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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Good Books Read In 2012

For the readers in our church, here are some good books I read this past year, and recommend:

How to study the Bible, by MacArthur, (Logos library) (5/22/2012)

The Pilgrims's Progress, by Bunyan, (Logos library) (7/10/2012)

The Islamic Antichrist, by Joel Richardson (9/10/2012 - EXCELLENT

The Elements of Preaching, by Wiersbe and Wiersbe (Logos library) (7/10/2012 - EXCELLENT QUOTES)

A Holy Ambition: To Preach Where Christ Has Not Been Named (John Piper) (Logos library) (8/20/2012)

Revolutionary Parenting, by George Barnard (Kindle) (8/20/2012) Fair

Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Murray) (10/10/2012) EXCELLENT.

The Apostle: The Life of Paul, by John Pollock. (Kindle) (11/22/2012) Good. Some parts rely too heavily on just repeating what he has written in his letters, but the historical parts are good. I thought the best parts were his conversion, the shipwreck, and the details of his latter days which are not provided in Scripture.

The Soul-Winner, by Spurgeon (12/27/2012) EXCELLENT. Like Pilgrim’s Progress, this is one the deserves a periodic re-read.

I Will MAKE You

"And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."—Matthew 4:19

When Christ calls us by His grace, we ought not only to remember what we are, but we ought also to think of what He can make us. It is "Follow Me, and I will make you." We should repent of what we have been, but rejoice in what we may be. It is not, "Follow Me, because of what you are already." It is not, "Follow Me, because you may make something of yourselves;" but, "Follow Me, because of what I will make you." Verily, I might say of each one of us as soon as we are converted, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." It did not seem a likely thing that lowly fishermen would develop into apostles, that men so handy with the net would be quite as much at home in preaching sermons and in instructing converts. One would have said, "How can these things be? You cannot make founders of churches out of peasants of Galilee." That is exactly what Christ did; and when we are brought low in the sight of God by a sense of our own unworthiness, we may feel encouraged to follow Jesus because of what He can make us. What said the woman of a sorrowful spirit when she lifted up her song? "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes." We cannot tell what God may make of us in the new creation, since it would have been quite impossible to have foretold what He made of chaos in the old creation. Who could have imagined all the beautiful things that came forth from darkness and disorder by that one fiat, "Let there be light"? And who can tell what lovely displays of everything that is divinely fair may yet appear in a man's formerly dark life, when God's grace has said to him, "Let there be light"? O you who see in yourselves at present nothing that is desirable, come you and follow Christ for the sake of what He can make out of you! Do you not hear His sweet voice calling to you, and saying, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men"?

From "The Soul Winner" by Charles H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

'Twas The Day After Christmas...

... and all through the house, things were starting to get back to normal.

Just a quick reminder, as the Christmas festivities wind down, that we will NOT have prayer meeting either this evening or next Wednesday evening.

I encourage you to spend a few minutes in prayer this evening anyway, for we have many of our fellowship who are in need of prayer at this time. And, Phase 2 meetings with the architect continue this morning. So pray, pray, pray!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Advent - Three Christmas Presents

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.  (1 John 3:7–8)

Ponder this remarkable situation with me. If the Son of God came to help you stop sinning—to destroy the works of the devil—and if he also came to die so that, when you do sin, there is a propitiation, a removal of God’s wrath, then what does this imply for living your life?

Three things. And they are wonderful to have. I give them to you briefly as Christmas presents.

1. A Clear Purpose For Living

It implies that you have a clear purpose for living. Negatively, it is simply this: don’t sin. “I write these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1). “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

If you ask, “Can you give us that positively, instead of negatively?” the answer is: Yes, it’s all summed up in 1 John 3:23. It’s a great summary of what John’s whole letter requires. Notice the singular “commandment”—“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” These two things are so closely connected for John he calls them one commandment: believe Jesus and love others. That is your purpose. That is the sum of the Christian life. Trusting Jesus, loving people. Trust Jesus, love people. There’s the first gift: a purpose to live.

2. Hope That Our Failures Will Be Forgiven

Now consider the second implication of the twofold truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins. It’s this: We make progress in overcoming our sin when we have hope that our failures will be forgiven. If you don’t have hope that God will forgive your failures, when you start fighting sin, you give up.

Many of you are pondering some changes in the new year, because you have fallen into sinful patterns and want out. You want some new patterns of eating. New patterns for entertainment. New patterns of giving. New patterns of relating to your spouse. New patterns of family devotions. New patterns of sleep and exercise. New patterns of courage in witness. But you are struggling, wondering whether it’s any use. Well here’s your second Christmas present: Christ not only came to destroy the works of the devil—our sinning— he also came to be an advocate for us when we fail in our fight.

So I plead with you, let the freedom to fail give you the hope to fight. But beware! If you turn the grace of God into license, and say, “Well, if I can fail, and it doesn’t matter, then why bother fighting?”—if you say that, and mean it, and go on acting on it, you are probably not born again and should tremble.

But that is not where most of you are. Most of you want to fight sinful patterns in your life. And what God is saying to you is this: Let the freedom to fail give you hope to fight. I write this to you that you might not sin, but if you sin you have an advocate, Jesus Christ.

3. Christ Will Help Us

Finally, the third implication of the double truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins, is this: Christ will really help us in our fight. He really will help you. He is on your side. He didn’t come to destroy sin because sin is fun. He came to destroy sin because it is fatal. It is a deceptive work of the devil and will destroy us if we don’t fight it. He came to help us, not hurt us.

