Songs for Sunday, January 16, 2022

We’re a few weeks into 2022, and this is our first “Songs for Sunday” of the year!

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace this week, and here’s the quote that sparked a lot of that thinking:

“Grace has the power to do what nothing else can do — rescue you from you, and in so doing, restore you to what you were created to be.”

Paul Tripp

We talk a lot about grace at Christ Community. We should! But, sometimes, I think we need a reminder of why, which is part of why I’ve been thinking about grace – the part of the quote above that says, “rescue you from you“.

I need to be rescued from my sin. You need rescue from yours. It is easy sometimes to take the problem of sin and see it as an us v. them situation – to look at it as the sin of the world v. God’s people. That kind of thinking is dangerous and, quite honestly, foolish (I’m speaking from experience here). How is it that we are so easily forgetful of how dangerous our sin is? Well, the answer is grace.

If you belong to Christ, you have experienced grace upon grace. Time and again, Christ has forgiven and covered your sin. Grace. So, we tend to forget the sins of the past (and mostly ignore the sins of the present). That’s why the Bible gives us such beautiful examples as 1 Peter 2:9-10:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We need to be reminded of Whose we are despite who we were.

As the Church, we celebrate being God’s people, but we were formerly God’s enemies because of our sin (Romans 5:9-10).

As the Church, we celebrate receiving mercy from the God we know to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6), but we sometimes forget that we were formerly facing the “wages of [our] sin” – death (Romans 6:23).

As the Church, we celebrate being in “His marvelous light”, but we forget that He called us “out of darkness”. And the darkness is where we wanted to be. We wanted to commit the sin we committed. We still do.

John, pastor of CCC, has said several times over the past few weeks that no one has died due to lack of sin. But everyone who does not put their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior faces death eternally. That’s bad news. It’s the worst news – unless you’ve experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

So, we must remember why we needed grace. We must remember that His grace saved us from ourselves. And rejoice that He is restoring us to who He created us to be in Him. Then, and only then, will we become a “people for His own possession”. And we will “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light”.

That’s good news! And that’s what we are singing about tomorrow: the grace of Jesus Christ that is greater than our sin – but not the gift of grace itself. We are going to make much of the One who brings the grace – “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession” (Titus 2:12-14)!


Here are our Scriptures & songs:

  • Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 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.

  • Lamentations 3:16-24

He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the LORD.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in Him.”


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.


Refresh & Restore — January 13, 2022

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

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.[1]

1 Peter 5:5-7

Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we are looking at Colossians 2:11-15 to see what Jesus has done for His church in the midst of false teachers infiltrating the church at Colossae. You can find the text version, complete with references, Scripture passages, and pictures here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/06/15/refresh-restore-june-16-2022/
  1. Refresh & Restore — June 16, 2022 (Jesus Over All 13)
  2. Refresh & Restore — June 2, 2022 (Jesus Over All 12)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  4. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  5. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)

Greetings Sojourners!

I am excited to begin writing again as we embark in 2022! I intended our first study together to be the book of Colossians, but a thought struck me yesterday and spurred today’s devotion and delayed our start of Colossians until next week.

We will begin with a question: what comes to mind when you think of the hand of God?

Some think of the picture above which has been adapted from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. In that painting, you see a depiction of Adam (the hand on the left) and God the Father (right hand) reaching out toward one another. You will notice that the hands just do not quite meet. Some argue that Adam is reaching out to God but unable to grasp his hand (because of sin or inability). Others argue that it symbolizes God trying to reach out to Adam but not quite making the grasp Himself.

But there are other perspectives on the hand of God than just Michelangelo’s mural.

There are some that see the hand of God as a tool of vengeance. They see it poised for a good smacking when all His little children get wayward. Some who hold this view wish for God to strike people down with a mix of Old Testament fury and some Zeus-like lightning bolts. This hand is hard, calloused, and ready to strike and represent a definitively angry and wrathful God.

There are some who view the hand of God like those of the European-looking Jesus shepherds – hands that have nothing but soft cushiony care as they caress the little lambs in their grasp. These hands would never strike, nor would they ever need to because they represent a God of only love and no anger whatsoever.

