“Do Not Be Afraid”

There are more angels sent by God concerning one event than anywhere else in the Bible—the Advent of Jesus. Clearly, this is a big deal: The coming to earth of God Himself! 

You would think this would be an occasion for great joy. But all four of the angelic appearances around the birth of Jesus have the same message: Do not be afraid. 

Why are people so afraid? It’s because fear invites us to make a decision to trust God completely. People remain crippled by fear when they try to deal with fear by themselves. But when they learn to fear God instead, there is an almost inexpressible joy and freedom that explodes in our hearts! 

Join us for this Advent series where we will explore why this “Do not fear” message is still relevant for us today. Please join us either in-person or on Facebook. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Christian’s Waiting Activity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

A Christian’s Waiting Activity

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Despisers tell us nowadays, ‘Your cause is done for! Christianity is spun out! Your divine Christ is gone! We have not seen a trace of His miracle-working hands, nor of that voice that no man could rival.’ Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into heaven. We are not paralyzed because Jesus is away. He lives, the great Redeemer lives, and though it is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect His coming, it is equally our delight to turn our heavenly gazing into an earthward watching and to go down into the city and there to tell that Jesus is risen, that men are to be saved by faith in Him, and that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life! We are not defeated! Far from it—His ascension is not a retreat, but an advance! His tarrying is not for lack of power, but because of the abundance of His long-suffering. …  

     It is clear that He has not quit the fight nor deserted the field of battle. Our great Captain is still heading the conflict! He has ridden into another part of the field, but He will be back again, perhaps in the twinkling of an eye [Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:21]. … 

     Brothers and sisters, do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you! Jesus is coming as a matter of fact—therefore go down to your sphere of service as a matter of fact. Get to work and teach the ignorant, win the wayward, instruct the children, and everywhere proclaim the sweet name of Jesus! … Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way. He is literally and actually coming—and He will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore now, today, literally not symbolically, personally and not by deputy, go out through that portion of the world that you can reach and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity, for this is what the men in white apparel meant—be ready to meet your coming Lord. … 

     If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness! 

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was about His Father’s business the whole time He was on earth. As He ascended to heaven, He promised us His authority and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so we too could be about our Father’s business. 

In one of His parables about stewarding our Master’s gifts and resources until He returned, Jesus said, “Occupy until I return” (Luke 19:13). I love Spurgeon’s remind: “If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness!” 

Yes, we are waiting for Jesus to return, but our waiting is an active waiting. With one eye toward the heavens and one eye toward earth, we actively tell others about our soon returning King. Occupy! Stay active! Stay alert! Meet Him with joy! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Hearts are not to be argued with. Sometimes you stand by the grave where one is buried whom you dearly loved—you go there often to weep. You cannot help it; the place is precious to you, yet you could not prove that you do any good by your visits. Perhaps you even injure yourself thereby and deserve to be gently chided with the question, ‘Why?’ It may be the most natural thing in the world, and yet it may not be a wise thing. The Lord allows us to do that which is innocently natural, but He will not have us carry it too far, for then it might foster an evil nature. Therefore He sends an interrupting messenger…. 

     Notice, then, that the apostles were doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural, but that it is very easy to carry the apparently right and the absolutely natural too far. Let us take heed to ourselves and often ask our hearts, ‘Why?’ … We may, under the influence of great love, act unwisely. … The apostles would be wise to cease gazing, for nobody would be benefited by it, and they would not themselves be blessed. … 

     If you have a command from God to do a certain thing, you need not inquire into the reason of the command. It is disobedient to begin to canvas God’s will. But when there is no precept whatever, why persevere in an act that evidently does not promise to bring any blessing?

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Faith requires action (see James 2:14-26). Feelings may keep us inactive, or at the very least may make us feel active because we are “doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural.” 

Our natural emotional response may keep us inactive from the thing God has commanded us to do. In the case of these apostles, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but wait there for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Their standing and gazing—though it seemed right and natural at first—was bordering on disobedience through omission. So God sent angels to ask, “Why are you still doing this? What will your continual gazing ultimately accomplish?” 

God still speaks those words to us today. Sometimes it’s through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and sometimes it’s through the loving voice of a friend: “What are you doing? This may have been right at first, but now it is keeping you inactive.” There is so much God wants to do through your life, but He cannot do it while you are standing still and gazing.

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Navel-Gazing?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Navel-Gazing?

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     It can never be wrong to look up; we are often bid to do so, and it is even a holy saying of the psalmist: ‘My voice you shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up’ (Psalm 5:3). And again, ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help?’ (121:1). If it is right to look up into heaven, it must be still more right to look up while Jesus rises to the place of His glory! …  

     The truth is, there’s nothing wrong in their looking up into heaven. But they went a little further than looking—they stood gazing. A little excess in right may be faulty. … There is a gazing that is not commendable. This is when the look becomes not that of reverent worship but of an overweening curiosity; when there mingles with the desire to know what should not be known, a prying into that which it is for God’s glory to conceal. … 

     Thus certain things that you and I may do appear right and yet we may need to be chided out of them into something better—they may be right in themselves but not appropriate for the occasion, not seasonable or expedient. They may be right up to a point and then may touch the boundary of excess.

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

The word gazing reminds of another word: navel-gazing. The dictionary defines this as “excessive absorption in self-analysis or focus on a single issue.” This “excessive absorption” is, I believe, what caused the angels to chide the disciples of Jesus.  