So here’s your third Christmas gift: Christ will help overcome sin in you. 1 John 4:4 says, “He who is in you is greater than he that is in the world.” Jesus is alive, Jesus is almighty, Jesus lives in us by faith. And Jesus is for us, not against us. He will help you. Trust him.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Monday, December 24, 2012

One Last Chance

The four Sundays of Advent are behind us.  

The Christmas cantata with all its attendant practice and preparation and prayer is over.  

The evening of sharing Christmas carols with our shutins is done for another year.  Only the Christmas Eve service remains of this year's celebration of the coming of Messiah.  

Join us this evening for a traditional service of carols, the Christmas story, and candlelight.  The service starts at 7:00 and will conclude by 8:00.  

Advent - The Son Of God Appeared

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of 
the devil.  (1 John 3:7–8)

When verse 8 says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil,” what are the “works of the devil” that he has in mind? The answer is clear from the context.

First, verse 5 is a clear parallel: “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins.” The phrase “he appeared to…” occurs in verse 5 and verse 8. So probably the “works of the devil” that Jesus came to destroy are sins. The first part of verse 8 makes this virtually certain: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”

The issue in this context is sinning, not sickness or broken cars or messed up schedules. Jesus came into the world to help us stop sinning.

Let me put it alongside the truth of 1 John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” In other words, I am promoting the purpose of Christmas (3:8), the purpose of the incarnation. Then he adds (2:2), “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

But now look what this means: It means that Jesus appeared in the world for two reasons. He came that we might not go on sinning; and he came to die so that there would be a propitiation—a substitutionary sacrifice that takes away the wrath of God—for our sins, if we do sin.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent - God's Indescribable Gift

If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10–11)

How do we practically receive reconciliation and exult in God?  One answer is: do it through Jesus Christ. Which means, at least in part, make the portrait of Jesus in the Bible—the work and the words of Jesus portrayed in the New Testament—the essential content of your exultation over God. Exultation without the content of Christ does not honor Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, Paul describes conversion two ways. In verse 4, he says it is seeing “the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And in verse 6, he says it is seeing “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In either case you see the point. We have Christ, the image of God, and we have God in the face of Christ.

Practically, to exult in God, you exult in what you see and know of God in the portrait of Jesus Christ. And this comes to its fullest experience when the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as Romans 5:5 says.

So here’s the Christmas point. Not only did God purchase our reconciliation through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 10), and not only did God enable us to receive that reconciliation through the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 11), but even now, verse 11 says, we exult in God himself through our Lord
Jesus Christ.

Jesus purchased our reconciliation. Jesus enabled us to receive the reconciliation and open the gift. And Jesus himself shines forth from the wrapping—the indescribable gift—as God in the flesh, and stirs up all our exultation in God.

Look to Jesus this Christmas. Receive the reconciliation that he bought. Don’t put it on the shelf unopened. And don’t open it and then make it a means to all your other pleasures.

Open it and enjoy the gift. Exult in him. Make him your pleasure. Make him your treasure.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent - That You May Believe

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:30–31)

I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep and who yawn through the Apostles Creed—that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.

You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and so spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.

How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to his glory and his story! How often have I had to repent and say, “God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.”

The space thrillers of our day, like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, can do this great good for us: they can humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic Christ and a real living contact between them and us in Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus said, “For this I have come into the world,” he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read (John 18:37).

O, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you. I pray for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God.

One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds one like a son of man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And we will see him clearly. And whether from terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder how, how we ever lived so long with such a domesticated, harmless Christ.

These things are written that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world. Really believe.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent - The Birth of the Ancient of Days

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”  (John 18:37)

This is a great Christmas text even though it comes from the end of Jesus’s life on earth, not the beginning.

The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger. The personhood, the character, the personality of Jesus of Nazareth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born.

The theological word to describe this mystery is not creation, but incarnation. The person—not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus—existed before he was born as man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person.

Micah 5:2 puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 

The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater one—namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed “from of old, from ancient days.”

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent - Christmas Solidarity

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  (1 John 3:8)

The assembly line of Satan turns out millions of sins every day. He packs them into huge cargo planes and flies them to heaven and spreads them out before God and laughs and laughs and laughs.

Some people work full-time on the assembly line. Others have quit their jobs there and only now and then return.

Every minute of work on the assembly line makes God the laughing stock of Satan. Sin is Satan’s business because he hates the light and beauty and purity and glory of God. Nothing pleases him more than when creatures distrust and disobey their Maker.

Therefore, Christmas is good news for man and good news for God.

“The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). That’s good news for us.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). That’s good news for God.

Christmas is good news for God because Jesus has come to lead a strike at Satan’s assembly plant. He has walked right into the plant, called for the Solidarity of the faithful, and begun a massive walk-out.

Christmas is a call to go on strike at the assembly plant of sin. No negotiations with the management. No bargaining. Just single-minded, unswerving opposition to the product.

Christmas Solidarity aims to ground the cargo planes. It will not use force or violence, but with relentless devotion to Truth it will expose the life-destroying conditions of the devil’s industry.

Christmas Solidarity will not give up until a complete shutdown has been achieved.

When sin has been destroyed, God’s name will be wholly exonerated. No one will be laughing at him anymore.

If you want to give a gift to God this Christmas, walk off the assembly line and never go back. Take up your place in the picket line of love. Join Christmas Solidarity until the majestic name of God is cleared and he stands glorious amid the accolades of the righteous.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What Just Happened

Our prayers are with the heartbroken families that have been so wounded by the act of despicable and vomitous evil that occurred a few days ago, when a young man entered an elementary school a few weeks before Christmas, and murdered young children and adults. It was a terrible and tragic day.

