Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Beholding the Glory of Jesus

“And the Word was made flesh 
and dwelt among us, 
(and we beheld his glory, 
the glory as of the only 
begotten of the Father,) 
full of grace and truth.” 
(John 1:14 KJV)

Do you sometimes find that your heart is not as full of the joy and wonder of your faith as it should be? Do you ever feel numb or indifferent to the spiritual things that you know ought to excite your soul and set your spirit ablaze?

Try beholding the glory of Jesus. John was absolutely captivated by the glory of Christ, and he never got over it. Writing his gospel account some 50 years after being with Jesus, he’s still in awe by the thought that he saw the glory of God in the face of Christ, full of grace and truth.

He saw Him with his own eyes, he heard His voice with his ears, and he touched Him with his own hands. He walked and talked with the Maker of heaven and earth and shared the joy of heaven.

Think about it. The Holy One from heaven, the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent God Most High, Creator of all things, the Lamb of God, the giver of living water and the bread of life, the light of the world, the Savior of mankind and King of the nations – took on the flesh of humanity in all of its weaknesses, struggles and temptations, and dwelt among us.

And by His life, by His sacrificial death on the cross, and by His resurrection victory, He gives eternal life to all who confess and repent of their sins and put their faith in Him.

Friend, you can re-ignite your complacent soul today by gazing afresh upon the Lord Jesus Christ in all of His glory. See Him with your eyes of faith in the wonder of His creation. Hear His voice in the pages of His Word. Walk with Him in glad obedience and talk with Him in prayer.

Meditate upon His majesty, marvel at His humanity, and let His goodness and mercy joyfully recapture your heart and set your spirit ablaze this Christmas and always.

And come join us at Petersburg First Baptist Church this Sunday – Christmas Eve – as we worship Christ together at 10:45 am and at 9:00 pm for our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.

Make the words of the familiar carol come alive in your soul:

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee
Born this happy morning
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sing to the Lord

If you love Christmas songs, you need to join us at First Baptist Church this Sunday, Dec. 17, at 10:45 a.m. Both our children’s and adult choirs will be presenting the Christmas story through music, and we want you to be our guest.

We’re not the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, you understand, but for our 16-member choir composed of decidedly non-classically trained vocalists, I think we make a pretty decent sound. Props go out to our fantastic choir director who has excelled at herding screeching cats to produce something of a melodic purr, and who also happens to be my lovely bride. Most importantly, we’re seeking to make a joyful noise to the Lord, and our desire is that He will be honored in our hearts first and with the songs of our lips. 

At the least, you need to come and hear the children singing. They’ll sing three numbers to start off the worship celebration, and I feel confident in saying that you’ll be smiling as they sing their little hearts out in joy and wonder at the birth of Jesus. 

I think I’ve said this before, but there truly is something remarkable about singing praise to the Lord. Did you know that the pages of the Bible are filled with songs of gratitude and joy and praise and worship to God, along with songs of lamentation and sorrow? Did you know that the Bible not only encourages us to sing, but commands it? 

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1). 

It seems that Christmas carols prove especially meaningful in blessing His name as we celebrate this season. There’s something joyous that happens when we lift our voices together singing, “O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!” 

And there’s something special about gathering to light candles on Christmas Eve singing, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” 

I know not everyone “feels like it” when it comes to Christmas spirit. For some, the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very dark and debilitating condition. Some people have endured traumatic experiences that leave them more dreading the season than sipping up Christmas cheer like a hot cup of wassail. 

But if you’re a believer in Christ then I want to challenge you in particular to sing anyway, even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it! I believe that to some degree you can sing and praise your way out of the funk. 

Because when your mind engages with your heart to express songs of worship through your lips, God has a way of drawing you up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog and setting your feet upon a rock, making your steps secure. He has a way of healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds.  He has a way of tending his flock like a shepherd; gathering the lambs in his arms, carrying them in his bosom and gently leading those that are with young (see Psalm 40:2-3; Psalm 147:2; Isaiah 40:11). 

So tune the dial into your favorite Christian radio station and start crooning away. Or invest in Casting Crowns’ “Peace on Earth” album, or maybe Amy Grant’s “A Christmas Album” from 1983, and let the songs lift your spirit as you belt our your best audition performance. Everybody and their brother’s got a Christmas album out, so find the kind of music that suits your style and go for it. 

And come sing with us this Sunday! “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting” (Psalm 147:1)          

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cultural conversations and gospel solutions

I’m not incredibly eager to wade into this topic, but in light of incredibly important cultural conversation happening and the incredibly brilliant gospel-solution available, it’s worth going there. 

Unless you’ve completely un-subscribed from social news content, you’re aware of the barrage of sexual misconduct / abuse  allegations and expositions which have recently surfaced and washed ashore disgraced perpetrators such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, John Conyers, along with a host of other celebrities, politicians, journalists, and business leaders. I’m sure scores of other high profile figures must now be shaking in their boots waiting for their names to drop. 

Allow me to make a few observations. First, my heart goes out to the victims of such harassment – and worse. Their lives have been scarred. They’ve suffered shame and distress from the harm inflicted upon them. No one should ever have to endure abuse of any kind. I pray they’ll find help and healing in the Lord, who is able to mend the broken, repair the ruined, and restore dignity and joy like no other. 

Secondly, I’m glad to see our collective conscious on this matter finally finding such ready agreement with biblical standards. While many have brushed off and winked at this kind of behavior for far too long, God’s Word has always been clear on the subject. Using and abusing others for selfish gain is condemned in the sight of God, and ought to be in the sight of man, as well. 

Thirdly, justice always prevails against the wicked. Sooner or later, our sins will be found out. If not by man, always by God, the righteous Judge, to whom we must all give account, but check out number seven below. 

Fourth, is anyone really shocked that this has been happening? We’re a nation that spends billions of dollars on pornography every year and glorifies sexual icons like Hugh Hefner. We’re infatuated with ridiculing biblical sexual morality while embracing sexual freedom. We hand out condoms and promote promiscuity in many of our public schools. Do you think it’s possible that the epidemic of sexual predators doing bad things could be related to all this? Isn’t it true that men and nations reap what they sow? 

Fifth, I say this in compassion to women – please don’t ever think that sleeping around is just a part of the process. Whether auditioning for a role, trying to gain a promotion, get a better grade, or move ahead in the political world, your worth as a woman created in the image of God far surpasses whatever temporary benefit you may gain from sleeping your way forward. Your bravery in resisting and calling out creepy men may also spare a host of other women from his unwelcome advances. 

Sixth, men, let’s be respecters and protectors of women in our realm of influence. Don’t be part of the porn problem or lust after other women. Don’t allow crass “locker room talk” to go unchallenged. Instead, guard your heart and mind from every sinful thought. Keep yourself pure. Drink water from your own cistern. Read Proverbs 5-7 every day if you have to. Be a man of courage and integrity in all things. 

Seventh, and most importantly, redemption and salvation are possible for all who call on the name of Christ Jesus. Check out the heartfelt prayer of a convicted sexual predator in Psalm 51, and see that repentance and faith in Christ leads to an incredible gospel-solution of forgiveness and restoration. Friend, the transforming power of God’s grace to us in Christ enables us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 3:12). Even the worst of sinners like Weinstein and you and me can find hope in the cross of Christ.