Yet when the image and thought of the hand of God came to my mind, it brought with it the Scripture above from 1 Peter. As we study this particular passage today, it is my prayer that you see God in accordance with His Word and not by any alternate points of view no matter how lofty they appear.

Context

To understand this passage, you need to look at the context of the book of 1 Peter and, especially, the context of the paragraph and chapter where it is found. 1 Peter is a letter to the “elect exiles of the Dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1), a group of people who were likely dispersed due to persecution – maybe even those who were forced to leave Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen when Paul was Saul (Acts 8:1). These were believers, many of which were probably Jewish, who had been forced to leave their homes and the land they had grown up in. They were afraid and felt alone. They needed to be reminded that God knew who they were and had a plan for their lives (1 Peter 1:3-5) and that, even in their suffering and troubles, He cared for them.

Peter lays out for them how to “conduct [themselves] with fear [of God] throughout the time of their exile” (1 Peter 1:17) and reminded them that even though they “were not a people” and had previously “not received mercy” that “now [they were] God’s people” and “now…received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). It is a letter of good news in the midst of a lot of bad news.

He reminds them of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone and the hope of eternity with Him. And He reminds them through many specific instances that the gospel of Jesus Christ gives hope in every area of their lives from the tyrannical governments they were suffering under to their relationships and daily lives. That good news is for us, too.

Today’s passage is part of 1 Peter 5 which begins talking to the “elders” who were “shepherd[ing] the flock of God” where these exiles were living (1 Peter 5:1-2). He wrote to the pastors of their local churches and talked with them about how they should serve. He reminded them that they were to “shepherd” in such a way that, “when the chief Shepherd appears” (1 Peter 5:4) – when Jesus returns, they would have exhibited His love, care, instruction, and correction as He would have them: “not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). You see, the pastors were to be examples because the same sort of example (“likewise” – 1 Peter 5:5) is to be followed in the relationships of the generations in the church as the young are to “be subject” to the elders (both the pastors & older, more mature leaders/disciplers in their churches) following the same pattern.

The beautiful thing about this is God uses the imagery of the hand of God to show what this is like.

Humility v. Mighty

Sometimes there is a fine line between humility, being humbled, and humiliation. Many people who define themselves as humble are everything but that. Some people get too big for their proverbial britches and need to be humbled or brought back into reality. But for others there comes a time where their lives end up at a screeching halt because their pride has written a check too big for their…britches to cash. Then comes humiliation. A force greater than them applies pressure and knocks them down a peg. We often cheer at those who do the knocking down and jeer at those who find themselves in the humiliation that (in our humble opinions) is much needed and deserved.

Peter’s advice – really the Holy Spirit’s advice, since this is Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17) – is that the way the church needs “to be subject” to each other and especially to God is for them to “clothe [themselves] with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5). He clarifies that this is not just some or they thought should have to; no, he says to them “all of you” (1 Peter 5:5), which goes from the pastor to the back pew. To back this up, he quotes from Proverbs 3:34 and reminds them that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. That proverb sounds like a tough warning from stern God, but, really, it is a proverb of pleading. It is a reminder of our need of grace and how dangerous a distractor our pride is, especially when we need to repent of our sin. This is seen in the command that Peter follows up with in the next paragraph: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6).

If we hold to one of the views of the hand of God that we looked at earlier, this is a frightening image. If it is the hand from the Sistine Chapel, we cannot reach it nor can He reach us, leaving us hopeless instead of humble. If it is the hand hurling lightning bolts and smacking sinners about, we can hope for humiliation and hurt instead of help. And the weak and soft hands of the European shepherd, the hero we need is nowhere to be found.

