Sunday Praise & Worship: Joy to the World!

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Joy to the world, the Lord has come,
let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ!
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

Songwriters: G. F Handel, Isaac Watts 
Published by Lyrics © HAL LEONARD CORPORATION

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Apathy Stifles Joy

 

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Apathy Stifles Joy

By Patricia Knight

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she {Mary} gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger
because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Mary and Joseph sought overnight accommodations in Bethlehem, where their ancestors originally lived, the town where they were required to register for the government-decreed census. After an exhausting, three-day walking journey from their hometown of Nazareth, the couple probably found only one inn available. The Bethlehem inn could have simply been a personal dwelling that offered guest beds, still a welcome sight to the weary travelers.

We aren’t aware of the innkeeper’s name.  Though he most certainly observed Mary’s advanced pregnancy, he powerlessly quipped, “no room,” like he had to so many other travelers that day.  The innkeeper wasn’t altogether heartless; he did have the compassion to point the couple to a nearby barn. Early tradition suggests the royal family’s lodging may have been a cave, used as an animal shelter. The innkeeper today is known only as the man who missed Christmas, who participated only by complacency. His personal identity has passed into anonymity.

Consider how the innkeeper could have enriched his life if he had entered into worship—if only he weren’t so involved with everyday details. Down through the centuries the prophecy of a Messiah, promised as the Savior of the Jews, had been communicated to each generation. There was great anticipation and expectation associated with the promise. When the prophecy was finally fulfilled, the innkeeper was caught too absorbed with mundane business dealings to notice the Savior’s birth on his own property; too preoccupied with the ordinary to detect the extraordinary.

How do we react to the celebration of Jesus’ birth?

Are we too entrapped by daily demands to focus on the phenomenal entrance of Wonder into our lives? Are we too overwhelmed by family obligations to ponder the miracle of the Messiah’s birth? Have the demands of the season distracted us from the amazing plans of God to send His only Son into the world, forgiving sins, and securing eternal life for those who believe?  Do we allow the natural to interfere with the supernatural entrance into our lives?

God was aware that the known world at the time of Jesus’ birth would be indifferent to His sovereign, astonishing methods, so He chose to announce His Son’s birth to the shepherds tending their flocks of sheep in the nearby fields, men considered lowly outcasts of society and religious life.  To their limited audience the angels acknowledged the glory and majesty of God by singing praises to Him. The Prince of Peace had been born!  As we grasp the enormous gift of Jesus’ birth, we offer praise for a Savior who lived on earth, who experienced challenges and victories similar to the ones we confront daily, and who knows how to respond to our needs.

“The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7) concluded God’s early prophecy of His Son’s birth. This year, like the innkeeper, does apathy relegate Jesus to the stable room of our hearts?  Or, do we resolve to emulate the ecstasy and enthusiasm the Father displayed for the sacrificial, extravagant gift of His Son, as the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior of the World?

You can read more of Pat’s writing here.

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Joy!

 

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Joy to the world,
the Lord has come,
let earth receive her King!
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns,  
let men their songs employ!

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My Hope: A New Message from Billy Graham

In the new short film, “Heaven,” Billy Graham talks about life and eternity. This is an excellent video by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Please share this important message with as many people as possible.

Beloved, the reason for my hope in spite of all the health issues and other problems in my life is because of my faith and tust in my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, who took the punishment for my sins. This is THE most important decision anyone will ever make in their lives!

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

and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
—John 11:25-26

If you have ANY questions after viewing this video, please go here to read more about how you can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and live with Him forever in heaven.

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Our Selfless Savior (Part 5) [REPOST]

~This is the fifth part of the series on John 13 by Donna Baker~

Last Thursday Donna left us with several thought-provoking questions:

Am I teaching others God’s Word?

Am I modeling His Word as He did to His disciples?

Can my children and grandchildren look at my life and see the reflection of His Word at work in my life?

Or am I hiding in a corner shrinking back in fear or disappointment at how my life has unraveled?

Jesus knew Judas was betraying Him. He didn’t cast aspersions on Judas nor rail against him. Scripture says that Jesus washed his feet too. It would seem He gave Judas every chance to repent.

Am I doing that when others disappoint me? Or am I willing to forgive and “wash their feet” as Jesus did Judas’ feet?

When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.

There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor. So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.

—John 13:21-30

It is my understanding that at a Jewish Passover a morsel was given to an honored guest, but to be certain I looked for verification. Below is an excerpt from a study I found on the internet written by Keith Krell:

In [John] 13:26, we have one of the most beautiful verses in the New Testament. John writes, “Jesus then answered, ‘That [the one who will betray Me] is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.’ So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.”

In the culture of Jesus’ time, to take a morsel from the table, dip it in the common dish, and offer it to someone else was a gesture of special friendship.Interestingly, Judas must have sat near enough to Jesus for Jesus to do this conveniently (cf. Matt 26:25). Possibly, Judas reclined to Jesus’ immediate left. If he did, this would have put him in the place of the honored guest immediately to the host’s left.

Regardless, the morsel Jesus prepares for Judas was a piece of the Passover lamb wrapped in flour and rolled together. It would be dipped in sauce made of bitter herbs and eaten. Why did Jesus prepare a morsel and offer it to Judas?