The follow up was completely predictable. First, as is common in these events, he killed himself. Second, as is also common in these events, the public handwringing began in earnest... the heartfelt “whys” shot heavenward... and pundits of every ilk and with every conceivable agenda began spewing their opinions and proposed solutions.

Of course, some blame the gun. If guns like that were illegal, this would not have happened. Of course, he broke any number of laws in this act, but if we had just one more, it would have stopped it. Some are blaming it on mental illness, and / or the drugs prescribed to treat it. And this morning, I received an article in my inbox that blamed it on the breakdown of the family on America. I'm certain there are a plethora of other reasons that you've seen.

But may I humbly suggest that every one of these proposed reasons are incorrect. They are all, at best, symptoms. But none are the root cause of what happened in Sandy Hook this past week.

The Bible says: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1Peter 5:8)

In Ephesians 2:2, our enemy, the Devil, is called the ”prince and power of the air”.

What we saw in Sandy Hook was evil... demonstrative and illustrative of what our enemy, the Devil, desires for this world every day and in every way. Jesus said he is a liar and a murderer:

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44-45)

And were he given free reign, he would murder everyone and everywhere he could.

“So, Pastor, are you saying that the root cause of last week’s horror is Satan?”

No, I am not. Because just as the Bible tells us of the devils’s intent, so too it tells us that God restrains him. Satan could not touch Job without God’s allowance. (Cf. Job 1:10-12, 2:6) And neither can he touch you, or me, or our children, unless God removes His restraints. (Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:7)

And that is the root cause, I believe. God’s hand of protection has been, or is being, lifted from America.

God’s patience is almost limitless. But it does have a limit. We see that truth demonstrated in the account of the flood. (Cf. Genesis 6:3)

We see it when He describes His patience toward the Amorites, and His warning that there is coming a day when that patience will be exhausted and their judgment will be assured. (the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Genesis 15:16)

We see it in the Psalms, as He explained His giving up on Israel: But my people would not hearken to my voice; And Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: And they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, And Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, And turned my hand against their adversaries. (Psalm 81:11-14)

And we see it plainly taught in Romans 1. Read it and notice the prevalence of the phrase, “God gave them up.”

Oh, our God is a merciful God... He is loving... He is long suffering and patient. But His Word is clear that His patience has limits, and that those who presume upon it too long find that He gives up on them.

Our country, and our people, have by and large rejected their God. Its interesting to me that this event took place during the Christmas season, the time of year when our country’s rejection of the Savior is more pronounced than any other time of the year. Has He given up on America? Has He lifted the restraining hand that holds back the fury of the enemy? Has He said, in effect, “You say you want Me out of the picture? Fine. You are on your own?”

Only God knows. But our response as Christians is clear. We need to pray for and work for revival in this land. We need to proclaim the Christ of Christmas as never before! Because it is either too late... or soon to be too late!

America does not need more laws to be ignored by people so intent on evil that they are willing to die committing it. America does not need more mental health discussions, or more antidepressant drugs. America needs one thing above all others - America needs to turn its collective hearts back to God and the Savior. America needs the Lord!

Brothers and Sisters. We who know the answer must proclaim it. Before God’s hand lifts completely from this land we all love and call home.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. (Hosea 4:6)

Advent - Christmas Is For Freedom

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15)

Jesus became man because what was needed was the death of a man who was more than man. The incarnation was God’s locking himself into death row.

Christ did not risk death. He embraced it. That is precisely why he came: not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

No wonder Satan tried to turn Jesus from the cross! The cross was Satan’s destruction. How did Jesus destroy him?

The “power of death” is the ability to make death fearful. The “power of death” is the power that holds men in bondage through fear of death. It is the power to keep men in sin, so that death comes as a horrid thing.

But Jesus stripped Satan of this power. He disarmed him. He molded a breastplate of righteousness for us that makes us immune to the devil’s condemnation.

By his death, Jesus wiped away all our sins. And a person without sin puts Satan out of business. His treason is aborted. His cosmic treachery is foiled. “His rage we can endure, for, lo, his doom is sure.” The cross has run him through. And he will gasp his last before long.

Christmas is for freedom. Freedom from the fear of death.

Jesus took our nature in Bethlehem, to die our death in Jerusalem, that we might be fearless in our city. Yes, fearless. Because if the biggest threat to my joy is gone, then why should I fret over the little ones? How can you say, “Well, I’m not afraid to die but I’m afraid to lose my job”? No. No. Think!

If death (I said, death—no pulse, cold, gone!)—if death is no longer a fear, we’re free, really free. Free to take any risk under the sun for Christ and for love. No more bondage to anxiety.

If the Son has set you free, you shall be free, indeed!

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Mayan Problem

Amazing that the end of the Mayan calendar... a product of a basically extinct people that seemingly killed themselves off... is receiving so much attention. Meanwhile, the promise of Jesus that He would come again, is ignored, discounted, and completely dismissed.

The Bible does make mention of that fact a few times, doesn't it?

This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:3)

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:18)

One problem with things like the Mayan calendar story, is that it causes those already questioning the Biblical accounts to question them further. No surprise there, as the Bible makes clear such would be the case.

Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:11 NKJV)

knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-5 NKJV)

Those who choose to reject the truth will latch onto anything that bolsters their rejection.

Perhaps a greater problem, though, is when a similar response occurs amongst Christians. Although few would admit to things like this dulling their anticipation for Christ’s coming, the evidence seems to be that far too few Christians really live in anticipation of His return. And the Bible says that as the years stretch out, and evil continues its seemingly endless string of victories, Christians will falter... They will doubt... And they will fall away.

because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Matthew 24:12)

Jesus warned us about this in His parable of the 10 virgins, which depicted even those who were prepared as falling prey to slumber:

But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. (Matthew 25:5)

May it not be so with you, my brothers and sisters. Keep looking up. The devil’s counterfeits and his incessant attempts to use them to discount the truth, are soon to be destroyed. Forever. And ever. And ever.