The “mighty hand of God” that Peter tells these exiles about is different altogether. The call is not to humble oneself out of fear or shame. The call is to humble oneself in recognition of the hand of the mighty God of the Bible. It is the “mighty hand” that Moses spoke over that represented His “greatness” and begged the question, “What god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours?” (Deuteronomy 3:24) It is the “hand of God” that was “on Judah to give them one heart to do [what was] commanded by the Word of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 30:12). It is the “good hands” of God that were on Ezra when he got to leave Babylon and come home to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:9). It is the hand of God that Nehemiah said had been upon him “for God” and gave strength to the hands of those involved in the “good work” of rebuilding Jerusalem after returning from Babylon (Nehemiah 2:18). It is the same hand that Israel was taught to sing of that God would “lift up [His] hand” and “forget not the afflicted” (Psalm 10:12).

Yet it was the same hand that was upon Jeremiah that “filled [him] with indignation” (Jeremiah 15:18). It is the same hand that was raised at His enemies to strike them down. Yes, the same hands that the writer of Hebrews wrote of when he said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Which hand is reaching out to the humbled in 1 Peter 5?

The reality is that it is the same hands. The hand that punishes is the same hand that protects; the same hand strikes and saves. All of God’s attributes work together in harmony. He is everything the Word says about Him. And this is the reason we humble ourselves. We recognize that He is greater. We recognize our sin as we recognize our need for a Savior.

We humble ourselves because our pride cannot earn us heaven as we have “fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and realize that “the wages of sin” – all that we can earn or accomplish – “is death” (Romans 6:23). And in that humbling, we submit to Him – are willing “subject to” (1 Peter 5:5) Him – as our Lord and Master (Romans 10:9).

Peter’s call for people to humble themselves “under the mighty hand of God” is to submit to Him that “He may exalt you” – to lay down their lives at the offer and promise of His Life and Righteousness (John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:21). And the hand that reaches out – the mighty hand of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (Titus 2:13-14).

Wrath and love are intertwined in that mighty hand. You see, the same hand that reaches out to the humbled was the same one what was “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). The God who people expect ready and waiting to smite the wicked with curses “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’ (Galatians 3:13, cf. Deuteronomy 21:23). He is the God who loved us enough that He showed “His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), dying for us to pay for the forgiveness of our sin. He saves sinners “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands…nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).

That’s good news!

God’s Mighty Hand & You

Look back at that picture from the Sistine Chapel. More frightening than any anger or weakness would be a God who would not or could not reach down at all. God not only reached down, He came down, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He set the example in humility:

“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. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”

Philippians 2:4-8

And that hand reaches out to us offering eternal life in the grandest gesture of love to ever be found. The hand that punishes wickedness and sin is the same hand that reaches out “at the proper time” to lift us up (1 Peter 5:7). It is not weak for forgiving but even stronger, the same hand of care still shows strength as Jesus said of those who are His, that He gives them “eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27).

The mighty hand of God is better than the Sistine Chapel. It is stretched out in love to those who repent and believe in Him. It represents the God who is not far off but close enough to cast your anxieties on. It is reached out “because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

That’s good news!


STARTING NEXT WEEK!


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

Merry Christmas!

Illustrated by Xander Harris, age 7


“He’s Here!”[1]

The story of the Nativity as told in Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible


Everything was ready. The moment God had been waiting for was here at last! God was coming to help His people, just as He promised in the beginning.

But how would He come? What would He be like? What would He do?

Mountains would have bowed down. Seas would have roared. Trees would have clapped their hands. But the earth held its breath. As silent as snow falling, He came in. And when no one was looking, in the darkness, He came.

There was a young girl who was engaged to a man named Joseph. (Joseph was the great-great-great-great-great grandson of King David.)

One morning, this girl was minding her own business when, suddenly, a great warrior of light appeared – right there in her bedroom. He was Gabriel, and he was an angel, a special messenger from Heaven.

When she saw the tall shining man standing there, Mary was frightened.

“You don’t need to be scared,” Gabriel said. “God is very happy with you!”

Mary looked around to see if perhaps he was talking to someone else.

“Mary, you’re going to have a baby. A little boy. You will call Him Jesus. He is God’s own Son. He’s the One! He’s the Rescuer!”

The God who flung planets into space and kept them whirling around and around, the God who made the universe with just a word, the one who could do anything at all – was making Himself small. And coming down…as a baby.

Wait. God was sending a baby to rescue the world?

