Saturday, December 31, 2011

Verse for Today - John 16:33 (click to read devotional)

John 16:33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Read all of John 16

What a remarkable verse to both end and begin the year with.  Jesus was the omniscient, eternal God and could speak from a moment in time words that would exceed all time.  He told us words that we would need to remember.  He gives us a peace that is greater than suffering, life and death.  With these words He turns our faith toward Him.  He is Lord and Master of all and is both able and willing of help us no matter what trials we face.  He promised (and as the text above says,
"But take heart!  I have overcome the world."
Isn't it interesting that in the Christian faith we have the assurance of both eternal joy and peace and of present hardship and strife.  We were created to know, love and serve Almighty God.  While He is knowable from the vastness and intricacy of creation, he is most fully known in His Incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And how has He revealed himself to us?  Most faithfully though the written word, the Holy Bible... and of course the ministry of Gospel preaching (Romans 10:14-17).

Read it to know Him.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Verse for Today - Luke 2:11-14 (click to read blog)

Luke 2:11-14
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.””
Read all of Luke 2
 I thought I should finish the daily verses from Luke 2.  I have always been drawn to the Angel proclamation of these verses.  I’m reminded of Gabriel who replied to Zacharius’ doubt, I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.”  Their proclamations come with heaven’s endorsement and are exactly what they’re supposed to be.  I suppose the same can be said of all Scripture, but there’s something impressive about hearing heaven’s commentary or a “Thus says the LORD.”  I think such words remind us of our creaturely-ness.

 The Angel’s announcement is that Christ has been born… and that they can go and see him.  Then the heavens open up and a multitude of heavenly hosts (angels, warriors, creatures, etc.) proclaim the gracious work of redemption in Christ:
 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Verse for Today - Luke 2:8-11 (click to read blog)

Luke 2:8-11

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."

Read all of Luke 2

The simple yet profound account of Christ's birth continues in today's verses.  Verse 7 had just informed us that the time for Mary to give birth had come.  "She brought forth her first born Son, and laid Him in an manger."  

Verse 8 then begins by telling us of some of the subsequent events.  An angel appears to some shepherds who were out in the fields.  We're not told far they were from the city, but we are told what message was given to them.   

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."

How beautifully and simply put is that?  Great joy for all the people, because the Messiah, the Savior has been born.  That great joy has and will echo to every generation to the end of the world.  Reminds me of Acts 1:8 

"...and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Verse for Today - Luke 2:6-7 (click to read blog)

Luke 2:6-7

"So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. "

Read all of Luke 2

The previous verses told us that Mary and Joseph had traveled to Bethlehem because of the census.  While there, she gave birth to the incarnate (in the flesh) Son of God... the second person of the Trinity.  That a man could be a real God, we could never believe.  That Almighty God could enter humanity through the gestation process, that we can and must believe... as the Angel Gabriel had said to Mary in Luke 1, "For with God all things are possible."

Verse 7 then identifies the place in which Jesus was born and why.  Jesus was likely born in a stable and feeding trough ( manger ) was used as a bed, as there was on room for them in the inn.  Simple reality...there were lots of people in Bethlehem for the census.  But typological or representative as well.  Listen to how John speaks of this reality in John 1: 

10 "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Verse for Today - Luke 2:1,4-5 (click to read)

Luke 2:1, 4-5

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child."

Read all of Luke 2

While for years the prophetic timetable seemed to make little headway, as we read the opening passages of the Gospels everything is moving along quickly. The details surrounding the birth of Christ are interesting and contextualizing.  They provide a witness and record of the events to show that what we're dealing with in the Christian faith, took place in real time and space (history).  In Mark 1 these preliminary events are overlooked and goes right to the meat of the matter, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." 

For a time liberal scholars castigated the Scriptures as being unreliable and inaccurate.  One of their straw men was that there was no extant evidence of Quirinius or the census mentioned in verse 2.  We should not be surprised that sometime later archaeological evidence validated them both.

Today's verses provide just a little bit more of the circumstances and setting for the birth of Christ Jesus.  A couple of things are clear.  1. Another witness to Joseph's obedience to the Angel's directions to take Mary as his wife.  2. Their trip to Bethlehem was approximately 6 months from the angel's visit.  Mary has visited Elizabeth for three months... returned home and was found to be with child.  3. The time for her to give birth was approaching.

All this is part of the Gospel.  Well does the QA 22 of the Heidelberg Catechism say that true faith consists, not only with the conviction that all that God has revealed to us in his Word is true, but it does begin with this.  Do you really believe what Scriptures says?  It is the great discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Confidence in God's written Word isn't enough to save you, but it is the foundation on which true faith stands.