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

Will that end be this Friday? Oh how I hope it is! I hope it is before then! For, regardless what an extinct and failed civilization had to say, the Son of God says it could be at ANY TIME.

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. (Matthew 25:13)

And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch! (Mark 13:37)

Don't worry about pagan prophecies. Look anew at the true prophecy in the Word of God. And then... Look up!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

Advent - The Christmas Model For Missions

“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”  (John 17:18)

Christmas is a model for missions. Missions is a mirror of Christmas. As I, so you.

For example, danger. Christ came to his own and his own received him not. So you. They plotted against him. So you. He had no permanent home. So you. They trumped up false charges against him. So you. They whipped and mocked him. So you. He died after three years of ministry. So you.

But there is a worse danger than any of these which Jesus escaped. So you!

In the mid-16th century Francis Xavier (1506–1552), a Catholic missionary, wrote to Father Perez of Malacca (today part of Indonesia) about the perils of his mission to China. He said,

The danger of all dangers would be to lose trust and confidence in the mercy of God… To distrust him would be a far more terrible thing than any physical evil which all the enemies of God put together could inflict on us, for without God’s permission neither the devils nor their human ministers could hinder us in the slightest degree.

The greatest danger a missionary faces is to distrust the mercy of God. If that danger is avoided, then all other dangers lose their sting.

God makes every dagger a scepter in our hand. As J.W. Alexander says, “Each instant of present labor is to be graciously repaid with a million ages of glory.”

Christ escaped the danger of distrust. Therefore God has highly exalted him!

Remember this Advent that Christmas is a model for missions. As I, so you. And that mission means danger. And that the greatest danger is distrusting God’s mercy. Succumb to this, and all is lost. Conquer here, and nothing can harm you for a million ages.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent - The Greatest Salvation Imaginable

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…”  (Jeremiah 31:31)

God is just and holy and separated from sinners like us. This is our main problem at Christmas and every other season. How shall we get right with a just and holy God?

Nevertheless, God is merciful and has promised in Jeremiah 31 (five hundred years before Christ) that someday he would do something new. He would replace shadows with the Reality of the Messiah. And he would powerfully move into our lives and write his will on our hearts so that we are not constrained from outside but are willing from inside to love him and trust him and follow him.

That would be the greatest salvation imaginable—if God should offer us the greatest Reality in the universe to enjoy and then move in us to see to it that we could enjoy it with the greatest freedom and joy possible. That would be a Christmas gift worth singing about.

That is, in fact, what he promised. But there was a huge obstacle. Our sin. Our separation from God because of our unrighteousness.

How shall a holy and just God treat us sinners with so much kindness as to give us the greatest Reality in the universe (his Son) to enjoy with the greatest joy possible?

The answer is that God put our sins on his Son, and judged them there, so that he could put them out of his mind, and deal with us mercifully and remain just and holy at the same time. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.”

Christ bore our sins in his own body when he died. He took our judgment. He canceled our guilt. And that means the sins are gone. They do not remain in God’s mind as a basis for condemnation. In that sense, he “forgets” them. They are consumed in the death of Christ.

Which means that God is now free, in his justice, to lavish us with the new covenant. He gives us Christ, the greatest Reality in the universe, for our enjoyment. And he writes his own will—his own heart—on our hearts so that we can love Christ and trust Christ and follow Christ from the inside out,
with freedom and joy.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent - Life and Death at Christmas

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

As I was about to begin this devotional, I received word that  Marion Newstrum had just died. She and her husband Elmer  have been part of Bethlehem longer than most of our members have been alive. Marion was 87. They had been married 64 years.

When I spoke to Elmer and told him I wanted him to be  strong in the Lord and not give up on life, he said, “He has been a true friend.” I pray that all Christians will be able to say at the end of life, “Christ has been a true friend.”

Each Advent I mark the anniversary of my mother’s death. She was cut off in her 56th year in a bus accident in Israel. It was December 16, 1974. Those events are incredibly real to me even today. If I allow myself, I can easily come to tears—for example, thinking that my sons never knew her. We buried her the day after Christmas. What a precious Christmas it was!

Many of you will feel your loss this Christmas more pointedly than before. Don’t block it out. Let it come. Feel it. What is love for, if not to intensify our affections—both in life and death? But, O, do not be bitter. It is tragically self-destructive to be bitter.

Jesus came at Christmas that we might have eternal life. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Elmer and Marion had discussed where they would spend their final years. Elmer said, “Marion and I agreed that our final home would be with the Lord.”

Do you feel restless for home? I have family coming home for the holidays. It feels good. I think the bottom line reason for why it feels good is that they and I are destined in the depths of our being for an ultimate Homecoming. All other homecomings are foretastes. And foretastes are good.

Unless they become substitutes. O, don’t let all the sweet things of this season become substitutes of the final great, all satisfying Sweetness. Let every loss and every delight send your hearts a-homing after heaven.

Christmas. What is it but this: I came that they might have life. Marion Newstrum, Ruth Piper, and you and I—that we might have Life, now and forever.

Make your Now the richer and deeper this Christmas by drinking at the fountain of Forever. It is so near.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent - Making It Real For His People

Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more  excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better,  since it is enacted on better promises.  (Hebrews 8:6)

Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant, according to Hebrews 8:6. What does that mean? It means that his blood—the blood of the covenant (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 13:20)—purchased the fulfillment of God’s promises for us.