“But it’s too wonderful!” Mary said and felt her heart beating hard. “How can it be true?”

“Is anything too wonderful for God?” Gabriel asked.

So Mary trusted God more than what her eyes could see. And she believed. “I am God’s servant,” she said. “Whatever God says, I will do.”

Sure enough, it was just as the angel had said. Nine months later, Mary was almost ready to have her baby.

Now, Mary and Joseph had to take a trip to Bethlehem, the town King David was from. But when they reached the little town, they found every room was full. Every bed was taken.

“Go away!” the innkeepers told them. “There isn’t any place for you.”

Where would they stay? Soon Mary’s baby would come.

They couldn’t find anywhere except an old, tumbledown stable. So they stayed where the cows and the donkeys and the horses stayed.

And there, in the stable, amongst the chickens and the donkeys and the cows, in the quiet of the night, God gave the world His wonderful gift. The baby that would change the world was born. His baby Son.

Mary and Joseph wrapped Him up to keep Him warm. They made a soft bed of straw and used the animals’ feeding trough as His cradle. And they gazed in wonder at God’s Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

Mary and Joseph named Him Jesus, “Emmanuel” – which means “God has come to live with us.”

Because, of course, He had.


[1] Yes, this is from a children’s “bible”. We’ve spent a lot of time reading the Scriptures verbatim from the Word of God, and we absolutely should give priority to Scripture in our devotional life. But, maybe – just maybe – we could all benefit from looking at the Scriptures from the mindset of a child. Could it be that there is no perspective with more substantial faith at Christmas than a child’s? May we see Christmas in that way.

Christmas to Calvary — December 24


Jesus Is Raised

Now on the first day of the week, at very early dawn, they came back to the tomb bringing the fragrant spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men in gleaming clothing stood near them. And as they were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, they said to them, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he spoke to you while he was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of men who are sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise?” And they remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the others with them were telling these things to the apostles. And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they refused to believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, and bending over to look, he saw only the strips of linen cloth, and he went away to his home wondering what had happened.

Jesus Encountered on the Road to Emmaus

And behold, on that same day, two of them were traveling to a village named Emmaus that was sixty stadia distant from Jerusalem, and they were conversing with one another about all these things that had happened. And it happened that while they were conversing, and discussing, Jesus himself also approached and began to go along with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are these matters that you are discussing with one another as you are walking along?” And they stood still, looking sad. And one of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to him, “Are you the only one living near Jerusalem and not knowing the things that have happened in it in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, a man who was a prophet, powerful in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to a sentence of death, and crucified him. But we were hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. But in addition to all these things, this is the third day since these things took place. But also some women from among us astonished us, who were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying they had seen even a vision of angels, who said that he was alive! And some of those with us went out to the tomb and found it like this, just as the women had also said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish and slow in heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things concerning himself in all the scriptures. And they drew near to the village where they were going, and he acted as though he was going farther. And they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is getting toward evening, and by this time the day is far spent.” And he went in to stay with them. And it happened that when he reclined at the table with them, he took the bread and gave thanks, and after breaking it, he gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he became invisible to them. And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” And they got up that same hour and returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven and those with them assembled, saying, “The Lord has really been raised, and has appeared to Simon!” And they began describing what happened on the road, and how he was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

And while they were saying these things, he himself stood there among them. But they were startled and became terrified, and thought they had seen a ghost. And he said to them, “Why are you frightened? And for what reason do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that I am I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they were still disbelieving because of joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat here?” So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in front of them.

Jesus Commissions His Disciples

And he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything that is written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending out what was promised by my Father upon you, but you stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension

And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. And it happened that while he was blessing them, he parted from them and was taken up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they were continually in the temple courts praising God.

Questions for Reflection:

  • If the tomb had held Jesus’ body held His body, what do you think that would have meant for Christianity (see 1 Corinthians 15)?

  • How does Christ’s resurrection affect our lives today?

  • How would you say you have gotten to know Jesus better over the course of this study?

