Exalting God, Edifying Believers, Evangelizing the Lost

Joy to the World

 

Although most consider the hymn, Joy to the World, to be a Christmas carol, the song was actually intended to be a song about the Second Coming of Christ.

Its composer was Isaac Watts, a pastor and prolific hymn writer who lived from 1674 until 1748. When he penned the words to this hymn, his intention was to convey the message of joy that the world, and especially the Jews, would experience when Christ comes back to earth at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom when He will destroy His enemies and establish His reign over all the earth.

The context of “Joy to the World” is found in Psalm 98, which looks forward to the Messiah’s return at the end of the Tribulation.  Verse 4 is the pinnacle of the psalm as it proclaims:

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” 

From this Psalm comes the message of joy that will flood the earth because Christ has come as its King. All of heaven and earth will sing His praises as He rids the world of sin and restores His people, Israel.

Therein we can truly find joy, knowing that our Redeemer lives and is coming back to rule in righteousness forever!

No Room for Them

In Luke 2 we read about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem that took place over 2000 years ago.

In verse 7, the Bible tells us,

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

The last phrase of that verse is a sad statement, but it reminds us of the real meaning of Christmas.

Mary and Joseph were not out in the wilderness alone. They were in the middle of a crowded city, surrounded by thousands of people doing their own thing. I am sure that Mary and Joseph knocked on many doors but were turned away at every place. No one had room for them, in their houses or in their schedules. Everyone in the city missed the most blessed event in the history of mankind, because they were too busy in their own lives to make time and room for someone in need.

How many times have we turned away a Joseph or Mary and missed the blessing that God wants to give us through serving others?

Christmas is about God giving us His Son to meet our greatest need. Let us not be so focused on our own lives that we miss practicing the real meaning of Christmas with others.

 

Fear Not

Luke 2:10 tells us that when the angels appeared on the night Christ was born in Bethlehem, their first words to the shepherds were

“Fear not.”

These two words perfectly summarize the good news of the real message of Christmas.  While we can imagine that the angels were just trying to calm the nerves of the shepherds, there was much more to the angels’ message of “Fear not.”

The angels were announcing the birth of the promised Messiah, who would deliver men from sin and bring peace between God and man. In this Savior, hope for reconciliation with God had been restored, and fear of eternal punishment for sin was erased.

1 John 4:18 says that

“perfect love casts out fear,”

and Romans 8;39 assures us that

[nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

When we understand the depth of God’s perfect love, demonstrated in the sending of His Son to the earth to be the sacrifice for our sins, we also understand that we have nothing to fear. In Christ our Savior, we find perfect peace, eternal security, and overwhelming joy.

The angels’ message to the shepherds is God’s Christmas message to us: Rejoice in the coming of Christ, for He has vanquished everything which would cause us to fear.

God’s Stars

In Matthew chapter 2, we read the account of the star which led the wise men to the house where Jesus was in Bethlehem.  Although we know that this was not any ordinary star, we do not know much about it other than what is told us in Scripture.

The Bible says that “His star” appeared in the east and it caused the wise men to set out on their journey to find the new King and worship Him. The Bible does not say that the star led them to Jerusalem, where they inquired of Herod about the new King.  It just says that they saw the star and came to Jerusalem in search of the new King.

Matthew 2:9 tells us about the final leg of their journey:

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

Much like the pillar of fire and cloud that led the Israelites through the wilderness, the light of this star led the wise men to the exact location of the newborn Christ.

Just three chapters later in Matthew 5, Jesus tells his followers that we are “the light of the world.”  God has appointed us as His “stars” in this world to use the light of the Gospel to lead men to Christ, just as that Christmas star led the wise men to the newborn King.

In Everything Give Thanks

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we tend to shift our focus from the struggles of everyday life to the “good” things for which we can thank God.

James 1:17 reminds us,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

So we know that all the good things in our life come from God’s hand and we can thank Him for them. But what is interesting is that this verse is at the end of a section of Scripture that begins with this admonition: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various kinds of trials” (James 1:1). 