It means that God brings about our inner transformation by the Spirit of Christ.

And it means that God works all his transformation in us through faith in all that God is for us in Christ.

The new covenant is purchased by the blood of Christ, effected by the Spirit of Christ, and appropriated by faith in Christ.

The best place to see Christ working as the Mediator of the new covenant is in Hebrews 13:20–21:

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant [this is the purchase of the new covenant], even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The words “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” describe what happens when God writes the law on our hearts in the new covenant. And the words “through Jesus Christ” describe Jesus as the Mediator of this glorious work of sovereign grace.

So the meaning of Christmas is not only that God replaces shadows with Reality, but also that he takes the reality and makes it real to his people. He writes it on our hearts. He does not lay his Christmas gift of salvation and transformation down for you to pick up in your own strength. He picks it up and puts in your heart and in your mind, and seals to you that you are a child of God.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent - The Final Reality Is Here

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.  (Hebrews 8:1–2)

Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing.

Hebrews 8:1–2 is a kind of summary statement. The point is that the one priest who goes between us and God, and makes us right with God, and prays for us to God, is not an ordinary, weak, sinful, dying, priest like in the Old Testament days. He is the Son of God—strong, sinless, with an indestructible life.

Not only that, he is not ministering in an earthly tabernacle with all its limitations of place and size and wearing out and being moth-eaten and being soaked and burned and torn and stolen. No, verse 2 says that Christ is ministering for us in a “true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” This is the real thing in heaven. This is what cast on Mount Sinai a shadow that Moses copied.

According to verse 1, another great thing about the reality which is greater than the shadow is that our High Priest is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. No Old Testament priest could ever say that.

Jesus deals directly with God the Father. He has a place of honor beside God. He is loved and respected infinitely by God. He is constantly with God. This is not shadow reality like curtains and bowls and tables and candles and robes and tassels and sheep and goats and pigeons. This is final, ultimate reality: God and his Son interacting in love and holiness for our eternal salvation.

Ultimate reality is the persons of the Godhead in relationship, dealing with each other concerning how their majesty and holiness and love and justice and goodness and truth shall be manifest in a redeemed people.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent - Replacing the Shadows

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.  (Hebrews 8:1–2)

The point of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has not just come to fit into the earthly system of priestly ministry as the best and final human priest, but he has come to fulfill and put an end to that system and to orient all our attention on himself ministering for us in heaven.

The Old Testament tabernacle and priests and sacrifices were shadows. Now the reality has come, and the shadows pass away.

Here’s an Advent illustration for kids (and for those of us who used to be kids and remember what it was like). Suppose you and your mom get separated in the grocery store, and you start to get scared and panic and don’t know which way to go, and you run to the end of an aisle, and just before you start to cry, you see a shadow on the floor at the end of the aisle that looks just like your mom. It makes you really happy and you feel hope. But which is better? The happiness of seeing the shadow, or having your mom step around the corner and seeing that it’s really her?

That’s the way it is when Jesus comes to be our High Priest.  That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent - Why Jesus Came

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.  (Hebrews 2:14–15)

Hebrews 2:14–15 is worth more than two minutes in an Advent devotional. These verses connect the beginning and the end of Jesus’s earthly life. They make clear why he came. They would be great to use with an unbelieving friend or family member to take them step by step through your Christian view of Christmas. It might go something like this…

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood…” 

The term “children” is taken from the previous verse and refers to the spiritual offspring of Christ, the Messiah (see Isaiah 8:18; 53:10). These are also the “children of God.” In other words, in sending Christ, God has the salvation of his “children” specially in view. It is true that “God so loved the world, that he sent [Jesus] (John 3:16).” But it is also true that God was especially “gathering the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:52). God’s design was to offer Christ to the world, and to effect the salvation of his “children” (see 1 Timothy 4:10).  You may experience adoption by receiving Christ (John 1:12).

“…he himself likewise partook of the same things [flesh and blood]…”

Christ existed before the incarnation. He was spirit. He  was the eternal Word. He was with God and was God (John 1:1; Colossians 2:9). But he took on flesh and blood and clothed his deity with humanity. He became fully man and remained fully God. It is a great mystery in many ways. But it is at the heart of our faith and is what the Bible teaches.

“…that through death…”

The reason Jesus became man was to die. As God, he could  not die for sinners. But as man he could. His aim was to die.  Therefore he had to be born human. He was born to die. Good Friday is the reason for Christmas. This is what needs to be said today about the meaning of Christmas.

“…he might destroy the one who has the power of death, 
that is, the devil…”

In dying, Christ de-fanged the devil. How? By covering all our sin. This means that Satan has no legitimate grounds to accuse us before God. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33). On what grounds does he justify? Through the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9).

Satan’s ultimate weapon against us is our own sin. If the death of Jesus takes it away, the chief weapon of the devil is taken out of his hand. He cannot make a case for our death penalty, because the Judge has acquitted us by the death of his Son!

“…and deliver all those who through fear of death were 
subject to lifelong slavery.”

So we are free from the fear of death. God has justified us. Satan cannot overturn that decree. And God means for our ultimate safety to have an immediate effect on our lives. He means for the happy ending to take away the slavery and fear of the now.

If we do not need to fear our last and greatest enemy, death, then we do not need to fear anything. We can be free: free for joy, free for others.

What a great Christmas present from God to us! And from us to the world!

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Looking for a means of sharing Christ this CHRISTmas?

Join your brothers and sisters of FBC in Fellowship Hall this Saturday (12/15) starting at noon to help with the packing and distribution of Christmas care baskets.  