  • Tomorrow is Christmas, and we have spent December 1-today looking at all of His life and, now, His death and resurrection. How does the reality of the cross and the empty tomb affect your thinking about celebrating Jesus’ birth tomorrow?

Live-the-Word Challenge:

Traditions are often considered essential in celebrating Christmas. Find some way to inject the gospel into your Christmas traditions. Find one particular tradition that can be altered to reflect that Jesus is indeed the reason for the season. Who knows: maybe this will indeed become a new tradition for you and your family and help you in the years to come to reflect more Christ in your CHRISTmas!

Christmas to Calvary — December 23


Jesus Brought Before Pilate

And the whole assembly of them rose up and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying he himself is Christ, a king!” And Pilate asked him, saying, “Are you the king of the Jews?” And he answered him and said, “You say so.” So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they insisted, saying, “He incites the people, teaching throughout the whole of Judea and beginning from Galilee as far as here.”

Jesus Brought Before Herod

Now when Pilate heard this, he asked if the man was a Galilean. And when he found out that he was from the jurisdiction of Herod, he sent him over to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem in those days. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see some miracle performed by him. So he questioned him at considerable length, but he answered nothing to him. And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers also treated him with contempt, and after mocking him and dressing him in glistening clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And both Herod and Pilate became friends with one another on that same day, for they had previously been enemies of one another.

Pilate Releases Barabbas

So Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people, and behold, when I examined him before you, I found nothing in this man as basis for the accusation which you are making against him. But neither did Herod, because he sent him back to us. And behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him. Therefore I will punish him and release him.”  But they all cried out in unison, saying, “Take this man away, and release for us Barabbas!” (who had been thrown in prison because of a certain insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder). And Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept crying out, saying, “Crucify! Crucify him!” So he said to them a third time, “Why? What wrong has this man done? I found no basis for an accusation deserving death in him. Therefore I will punish him and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he be crucified. And their cries prevailed. And Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. And he released the one who had been thrown into prison because of insurrection and murder, whom they were asking for, but Jesus he handed over to their will.

Jesus Is Crucified

And as they led him away, they seized Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and placed the cross on him, to carry it behind Jesus. And a great crowd of the people were following him, and of women who were mourning and lamenting him. But turning to them, Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children! For behold, days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that did not give birth, and the breasts that did not nurse!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

And two other criminals were also led away to be executed with him. And when they came to the place that is called “The Skull,” there they crucified him, and the criminals, the one on his right and the other on his left. But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothes. And the people stood there watching, but the rulers also ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if this man is the Christ of God, the Chosen One!” And the soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” And there was also an inscription over him, “This is the king of the Jews.”

And one of the criminals who were hanged there reviled him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself—and us!” But the other answered and rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, because you are undergoing the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong!” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” And he said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus Dies on the Cross

And by this time it was about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour because the light of the sun failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn apart down the middle. And Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit!” And after he said this, he expired.

Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began to praise God, saying, “Certainly this man was righteous!” And all the crowds that had come together for this spectacle, when they saw the things that had happened, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances, and the women who had followed him from Galilee who saw these things, stood at a distance.

Jesus Is Buried

And behold, a man named Joseph, who was a member of the council, a good and righteous man (this man was not consenting to their plan and deed), from Arimathea, a Judean town, who was looking forward to the kingdom of God. This man approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth and placed him in a tomb cut into the rock where no one had ever been placed. And it was the day of preparation, and the Sabbath was drawing near. And the women who had been accompanying him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was placed. And they returned and prepared fragrant spices and perfumes, and on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What do you think is the relationship between truth and justice? Did we see truth and justice displayed in Jesus’ trials? Did we see them in His crucifixion?

  • C. John Miller said that “repentance is humility in action”. What do you think about that statement? Why might humility be necessary to repentance and receiving forgiveness?

  • What do the two thieves on the cross teach us about the best use of our last moments of life if we are blessed to have our faculties when that time comes?

  • Unlike the people in this chapter, we live on the other side of the cross and resurrection. Does that fact help us to face and endure grief? How?