True faith also includes a hearty trust that not only to others, but to ourselves individually, God has freely granted the forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Verse for Today Blog - Luke 1:76-78 (click to read)

Luke 1:76-78

"And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven...."

Read all of Luke 1

Today's Verse is the conclusion of the Zechariah's prophetic song.  Zechariah is John the Baptist's father.  He had previously sung about the One greater than his Son, but is now speaking now of the work and ministry of John the Baptist.  He will be "a prophet of the Most High."  This reference to God is generally used to refer to God the Father, but here it's not necessarily exclusive.    As Christ is God Incarnate it may well refer to Him also.

John's ministry was preparatory.  He was calling the nation of Israel to repent...  to get real about their faith... to view themselves and their sin more accurately.  It's important to realize that the summary of John's ministry was, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand."  Formality and traditions had been substituted to true and sincere religion.  John was preparing them to humbly receive the Christ.

The final phrase is most beautiful. "because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun (Dayspring) will come to us from heaven. In other words, God has shown us his compassion and let the light of His grace in Christ shine upon us.  How wonderful is that?  The song then concludes with these words, 

79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, 
      To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Verse for Today - Matthew 1:20-21 (click to read)

Matthew 1:20-21

"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”"

Read all of Matthew 1

Joseph was not so different that us.  He was going to be discreet, he was minded to put Mary away secretly.  One would think that Mary had told Joseph about the angel Gabriel's visit... and even recounted to him the word he had spoken.  But you know what?  In all likelihood, it all sounded too improbable... even impossible.  Mary was already pregnant, probably just starting to show. 

[Intervening]... an angel from of heaven visit Joseph in a vision and tells Joseph what he should do.  Amazing drama, really.  What Mary going to do?  How can she persuade Joseph that what she's saying is true?  She had to wait on the Lord and trust that He would work our the details.  Sound familiar?

The Angel's words could hardly be more significant.  Yes, Mary is pregnant by an especial work of the Holy Spirit.  You shall name her baby boy Jesus, "for He will save his people from their sins."  Who can save anyone but God alone?  Indeed.

Matthew (the author) then connects the dots.  Listen to verses 22 and 23:

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”  

Verse for Today - Luke 26-28 (click to read)

Luke 1:26-28

"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

Read all of Luke 1
This begins Luke's account of the conversation between the virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel.  The account is set in history by the sixth month, which might be the 6th month in the calendar or as we learn in verse 36, the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy. 

We're told relatively few things.  The angel's name, Gabriel, the woman's name, Mary.  That she was betrothed (promised to be married) to Joseph, who was of the house or lineage of King David.  

What follows is his words of greeting.  She is urged to rejoice as one highly favored, blessed among women.  If we would stop there, some confusion would remain.  In fact, Mary's response is just that.  She is puzzled or as the text says troubled at his words.

He then explains that she will give birth to the promised Messiah:

"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Verse for Today Blog - Galatians 4:4-5 (click to read)

Galatians 4:4-5

"But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship."

Read all of Galatians 4

This is a great verse to remember during the Christmas holidays.  It reminds that God knew exactly what He was doing.  As He is God Almighty... He not only created all things, but also governs all things to fulfill the purposes.  He was directing the events of history and even those of the geo-political landscape in anticipation of of the coming Christ.  

Things were ready prophetically.  As per Daniel's prophecy, nations had risen and fallen and now was the time for the Kingdom God to become established on earth.   Things were read practically.  Among of the benefits of the Greek-Roman World was universal language (Greek).  Another was ease of transportation (roads/ships).  

This is all part of what was meant by the phrase "When the time had fully come."  When everything was set, God sent forth His Son...born of a woman, born under law for the express purpose of fulfilling our redemption.... "to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the adoption to sonship."

In short, this is the gospel.  Hallelujah, What a Savior!