Refreshments will be provided for all who help... we will have pizza and pop.

Help is needed for both the packaging of the care baskets, and with delivery (trucks/vans wanted!)

This is a great Christmas activity that the family can get involved with.  Teens, kids, parents - anybody can help!

See you this Saturday?

Advent - Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10–11)

God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). The gifts of the magi are not given by way of assistance or need-meeting. It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages.

Nor are these gifts meant to be bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17 says that God takes no bribe. Well, what then do they mean? How are they worship?

The gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself in much the same way that fasting is. When you give a gift to Christ like this, it’s a way of saying, “The joy that I pursue (verse 10) is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. I have not come to you for your things, but for yourself. And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things, in the hope of enjoying you more, not things. By giving to you what you do not need, and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly  and more authentically, ‘You are my treasure, not these things.’”

I think that’s what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

May God take the truth of this text and waken in us a desire for Christ himself. May we say from the heart, “Lord Jesus, you are the Messiah, the King of Israel. All nations will come and bow down before you. God wields the world to see that you are worshiped. Therefore, whatever opposition I may find, I joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to you, and bring my gifts to say that you alone can satisfy my heart, not these.”

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent - Two Kinds Of Opposition To Jesus

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all  Jerusalem with him.  (Matthew 2:3)

Jesus is troubling to people who do not want to worship him,  and he brings out opposition for those who do. This is probably  not a main point in the mind of Matthew, but it is inescapable  as the story goes on.

In this story, there are two kinds of people who do not want  to worship Jesus, the Messiah.

The first kind is the people who simply do nothing about  Jesus. He is a nonentity in their lives. This group is represented  by the chief priests and scribes. Verse 4: “Gathering together  all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired  of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Well, they told  him, and that was that: back to business as usual. The sheer silence and inactivity of the leaders is overwhelming in view of  the magnitude of what was happening.

And notice, verse 3 says, “When Herod the king heard this,  he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” In other words, the rumor was going around that someone thought the Messiah was born. The inactivity on the part of chief priests is staggering—why not go with the magi? They are not interested. They do not want to worship the true God.

The second kind of people who do not want to worship Jesus  is the kind who is deeply threatened by him. That is Herod in this story. He is really afraid. So much so that he schemes and lies and then commits mass murder just to get rid of Jesus.

So today these two kinds of opposition will come against Christ and his worshipers: indifference and hostility. Are you in one of those groups?

Let this Christmas be the time when you reconsider the Messiah and ponder what it is to worship him.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent - Bethlehem's Supernatural Star

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we  saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2)

Over and over the Bible baffles our curiosity about just how certain things happened. How did this “star” get the magi from  the east to Jerusalem?

It does not say that it led them or went before them. It only  says they saw a star in the east (verse 2), and came to Jerusalem.  And how did that star go before them in the little five-mile  walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem as verse 9 says it did? And  how did a star stand “over the place where the Child was”?

The answer is: We do not know. There are numerous efforts  to explain it in terms of conjunctions of planets or comets or  supernovas or miraculous lights. We just don’t know. And I  want to exhort you not to become preoccupied with developing theories that are only tentative in the end and have very  little spiritual significance.

I risk a generalization to warn you: People who are exercised  and preoccupied with such things as how the star worked and  how the Red Sea split and how the manna fell and how Jonah  survived the fish and how the moon turns to blood are generally people who have what I call a mentality for the marginal. You  do not see in them a deep cherishing of the great central things  of the gospel—the holiness of God, the ugliness of sin, the helplessness of man, the death of Christ, justification by faith  alone, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the glory of Christ’s  return and the final judgment. They always seem to be taking  you down a sidetrack with a new article or book. There is little  centered rejoicing.

But what is plain concerning this matter of the star is that  it is doing something that it cannot do on its own: it is guiding  magi to the Son of God to worship him.

There is only one Person in biblical thinking that can be  behind that intentionality in the stars—God himself.

So the lesson is plain: God is guiding foreigners to Christ to  worship him. And he is doing it by exerting global—probably  even universal—influence and power to get it done.

Luke shows God influencing the entire Roman Empire so  that the census comes at the exact time to get a virgin to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy with her delivery. Matthew shows God influencing the stars in the sky to get foreign magi to Bethlehem so that they can worship him.

This is God’s design. He did it then. He is still doing it now.  His aim is that the nations—all the nations (Matthew 24:14)— worship his Son.

This is God’s will for everybody in your office at work, and  in your neighborhood and in your home. As John 4:23 says, “Such the Father seeks to worship him.”

At the beginning of Matthew we still have a “come-see” pattern. But at the end the pattern is “go-tell.” The magi came and saw. We are to go and tell.

What is not different is that the purpose of God is the  ingathering of the nations to worship his Son. The magnifying  of Christ in the white-hot worship of all nations is the reason the world exists.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Five Names

"One is the loneliest number that you will ever know" ....was a throaty song from the late 1960's.  It was performed by a group called Three Dog Night. It was their first gold record. Do you remember this hit...or are you afraid to confess that you listened to them too?