Christmas to Calvary — December 22


The Chief Priests and Scribes Plot to Kill Jesus

Now the feast of Unleavened Bread (which is called Passover) was drawing near. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they could destroy him, because they were afraid of the people.

Judas Arranges to Betray Jesus

And Satan entered into Judas, the one called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers of the temple guard how he could betray him to them. And they were delighted, and came to an agreement with him to give him money. And he agreed, and began looking for a favorable opportunity to betray him to them apart from the crowd.

Jesus’ Final Passover with the Disciples

And the day of the feast of Unleavened Bread came, on which it was necessary for the Passover lamb to be sacrificed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.” So they said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?” And he said to them, “Behold, when you have entered into the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house which he enters. And you will say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ And he will show you a large furnished upstairs room. Make preparations there.” So they went and found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

The Lord’s Supper

And when the hour came, he reclined at the table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you that I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took in hand a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the product of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And he took bread, and after giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And in the same way the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you.

“But behold, the hand of the one who is betraying me is with me on the table! For the Son of Man is going according to what has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to debate with one another who then of them it could be who was going to do this.

A Dispute About Who Is Greatest

And a dispute also occurred among them as to which of them was recognized as being greatest. So he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are called benefactors. But you are not to be like this! But the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the one who leads like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am in your midst as the one who serves.

“And you are the ones who have remained with me in my trials, and I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!” And he said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me!”

The Two Swords

And he said to them, “When I sent you out without a money bag and a traveler’s bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” And they said, “Nothing.” And he said to them, “But now the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag. And the one who does not have a sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this that is written must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was counted with the criminals.’ For indeed, what is written about me is being fulfilled.” So they said, “Lord, behold, here are two swords!” And he said to them, “It is adequate.”

The Prayer in Gethsemane

And he went away and proceeded, according to his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples also followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw and knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take away this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” And an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. And being in anguish, he began praying more fervently and his sweat became like drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he got up from the prayer and came to the disciples, he found them sleeping from sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you will not enter into temptation!”

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

While he was still speaking, behold, there came a crowd, and the one named Judas, one of the twelve, leading them. And he approached Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those around him saw what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” And a certain one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. And Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come out against him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, as against a robber? Every day when I was with you in the temple courts, you did not stretch out your hands against me! But this is your hour and the domain of darkness!”

Peter’s Denial of Jesus

And they arrested him and led him away and brought him into the house of the high priest. But Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. And a certain female slave, seeing him sitting in the light and looking intently at him, said, “This man also was with him!” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him!” And after a short time another person saw him and said, “You also are one of them!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” And after about one hour had passed, someone else was insisting, saying, “In truth this man also was with him, because he is also a Galilean!” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” And immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. And the Lord turned around and looked intently at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

And the men who were guarding him began to mock him while they beat him, and after blindfolding him they repeatedly asked him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck you?” And they were saying many other things against him, reviling him.

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin

And when day came, the council of elders of the people gathered, both chief priests and scribes, and they led him away to their Sanhedrin, saying, “If you are the Christ, tell us!” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will never believe, and if I ask you, you will never answer! But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you then the Son of God?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” And they said, “Why do we have need of further testimony? For we ourselves have heard it from his mouth!”

Questions for Reflection:

  • How does the Father’s “no” to Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane ultimately lead to our salvation and Jesus’ glory?

  • What is it about God that enables Him to receive those, like Peter (and us), who once rejected Him? What aspects of His character does the forgiveness of rebels, backsliders, and blasphemers reveal?

  • Why must Christians be committed to the truth? What happens if a Christian keeps a slippery grip on truth?

Christmas to Calvary — December 21


A Poor Widow’s Offering

And he looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the contribution box, and he saw a certain poor widow putting in there two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow put in more than all of them. For these all put gifts into the offering out of their abundance, but this woman out of her poverty put in all the means of subsistence that she had.”

The Destruction of the Temple Predicted

And while some were speaking about the temple, that it was adorned with precious stones and votive offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see—days will come in which not one stone will be left on another stone that will not be thrown down!”