James is telling us that EVERYTHING we receive from God, both blessings and trials, are God’s good gifts to us, and therefore, we should be thankful to Him for the trials as well as the blessings.  That is why 1 Thessalonians 5:18 commands us, In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

This Thanksgiving, don’t forget to also thank God for the hard times of your life, for it is through these that He wants to draw us closer to Himself.

The Components of True Worship

 

What do you need in order to worship God?

Many people believe that worship is an emotionally based experience, and therefore they need something to stir up their emotion before they can enter into real worship of God.  That is the reasoning behind many churches using emotionally-charged music as the centerpiece of their services.

In John 4:24, Jesus said,

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

There is nothing about emotion or music in His description of true worship.  There are only 2 components of true worship here: spirit and truth.

What Christ was saying is that true worship is an internal response of obedience from the heart and mind of a believer as he submits to the authority and the content of God’s truth.

True worship does not begin with emotion. True worship does not even begin with music.

If we need to become emotionally stirred up through music before we “feel” like we are worshiping God, the only thing we are worshiping is ourselves, and our focus of worship is not God, but the emotional “high” we get through the experience.

Worship Like a Dog

Dogs are referred to as “man’s best friend,” mainly because of their loyalty and their desire to be with their master. I am sure we have all seen how a dog reacts when his master walks through the door after being gone all day. The excitement of being back in the presence of his master cannot be matched.

We can learn a lot about worship from the actions of a dog. Psalm 122:1 tells us the response of the Psalmist to coming into the presence of his Master:

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

Although our worship of God should not be defined by only our emotion, we should be excited about coming into the presence of our Master. As believers, the place we should want to be the most is near to our Lord.

That does not mean that the only time we can be in His presence is at church, though. We can draw near to Him at home, at work, on vacation, or just sitting in the car. We can worship our Master anywhere and at any time.

What defines our worship is not what we are doing, but whether we are drawing near to God in our spirit. James 4:8 tells us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

If your greatest desire is to be in the presence of your Master, that is something to get excited about.

The Creator Cares

Have you ever been out in the country where there are no lights around, and looked up at the millions of stars shining in the sky?  The sight itself is a little overwhelming, but when you think about how big each star is and how it got there, it is beyond comprehension.

How could the immeasurable God who created all of that with His breath know and care about us tiny human creatures who are but a speck in the universe?

Psalm 8:3-4 echoes this sentiment:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;  What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Jesus said in Matthew 6 that God knows our needs and has already made provision for them, even down to our food and clothing.  The Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to “cast your cares upon the Lord, for He careth for you.”

More overwhelming than the stars of heaven is the fact that God DOES care about each one of us down to the tiniest detail of our lives.

It is comforting to know that the God who created the immense expanse of the universe brings that same power to taking care of each of us on an individual level.

What a great God we serve!

Understanding Matters

As a young person, I would often speak very fast and slur words together in my haste to get my message out.  My mother called it “lazy tongue.”  She would continually correct me, saying, “Speak more slowly and clearly so that people will be able to understand what you are saying. Otherwise, you are just wasting your breath.”

It wasn’t until my freshman year in college when I got a “D” my first oral assignment in Speech 101 that I realized how right she was.

The same truth applies to us today as we share God’s truth with each other.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:9,

So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul was referring to the fact that when people in the church spoke in unknown tongues, no one could understand them, so no one was edified.

But the principle is broader than just speaking in tongues.  When we are with other people and share the Word of God, pray, or even sing a spiritual song or hymn, we should do it so that others can understand the message.

If no one understands what we are saying or singing, then we are just throwing our words into the wind.

And if no one is edified, then God is not glorified.

Love is the Greatest

In 1 Corinthians 13:13, we are told,

“And now abideth faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love.”

But why is love the greatest?

The answer is found earlier in the chapter when Paul says talks about the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy, and knowledge.  He says that all three of those will eventually cease to exist (verse 8).

In fact, all of the spiritual gifts will eventually cease to exist, because they are only needed while we are here on earth.

Furthermore, he says in verse 7 that faith and hope are embodied in love, that they really cannot exist apart from love.

We will not need faith and hope in heaven, because everything we believe and hope in is fulfilled when we stand in the presence of Jesus Christ. But our love for our Savior and His children will continue to go on forever, just as God’s love for us will never end.

So why not start practicing now what we will be doing for eternity.