In the greatest act of grace ever recorded, Jesus offers Judas one more chance. Jesus offers Judas a piece of the sacrificial lamb. Jesus, the Lamb of God to be sacrificed to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29), is offering Judas Himself. He is saying, “Judas, here I am. Do you want Me?”

Wow! Doesn’t it just stab at your heart? Don’t you know how it must have grieved Jesus?

This was the point of no return for Judas. In my opinion, until he took the piece of the Passover lamb from the hand of Jesus—the Lamb of God—he could have been saved. He chose not to be.

In the next sentence, verse 27, we see Jesus accept the evil of the heart of man and tell Judas “what you do, do quickly”.

Jesus knew He must be the sacrifice—the Lamb—so the timetable could be kept.




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Our Selfless Savior (Part 4) [REPOST]

~This is the fourth part of the series on John 13 by Donna Baker~

Last Thursday Donna left us with this:

Each time we fall short of God’s standard for us, all we need to do is confess those sins to Him and we are immediately washed clean.

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” — John 13:7

The disciples seemed obtuse to us, but they didn’t have the Holy Spirit yet. We do, and we still fall so short of understanding. It is sad how little I know of His Word.

Jesus told them not all of them were clean. This is true for us as well. Not all in our midst are saved. It is like the parable of the wheat and tares.

Tares Among Wheat

24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying,

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’

28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’

29 But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.

40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.

41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

 Tares are a weed resembling wheat.

We are not called on to pull up the tares because we don’t know who they are…just like the apostles didn’t know that Judas was a devil in their midst.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

And that is what some of you were.

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. —1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Here again we are told there are those among us who are not clean. The unlined verses say some of us were, but we are now washed clean.

How?

“…in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

We are to serve others, we are to preach the Word, because it is the power of God unto salvation.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. —Romans 1:16

Dr.J. Vernon McGee defines salvation as the all-inclusive term of the gospel, and it simply means “deliverance.”

It embraces everything from justification [the act of God whereby humankind is made or accounted just, or free from guilt or penalty of sin] to glorification [the future and final work of God upon Christians, where he transforms our mortal physical bodies to the eternal physical bodies in which we will dwell forever].

Dr. McGee describes salvation as both an act and a process, and goes on to say that it is equally true that “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I shall be saved.

I ask myself:

  • Am I teaching others His Word?
  • Am I modeling His Word as He did to His disciples?
  • Can my children and grandchildren look at my life and see the reflection of His Word at work in my life?
  • Or am I hiding in a corner shrinking back in fear or disappointment at how my life has unraveled?

Beloved, how about you?

 

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OUR SELFLESS SAVIOR (Part 2) [REPOST]

~This is the second part of the series on John 13 by Donna Baker~

 

Last Thursday we read how Jesus spent His last hours fulfilling the will of His Father in teaching and serving others.

God’s plan was in place.

Jesus was in lockstep with His Father in spite of what He knew He was facing.

The focus switches now to Judas.

During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him… —John 13:2

All sin begins in the heart. Only when it is acted upon does it become sin.

We can read about this downward slide in chapter 1 of James:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. —James: 1:13-16

If you look up the verses in the Bible where Judas is mentioned, you learn he was covetous. We know this because it tells us he was a thief. He didn’t need the money, he simply wanted the money. He had been with Jesus for three years. Did he think Jesus didn’t know he was stealing?

Our hearts deceive us too. We think God doesn’t see our secret sins but He does, just as Jesus knew Judas’ heart.

One of the most startling things to consider about Judas is that earlier in time, Jesus had also sent Judas to heal, cast out demons, etc.:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

—Matthew 10:1-8 (ESV)

Isn’t this astonishing? Judas was able to do all these things and saw these miracles and many more. He saw Lazarus and the others Jesus raised from the dead, and yet he still didn’t believe with his heart.

Sobering thoughts, aren’t they? Doesn’t it give this portion of Matthew 7 a whole new perspective to ponder?

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matt. 7:21-23

We all have preconceived ideas of what we expect of Jesus in our lives even if we are not aware of it. It is very likely that Judas had some preconceived ideas toohow he thought Jesus should be or doand it was not working out that way. From my point of view, this is probably part of why he was contemplating betraying Him.

Here is one of my thoughts [and remember, this is my opinion, not the Bible’s]: we know that two of the other disciples thought Jesus was going to set up His kingdom right away and free them from the Romans. We know this because their mother asked Jesus to give them the two highest political offices, on the right and the left of Him.

Maybe Judas expected, as they did, to have an important “cabinet” position such as Department of Treasury where he could have both prestige and siphon off a lot more money to help him grow rich and powerful.

Does that sound like some of today’s politicians?

When it became clear to Judas that Jesus had another plan, he was probably disillusioned and maybe even angry. He seemed to have forgotten all the miracles of the past.

Remember, it is only a few days before Jesus will raise Lazarus from the dead! Judas was there!

How this applies to us.

Often when we pray, our preconceived or erroneous ideas expect God to answer in a specific way. Or maybe we wonder why He is sometimes silent. Perhaps there’s even some other way we are disappointed by the answer [or no answer] to our prayers.

We must guard our hearts so as not to let unbelief seep in and cause us to sin or to doubt that God always has our best interests at work in our lives.

When we are angry or fearful, or when things are not going well, we are vulnerable. But sometimes we are equally vulnerable when we are on the “mountaintop.”

Therefore, we must be like Jesus: keep focused on the mission.

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To be continued next Thursday…

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