifetime. What we need is a Savior to take care of eternity!

I like the way that Paul David Tripp puts it: Jesus “would live on our behalf the life we could have never lived, He would willingly die the death that you and I deserve to die, and He would rise from the tomb as the conqueror of sin and death[1]”! His life covers ours. His death replaced ours. His Life gives us life eternal. He bore our sins and carries our guilt and shame and condemnation (Isaiah 53:4-5) – so why hold on to it?

Jesus goes on to explain that He did not have to come to make judgment regarding the world because the verdict had already been given: “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than light” (v. 19). As bad as we hate to admit it, we know that to be true. We see it in the world around us every day. And we see it in our own hearts. Things seem darker and drearier every single day. Many are quick to agree with the old adage that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But what about “for God so loved the world”? Where is the gospel influence – the good news – amid so much bad?

Let John 1:4-5 shine into your dark and dreary worldview:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Light. Shines. In Darkness. Darkness and light cannot co-exist. We live in a world where the darkness is trying to snuff out the light. But that is utter foolishness! Darkness has no power where light is present. You can shut yourself in the darkest room you can find, and a single candle will chase away the darkness. And Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12), is better and brighter than all the candles ever made, past, present, and future. He – the Light – shines in darkness, and – try as it may – the darkness cannot do anything but leave!

This should not come as a surprise to us. After all, the birth of Christ had been foretold over centuries before God ever “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Look at the good news promised through the prophet Isaiah:

  • 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. (Isaiah 9:2)
  • I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness, I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prison those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42:6-7)

The prophecies continued in the months prior to His birth through John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah:

…because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

The good news is there. All that is left is for us to believe it.

I know that there is much going on around us that gives us pause and can cause fear and anxiety. I know that the holidays are not always a time of joy and happiness for everyone. But I know that God loves me – and that I love Him. I can echo Job in saying that “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). I can echo Paul and shout to you, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)! I can tell you that no matter the darkness around you, the Light has come.

As we gear up for whatever Christmas 2020 looks like, may our hearts be lifted by the greatest gift that will ever be given – the gift of the Son for our salvation by God the Father. But no gift is ever effective unless it is received. If you will but “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Receiving the “free gift of God” (Romans 6:23) is as simple as receiving Him as Savior and Lord.

Once you receive that gift, the lights and presents at Christmas lose some of their glimmer and glamour. After all, they pale in comparison to the Light of the world and His presence in our lives. And darkness – around us or within us – cannot abide in His presence; it must flee. We can pray and sing the Christmas hymn of old:

O come, Thou Day-Spring, Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel[2]

And Emmanuel – God with us – bring Light and rejoicing to us and ours as well. As always, I love and pray for you all. If you need someone to listen or to pray for you, feel free to reach out. I may not be able to meet your needs, but I can point to the One who can.


[1] Paul David Tripp, Come Let Us Adore Him: An Advent Reading Plan, YouVersion Bible App

[2]O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, John Mason Neale &Thomas Helmore © Words: Public Domain; Music: Public Domain

12 Days of Christmas — Reading Guide, Day 2

Praise Through Reading the Word:

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.

Isaiah 9:2-7

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

John 16:16-22

Praise Through Song:

Meditation & Prayer:

Look back through today’s Scriptures and thank God specifically for 1) who He is, and 2) what He has done.