Signs of the End of the Age

And they asked him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “Watch out that you are not deceived! For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them! And when you hear about wars and insurrections, do not be terrified, for these things must happen first, but the end will not be at once.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and famines and plagues in various places. There will be terrible sights and great signs from heaven.

Persecution of Disciples Predicted

“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will turn out to you for a time of witness. Therefore make up your minds not to prepare in advance to speak in your own defense, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom that all your opponents will not be able to resist or contradict. And you will be handed over even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put to death some of you. And you will be hated by all because of my name. Even a hair of your head will never perish! By your patient endurance you will gain your lives.

The Desolation of Jerusalem

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside it must depart, and those in the fields must not enter into it, because these are days of vengeance, so that all the things that are written can be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people, and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Arrival of the Son of Man

“And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity from the noise of the sea and its surging, people fainting from fear and expectation of what is coming on the inhabited earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!”

The Parable of the Fig Tree

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they put out foliage, now you see for yourselves and know that by this time the summer is near. So also you, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you that this generation will never pass away until all things take place! Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Be Alert

“But take care for yourselves, lest your hearts are weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of daily life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who reside on the face of the whole earth. But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

So throughout the days he was teaching in the temple courts, and throughout the nights he was going out and spending the night on the hill that is called the Mount of Olives. And all the people were getting up very early in the morning to come to him in the temple courts to listen to him.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What comes to mind when you think about the end of the world? Is the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus an encouraging idea to you? Why or why not?

  • Jesus gives His disciples several things to focus on or do as they wait for the end and His return. Which of those things seem most necessary to your life right now? Why?

Christmas to Calvary — December 20


Jesus’ Authority Challenged

And it happened that on one of the days while he was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes approached together with the elders and said, saying to him, “Tell us, by what authority you are doing these things, or who is the one who gave you this authority? And he answered and said to them, “I also will ask you a question, and you tell me: The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?” And they discussed this with one another, saying, “If we say ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, because they are convinced that John was a prophet.” And they replied that they did not know where it was from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

The Parable of the Tenant Farmers in the Vineyard

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenant farmers, and went on a journey for a long time. And at the proper time he sent a slave to the tenant farmers, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenant farmers sent him away empty-handed after beating him. And he proceeded to send another slave, but they beat and dishonored that one also, and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send a third, but they wounded and threw out this one also. So the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What should I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenant farmers saw him, they began to reason with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him so that the inheritance will become ours!’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenant farmers and give the vineyard to others.” And when they heard this, they said, “May this never happen!” But he looked intently at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

‘The stone which the builders rejected,
this has become the cornerstone.’

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls—it will crush him!” And the scribes and the chief priests sought to lay their hands on him at that same hour, and they were afraid of the people, for they knew that he had told this parable with reference to them.

Paying Taxes to Caesar

And they watched him closely and sent spies who pretended they were upright, in order that they could catch him in a statement, so that they could hand him over to the authority and the jurisdiction of the governor. And they asked him, saying, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and do not show partiality, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it permitted for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But seeing through their craftiness, he said to them, “Show me a denarius! Whose image and inscription does it have?” And they answered and said, “Caesar’s.” So he said to them, “Well then, give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God!” And they were not able to catch him in a statement in the sight of the people, and astonished at his answer, they became silent.

A Question About Marriage and the Resurrection

Now some of the Sadducees—who deny that there is a resurrection—came up and asked him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us if someone’s brother dies having a wife, and this man is childless, that his brother should take the wife and father descendants for his brother. Now there were seven brothers, and the first took a wife and died childless, and the second, and the third took her, and likewise also the seven did not leave children and died. Finally the woman also died. Therefore in the resurrection, the woman—whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.” And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they are not even able to die any longer, because they are like the angels and are sons of God, because they are sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses revealed in the passage about the bush, when he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him!” And some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him anything.

David’s Son and Lord

But he said to them, “In what sense do they say that the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’

David therefore calls him ‘Lord,’ and how is he his son?”

Warning to Beware of the Scribes

And while all the people were listening, he said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like walking around in long robes and who love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets, who devour the houses of widows and pray lengthy prayers for the sake of appearance. These will receive more severe condemnation!”