John 3:16,17 makes the same point:

16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Verse for Today Blog Deuteronomy 18:15 (click to read)

Deuteronomy 18:15
 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”
 Read all of Deuteronomy 18
 This is one of the major prophecies from Moses regarding the coming Messiah.  This expectation becomes evident during the course of Jesus earthy ministry.   We hear hints of this after the Sermon on the Mount when the people say that Jesus taught with authority and them not as the scribes.
  When John the Baptist began his ministry along the Jordan he was asked several occasions if he was the Prophet.   He proclaims that he is not the Prophet, but that the He is soon to come.  When he sees Christ before his baptism, he proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

There are several places that Deuteronomy is quoted with reference to Christ.  The most clearly in Acts 3.  However, one of the most striking is found in John 6 after Jesus fed the 5000 we read the conclusion of the multitude.
  13 ”Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.””  There is a similar reference in John 7:31:
 “And many of the people believed in Him, and said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?””
 In conclusion note the implication of what should be done when the Prophet appears.  We must listen to him.  These words are echoed in the transfiguration… when God the Father thunders from heaven, “THIS IS MY WELL BELOVED SON, LISTEN TO HIM!
 Do you hear what I hear?  Are you listening?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Verse for Today Blog John 15:5,8 (click to read)

John 15:5,8

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Read all of John 15 

Another favorite chapter.  Jesus is speaking to his disciples and showing them that close and spiritual connection that exists between themselves and Him.  He is the Vine, we are the branches.  Just think for a moment of the analogy.  Does a branch have life in itself?  Of course not.  In order for a vine to have life it must be engrafted into the living organism... the Vine.  

In this passage Jesus speaks of branches that will pruned off and cast into the fire.  These were unfruitful branches.  The application to us is pretty clear.  We need to abide in the Vine.  It is then that Christ's life will dwell in us and we will grow and become fruitful.  I'm reminded of Heidelberg Catechism QA 20 "Are all men, then, saved by Christ as they have perished in Adam?  NO, only those who by true faith are engrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.

It seems pretty clear that fruitfulness is pretty important to Christ and to God the Father.  As verse 8 concludes:

"This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

P.S. You Might have noticed that a page was added this week to our church website.   "Roadside Banners"
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Verse for Today - John 11:25 (click to read)

John 11:25

"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;"

Read all of John 11

This verse is found amid the account of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead.  This comment is actually directed to Martha, Lazarus's sister.  She had just said that if Jesus had come sooner Lazarus would not have died.  

Jesus replies by telling her that her brother will rise again.  Martha affirms that she believes that Lazarus will rise on the last day.  To this Jesus replies with the statement above.  

It's remarkable.  Really.  Jesus indicates with these words that redefines the terms of life and death.  He and all those who believe in Him have Life and will never lose it.  Yes, barring the Lord's return, your body will cease, but if you are in Christ, your soul will continue to with Him. 

Jesus then concludes:  "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  

This question reveals the presence or absence of faith in Martha and in us.  "Do YOU believe this?"    To this question Martha gives the right answer (and I hope you do too).

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

Verse for Today Blog - John 10:7, 9-10 (click to read more)

John 10:7, 9-10
"Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Read all of John 10

In these verse Jesus is defending himself and his ministry from the Jewish leaders of his day.  In John 9 a conflict had arisen about the healing of the man born blind.  In chapter 10 Jesus is using the imagery of a sheep and shepherd to show the relationship between his ministry and his people.  

Whenever we hear Jesus saying, "Very truly" or as the KJV says, "Verily, Verily," it is an affirmation of extreme--utter--importance.  The point is Jesus alone is the "gate for the sheep."  If any would enter into a living relation with the True and Living God, it can come only through Christ.  

This reality is then contrasted with the work of the Evil One and his false teacher.  They come not to help, save and serve the sheep, but to "steal and kill and destroy."  Jesus then follows this up with some of the most beautiful words in Scripture: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

As Jesus spoke these words, he revealed the intention of his work.  To provide life and fullness of life to those who would come to God through Him.  If we have Christ and He has us, we are saved to the uttermost through Him.  Hebrews 7:25 says, ""Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."

What a great comfort!  Jesus makes very clear what he means by this later John 10:27-29
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Verse for Today Blog - John 8:12 (click to read more)

John 8:12

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”"

Read all of John 8

John 8 is one of those important chapters.  It provides a snapshot of our Lord's ministry as he is confronting the unbelief of the Jesus leaders.  Toward the end of this chapter it will heat up to the point where he tells the scribes and pharisees that they are not Abraham's children, but Satan's.

Today's verse is much more positive.  Jesus makes a profoundly exclusive affirmation.  He is the Light of the World.  If He is, then no one else is.  As the Light, he gives light that we might really see.  There is a quote from CS Lewis that goes something like this, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything ...."

He then applies this truth to His followers (us)... "that they will never walk in darkness... but will have the light of life."  Hear Him.

This passage reminds me of a verse from Psalm 36, 

 8 They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
         And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
 9 For with You is the fountain of life;
         In Your light we see light. 

 10 Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
         And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.