Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hope of the Nations

Jesus, hope of the nations
Jesus, comfort for all who mourn
You are the source of heaven’s hope on earth
Jesus, light in the darkness
Jesus, truth in each circumstance 
You are the source of heaven’s light on earth

These lines from one of our choir’s songs last week stand out for their relevance in light of the tragedy of last’s week murderous rampage in Newtown, Connecticut. Jesus is our hope and peace in times of trouble. He is a comfort to those who mourn. He is the light in a world of darkness. He is truth in a twisted and perverted generation. 

Those who know Him know that even in the midst of unspeakable horror, evil will not prevail. Jesus has already stepped into the ring with the “ruler of the darkness of this age” and has come out triumphant in His resurrection from the grave. And He gives the hope of eternal life to all who believe in Him. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the day Jesus comes again to fully exercise His righteous rule over all creation. 

But for now we still live in a fallen world. The “god of this age,” the “roaring lion,” the “thief” who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” knows his time is running out. We should not be surprised to see an increase of lawlessness. We should not be surprised to see violence on the rise. Satan and his demons are doomed for an everlasting swim in the lake of fire and sulfur, but they will not go out with a whimper. 

Friend, more than ever we need to cling to the cross of Christ for hope. Yes, sin is horrific. And the wages of sin, not just the murder of innocent children, but all sin, is death. But praise God, Jesus bore our sin in his own body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by his wounds we have been healed! That’s the “living hope” that God gives to all who receive His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus.

Friend, more than ever we need to look to Him for comfort. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). We’re walking in that valley now, but the Good Shepherd comforts us with His presence, His power, His protection, His provision. He comforts those who mourn through such terror. Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He is our comfort in times of trouble.

Friend, more than ever we need to live in the light of Jesus. Against the blackest of sin’s darkness, Jesus shines brightly. Isaiah spoke of the Messiah to come saying, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). Then into a sin-darkened world Jesus lit up the scene. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Christ himself declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). We’ve witnessed enough of sin’s destruction in this world. Maybe you’ve had enough of sin’s darkness in your own life. It’s time to turn to Jesus.

And friend, more than ever we need to recognize that Jesus is truth in each circumstance. There’s no spin with Jesus. There’s no fine print or hidden clauses. He simply says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Satan is the “father of lies” and the master of deception. He makes promises he cannot keep. He offers pleasure and fame and power but leaves you empty and broken. In a world searching for answers, Jesus is Faithful and True.

As we mourn with those who mourn, let us not lose heart nor give up hope. The world needs to know that Jesus is still the hope of the nations.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All Is Well

I keep looking at this guitar sitting in my office, thinking about how I wish I could play that silly thing. If only there were some book I could read to make it come to life in my hands. If only I could learn by just watching some of the guitar heroes, or by playing Guitar Hero. It ought to be easier. I mean, shouldn’t there be an app for that? 

I suppose the only way I’m going to play my guitar well is by good old-fashioned practice. And lots of it. In our day and age we want things now. If I want to find out who won the Illini game, I don’t want to wait for the morning newspaper when I can google it now. If I need some extra cash, I don’t want to wait for the bank to open when I can use my ATM card now. If I pull in the drive-thru lane at a local fast-food restaurant, I don’t want to wait an hour for my order when I can get it in a good 20 minutes or so. 

Patience is not my spiritual gift. Neither is learning to play the guitar. I don’t want to spend hours and hours practicing. I just want to pick it up and sound like an Eddie Van Halen or Eric Clapton or Phil Keaggy now. 

Along that line, I didn’t really want to start practicing for our choir’s Christmas cantata back in September, when it was still summer. Who’s thinking Christmas when it’s 90 degrees out? I’d prefer to run through the thing a couple of times in December and see how it goes.

My wife, however, much wiser than I
Knew that songbird wouldn’t fly
So we practiced, and practiced and practiced some more
We practiced until our throats were sore
We practiced at noon, we practiced at night
We practiced before the dawn of light
We sang with our mouths, we sang with our hearts
We sang until we learned our parts
Sometimes we sang fast, sometimes we sang slow
sometimes we let loose with a great crescendo!

Well, with all that singing and practicing, it would be a shame if you didn’t come and hear our choir present the Christmas musical, “All Is Well,” this coming Sunday, December 16, at 10:45 a.m. The First Baptist Church is located at the corner of 7th and Sangamon, just one block west of the only stoplight in town. We would love for you to be our guest. If you don’t already have a church home, then come and be encouraged by the message of the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

You’ll hear some of the traditional Christmas favorites as well as some newer songs that may soon become your favorite. But most of all, we pray you’ll hear the story about Jesus. In a chaotic and uncertain world that often leaves us lonely, frustrated, disappointed, scarred and broken, Jesus is our hope. Jesus is our peace. Jesus is our joy. Jesus is our salvation. Jesus is our Rock. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the Sun of Righteousness and the Light of the world. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is the Word made flesh who came to dwell among us. He is the image of the invisible God.

More than ever, we need Jesus. Friend, you don’t have to try to make it on your own when you can follow in footsteps of the Savior. You don’t have to have it all figured out when you can trust in the wisdom of God. You don’t have to be strong enough when you can rest in the arms of the Almighty. You don’t have to fear anyone or anything when you can triumph in the One who is our Resurrection and Life.

Yes, this world may often be chaotic and uncertain, but when you know Jesus, truly all is well. Come and join us this Sunday morning as we sing to glorify His name.