This is the Beth Johnson take on the lyrics to this song...  A guy was in a relationship with a girl. It wasn't the best relationship because he was lonely even though they were still together. Then she decided to break up and now he is really lonely about being alone...only now he really IS alone. He also says that he sat around making up rhymes (songs) about his loneliness when she was still with him. That pretty much sums it up.  Why did we go around singing the words to this was pure torture!
This song was actually inspired by songwriter Harry Nilsson after he sat and listened to a busy signal on his telephone. I guess knowing that the person he was trying to reach was talking to someone else...not him...caused great loneliness. Three Dog Night historically performed music that was not composed by the group. Most of their big hits were composed by unknowns at the time. Some members of this group battled with drugs and most likely performed under the influence of drugs. Their "extraordinary harmonies" were not altered during performing and were considered remarkable. They had 13 Gold Albums and hit the Billboard Top 40 Chart for many weeks. There were 3 band members that all claimed to be lead singer. Many of the group's songs were sung by a variation of these lead singers. When I decided to take a trip down memory lane to read up on this group, it was actually interesting. Very sad, but interesting.  Did anyone ever wonder how they got that crazy name? Who names their group Three Dog Night ? Here is the official answer:  "One of the band member's girlfriends suggested this name after reading a magazine article about indigenous Australians, in which it was explained that on cold nights they (the Australians) would customarily sleep in a hole in the ground while embracing a dingo, a native species of wild dog. On colder nights they would sleep with two dogs and if the night was freezing, it was a "three dog night."  I am pretty sure someone was under the influence to be willing to go along with that suggestion! The name stuck, they sang their songs, cut their LP records, made their millions, and have made a recent comeback. 

As I was thinking about how they named their group and one of their more famous songs"ONE" ...something didn't jive for me.  The group's name is all about companionship and keeping warm and safe.  The song "ONE" is about being lonely.  It is about being all by yourself and being sad.  Somehow the connection is off for me. 

I was never allowed to buy this type of music when I was a kid. My parents were very strict about rock and roll during my youth.  All my friends at school had "45s",  7-inch fine-grooved vinyl records,  that we played at slumber parties. We would all chime in and sing these melodies over and over. My older sister, the family beauty, brought home a friend named Ed. Ed was our gateway to rock and roll. He had all the music.  He looked like one of the Three Dog Night singers.  He introduced this music group and his 1969 yellow MACH 1 Mustang to my brother and I. The MACH 1 Mustang was bright yellow with black stripes. Ed was trying to score points with my sister by taking my brother and I for rides. I was around 10 or 11 and madly in love with Ed.  My brother was madly in love with Ed's car. My brother recently told me his lifelong love for muscle cars was born while riding in that MACH 1 Mustang.  We would ride in that car and Ed would play Three Dog Night on the radio.  We felt as cool as any kid could ever imagine...
With the Thanksgiving weekend ushering in the big Christmas also ushers in the loneliest season.  The festivity of all the celebrating causes those that are alone to suffer more than anyone can imagine. It is not a happy time and many cannot embrace this time of year with much joy. Even Christians are not immune to this. The wonderful day of Jesus' birth nears and, instead of feeling happy, we are consumed by depression and feelings of sadness. What to do? Here are some suggestions that I used over the years if I felt down around Christmas.

Keep busy – try to stop Christmas from taking over your life and make time for enjoyable activities, such as reading and walking. Find activities in your local church. Join in. Don't be shy.

Be a volunteer – many charities and organizations need help at Christmas and you could spend a few hours working as a volunteer. You could go visit some other people from our church that are alone too. There are many in the church that need help around their homes.

Take some physical exercise – this reduces stress and enhances mood. Just getting off the sofa and getting outside should improve your mood.

Eat and drink healthy – traditional Christmas foods and desserts can be excessive and lead to lethargy. Healthy eating with plenty of fruit and vegetables can lift your mood significantly.  You can donate all your "goodies" to the Haven of Rest or the Womens' Harvest Home....they will enjoy them.

Find a listening ear – people who are lonely can find it helpful to speak to someone removed from their situation.  Pray, Pray, Pray...the Lord Jesus knows how you feel. He knows exactly how you feel right now.

With love,


P.S. For the record, I do not endorse Three Dog Night...or any rock and roll.  But...the yellow 1969 MACH 1 Mustang with black stripes is hard to resist! 

Advent - Messiah for the Magi

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the  days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in  Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King  of the Jews?”  (Matthew 2:1–2)

Unlike Luke, Matthew does not tell us about the shepherds  coming to visit Jesus in the stable. His focus is immediately on  foreigners coming from the east to worship Jesus.

So Matthew portrays Jesus at the beginning and ending of his  Gospel as a universal Messiah for the nations, not just for Jews.

Here the first worshipers are court magicians or astrologers  or wise men not from Israel but from the East—perhaps from  Babylon. They were Gentiles. Unclean.

And at the end of Matthew, the last words of Jesus are, “All  authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go  therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”

This not only opened the door for the Gentiles to rejoice in  the Messiah, it added proof that he was the Messiah. Because one of the repeated prophecies was that the nations and kings would,  in fact, come to him as the ruler of the world.

For example, Isaiah 60:3, “Nations will come to your light,  and kings to the brightness of your rising.” So Matthew adds  proof to the messiahship of Jesus and shows that he is Messiah— a King, and Promise-Fulfiller—for all the nations, not just Israel.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent - Peace to Those With Whom He's Pleased

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby  wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And  suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the  heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in  the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom 
he is pleased!”  (Luke 2:12–14)

Peace for whom? There is a somber note sounded in the angels’  praise. Peace among men on whom his favor rests. Peace among  men with whom he is pleased. Without faith it is impossible to  please God. So Christmas does not bring peace to all.

“This is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that the light has come  into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light  because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19). Or as the aged Simeon  said when he saw the child Jesus, “Behold this child is set for  the fall and rising of many in Israel and for a sign that is spoken against… that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34–35). O, how many there are who look out on a bleak  and chilly Christmas day and see no more than that.