Questions for Reflection:

  • Authority seems wired into creation. Why do you think that is? What do you think it tells us about God’s purposes for creation and for authority?

  • Is the authority of human rulers the same as God’s authority? Why or why not?

  • How does Jesus teach us to relate to human governments and their authority in this passage? Are we to relate to them in this way only when they are good or effective? Why or why not?

  • When you approach the Bible, would you say you approach it with a deep sense of its authority in your life? Why or why not? What are the consequences for rejecting its authority?

Christmas to Calvary — December 19


Jesus and Zacchaeus

And he entered and traveled through Jericho. And there was a man named Zacchaeus, and he was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he was seeking to see Jesus—who he was—and he was not able to as a result of the crowd, because he was short in stature. And he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree so that he could see him, because he was going to go through that way. And when he came to the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because it is necessary for me to stay at your house today!” And he came down quickly and welcomed him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all began to complain, saying, “He has gone in to find lodging with a man who is a sinner!” And Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I am giving to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I am paying it back four times as much!” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save those who are lost.”

The Parable of the Ten Minas

Now while they were listening to these things, he went on and told a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. Therefore he said, “A certain nobleman traveled to a distant country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. And summoning ten of his own slaves, he gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business until I come back.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to be king over us!’ And it happened that when he returned after receiving the kingdom, he ordered these slaves to whom he had given the money to be summoned to him, so that he could know what they had gained by trading. So the first arrived, saying, ‘Sir, your mina has made ten minas more!’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small thing, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Sir, your mina has made five minas.’ So he said to this one also, ‘And you be over five cities.’ And another came, saying, ‘Sir, behold your mina, which I had put away for safekeeping in a piece of cloth. For I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man—you withdraw what you did not deposit, and you reap what you did not sow!’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, wicked slave! You knew that I am a severe man, withdrawing what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. And why did you not give my money to the bank, and I, when I returned, would have collected it with interest?’ And to the bystanders he said, ‘Take away from him the mina and give it to the one who has the ten minas!’ And they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten minas.’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. But these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence!’”

The Triumphal Entry

And after he had said these things, he traveled on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. And it happened that when he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, to the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, in which as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no person has ever sat, and untie it and bring it. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ So they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’ And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they put Jesus on it. And as he was going along, they were spreading out their cloaks on the road. Now as he was drawing near by this time to the descent from the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began rejoicing to praise God with a loud voice for all the miracles that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king,
the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest!”

And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” And he answered and said, “I tell you that if these keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

And when he approached and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you had known on this day—even you—the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you and your enemies will put up an embankment against you, and will surround you and press you hard from all directions. And they will raze you to the ground, you and your children within you, and will not leave a stone upon a stone within you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

The Cleansing of the Temple

And he entered into the temple courts and began to drive out those who were selling, saying to them, “It is written, ‘And my house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a cave of robbers!”

And he was teaching every day in the temple courts, and the chief priests and the scribes and the most prominent men of the people were seeking to destroy him. And they did not find anything they could do, because all the people were paying close attention to what they were hearing from him.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How well positioned are you to see Jesus? Do you need to move in some way (physically, socially, spiritually) in order to get a clear sight of the Lord?

  • What evidence of repentance do we see in Zacchaeus? What evidence of repentance was evident at your conversion?

  • What do we learn about the sovereignty of Jesus and the certainty of His Kingdom from today’s chapter? Do these things give you hope?

  • Jesus promises that the world cannot take away the peace He gives (John 14:27, 16:33), but we see Christians who lack peace and face trouble. How do we reconcile those two things?

Live-the-Word Challenge

Jesus wept over Jerusalem; do you weep over your town? There are no doubt many who complain about your town, but there are few who will genuinely feel a need for helping the town – and fewer still who will do something about it. The most you can do for your town is pray. Rather than complaining to others, gossiping (in person or on social media), pray to God about your concerns for the community. Then, look to serve Him in your community.

Songs for Sunday, December 19, 2021


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

1 John 4:10

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

Paul Tripp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are our Scriptures & songs:

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

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

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

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

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

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

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


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