“He came to his own and his own received him not, but to  as many as received him to them gave he power to become the  sons of God, to as many as believed on his name.” It was only to  his disciples that Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I  give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your  heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The people who enjoy the peace of God that surpasses all  understanding are those who in everything by prayer and supplication let their requests be made known to God.

The key that unlocks the treasure chest of God’s peace is  faith in the promises of God. So Paul prays, “May the God of  hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13).  And when we do trust the promises of God and have joy and peace and love, then God is glorified.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men with whom he is pleased—men who would believe.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Thursday, December 6, 2012


If you signed up for the Cookie Exchange tonight....DON"T FORGET!!!!
Bring 12 dozen of one kind of cookie.
Jessica will also be giving us some fun tips for the won't want to miss this.
The FUN starts at 6:30 pm 

Advent - No Detour From Calvary

And while they were there, the time came for her to  give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and  wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:6–7)

Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, he surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.

Yes, he could have. And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called 10,000 angels to his aid in Gethsemane. He could have come down from the cross and saved himself. The question is not what God could do, but what he willed to do.

God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor. The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were  for your sake. “For  your  sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

God rules all things—even motel capacities—for the sake of his children. The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.

And we must not forget that he said, “He who would come after me must deny himself and take up his cross” (Matthew 16:24).

We join him on the Calvary road and hear him say, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20).

To the one who calls out enthusiastically, “I will follow you wherever you go!” (Matthew 8:19). Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth. But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent - For God's Little People

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus  that all the world should be registered. This was the first  registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And  all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph  also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to  Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,  because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be  registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  (Luke 2:1–5)

Have you ever thought what an amazing thing it is that God  ordained beforehand that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem  (as the prophecy in Micah 5 shows); and that he so ordained  things that when the time came, the Messiah’s mother and  legal father were living in Nazareth; and that in order to fulfill  his word and bring two little people to Bethlehem that first  Christmas, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus that all  the Roman world should be enrolled each in his own town?

Have you ever felt, like me, little and insignificant in a  world of seven billion people, where all the news is of big political and economic and social movements and of outstanding  people with lots of power and prestige? 

If you have, don’t let that make you disheartened or unhappy. For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their  even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own  sake but for the sake of God’s little people—the little Mary and  the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to bless his children. 

Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the  hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our  holiness that he seeks with all his heart. And to that end, he  rules the whole world. As Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart  is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” 

He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to  rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents  and premiers and chancellors of the world follow the sovereign  decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be  conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent - The Long Awaited Visitation

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and  redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation  for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the  mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be  saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate  us…”   (Luke 1:68–71)

Notice two remarkable things from these words of Zechariah  in Luke 1.

First, nine months earlier, Zechariah could not believe his wife would have a child. Now, filled with the Holy Spirit, he is  so confident of God’s redeeming work in the coming Messiah  that he puts it in the past tense. For the mind of faith, a promised act of God is as good as done. Zechariah has learned to  take God at his word and so has a remarkable assurance: “God  has visited and redeemed!”

Second, the coming of Jesus the Messiah is a visitation of  God to our world: “The God of Israel has visited and redeemed.”  For centuries, the Jewish people had languished under the  conviction that God had withdrawn: the spirit of prophecy  had ceased, Israel had fallen into the hands of Rome. And all  the godly in Israel were awaiting the visitation of God. Luke  tells us in 2:25 that the devout Simeon was “looking for the  consolation of Israel.” And in Luke 2:38  the prayerful Anna  was “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

These were days of great expectation. Now the long-awaited  visitation of God was about to happen—indeed, he was about  to come in a way no one expected.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent - Mary’s Magnificent God

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever." (Luke 1:46–55)

Mary sees clearly a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history. The most important three decades in all of time are about to begin.

And where is God? Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women—one old and barren (Elizabeth), one young and virginal (Mary). And Mary is so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song — a song that has come to be known as “the Magnificat” (Luke 1:46–55).

Mary and Elizabeth are wonderful heroines in Luke’s account. He loves the faith of these women. The thing that impresses him most, it appears, and the thing he wants to impress on Theophilus, his noble reader, is the lowliness and cheerful humility of Elizabeth and Mary.

Elizabeth says,“Why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” (Luke 1:43). And Mary says, “He has looked on the humble estate of his servant” (Luke 1:48).

The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary—people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent - Prepare The Way

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:16–17)

What John the Baptist did for Israel, Advent can do for us. Don’t let Christmas find you unprepared. I mean spiritually unprepared. Its joy and impact will be so much greater if you are ready!

That you might be prepared...

First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior. Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior. Let these short Advent mediations help awaken in you a bitter-sweet sense of need for the Savior.

Second, engage in sober self-examination. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24) Let every heart prepare him room... by cleaning house.

Third, build God-centered anticipation and expectancy and excitement into your home - especially for the children. If you are excited about Christ, they will be too. If you can only make Christmas exciting with material things, how will the children get a thirst for God? Bend the efforts of your imagination to make the wonder of the King’s arrival visible for the children.

Fourth, be much in the Scriptures, and memorize the great passages! “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!” (Jeremiah 23:29) Gather ‘round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights.

(From "Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2012", by John Piper)


Advent for 2012 begins today and goes through Christmas Day. Advent is a time set aside for looking forwarding to the coming of Christ. Initially it is a reminder to us of His first coming and culminates therefore on Christmas Day. It is also a reminder to us that He's coming again and how we ought to be looking forward to that great event as well.

This year we're making available to you a resource from John Piper.

Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent is designed especially for Advent 2012. With readings beginning Sunday, December 2, and going through Christmas Day, this book of Advent devotionals aims to put Jesus at the center of your holiday season.

It's available in a variety of formats on the FBC website.