Jesus was always on the move. Even His times of rest and recovery were strategic so that He could engage in ministry refreshed and refilled to do spiritual warfare effectively. The Gospels never show us a picture of Jesus wondering what to do next, or concerned about what people thought of Him, or even strategizing over His next ministry opportunities. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit to move forward. 

And this same forward momentum is exactly what Jesus commanded His disciples to undertake. “You will move forward into all the world, telling people about Me, baptizing them, and commissioning them to also be forward-looking to their mission field.” This mission was to be preceded by the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which was a 2-mile walk away from were the disciples were now gazing up into the heavens. 

The angels essentially said, “Your curiosity is on the verge of becoming procrastination. It’s time to head back to Jerusalem to wait for the empowerment that you will need to fulfill the mission on which Jesus sent you.” 

What about us? What “looking” can become unhealthy “gazing” for us? What excuses might we be making for our navel-gazing? What’s keeping us from being on-mission for Jesus? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we have anything less than forward momentum for the sake of the Kingdom of God! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Are You Gazing Or Going?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Are You Gazing Or Going?

     The resurrection of Christ is the morning star of our future glory! Equally delightful is the remembrance of His ascension. …

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11) 

     It is not the Lord’s will that [His disciples] should long remain inactive—the reverie is interrupted. They might have stood there till wonder saddened into fear. As it was, they remained long enough, for the angel’s words may be accurately rendered, ‘Why do you stand gazing up into heaven’? … 

     As they had once said to the women, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!’ (Luke 24:5-6), so did they now say, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ …

     They do not need twice telling, but hasten to Jerusalem. The vision of angels has singularly enough brought them back into the world of actual life again, and they obey the command, ‘Tarry in the city of Jerusalem’ (Luke 24:49). They seem to say, ‘The taking up of our Master is not a thing to weep about. He has gone to His throne and to His glory, and He said it was expedient for us that He should go away. He will now send us the promise of the Father….

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was incarnated in human flesh so that we could know the way to Heaven. 

Jesus died on a Cross so that we could have our sins forgiven and go to Heaven. 

Jesus ascended into Heaven so that He could go to prepare a place for us. 

Jesus wants us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we can take others to Heaven with us. 

Let us not imitate the disciples’ first reaction and simply gaze into Heaven hopefully and longingly after the ascended Jesus. Instead, let us imitate their next reactions: Waiting for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost so that we can take the Good News of salvation everywhere we can!

Poetry Saturday—Beyond The Glittering, Starry Skies

Beyond the glittering starry skies,
Far as th’ eternal hills,
There, in those boundless worlds of light,
Our great Redeemer dwells.

Legions of angels strong and fair,
In countless armies shine,
At His right hand with golden harps,
To offer songs divine.

“Hail, Prince!” they cry, “forever hail!
Whose unexampled love
Moved Thee to quit those glorious realms,
And royalties above.”

While He did condescend on earth
To suffer rude disdain,
They cast their honors at His feet,
And waited in His train.

Through all His travels here below
They did His steps attend!
Oft gazed and wondered where at last
This scene of love would end.

They saw His heart transfixed with wounds,
His crimson sweat and gore,
They saw Him break the bars of death,
Which none e’er brake before.

They brought His chariot from above,
To bear Him to His throne,
Clapped their triumphant wings and cried,
“The glorious work is done!” —James Fanch

Poetry Saturday—What Is Prayer?

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed;
The motion of a hidden fire,
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach 
The Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air;
His watchword at the gates of death—
He enters heaven with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
Returning from his ways;
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, ‘Behold, he prays!’ 

The saints in prayer appear as one,
In word, in deed, and mind;
While with the Father and the Son,
Sweet fellowship they find.

No prayer is made by man alone
The Holy Spirit pleads;
And Jesus, on th’ eternal throne
For sinners intercedes.

O Thou! by Whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way;
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray. —James Montgomery

Everywhere, Everywhere Christmas Tonight

christmas-stockings-and-treeEverywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!
Christmas in lands of the fir tree and pine,
Christmas in lands of the palm tree and vine;
Christmas where snow-peaks stand solemn and white,
Christmas where corn-fields lie sunny and bright;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

Christmas where children are hopeful and gay,
Christmas where old men are patient and gray,
Christmas where peace, like a dove in its flight,
Broods o’er brave men in the thick of the fight;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all,
No place too great and no cottage too small;
The Angels who welcome Him sing from the height,
“In the city of David, a King in His might.” 
 Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

Then let every heart keep its Christmas within
Christ’s pity for sorrow, Christ’s hatred for sin.
Christ’s care for the weakest, Christ’s courage for right,
Christ’s dread of the darkness, Christ’s love of the light.
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

So the stars of the midnight which compass us round
Shall see a strange glory, and hear a sweet sound,
And cry, “Look! the earth is aflame with delight,
O sons of the morning, rejoice at the sight.” 
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight. —Phillips Brooks 

What Does “Gloria In Excelsis Deo” Mean Today?

A “mondegreen” is a misunderstood word or phrase usually because it’s in a song lyric that is misunderstood. In Christmas carols, many mondegreens come from the fact that the Old English lyrics are sometimes up to 200 years old and simply aren’t the way Americans talk today. One of my favorite mondegreens comes from I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day where people say “the bell freeze up all Christians dumb” instead of “the belfries of all Christendom”! 

If this happens to 200-year-old songs written in English, can you imagine what happens to a song that is 1700 years old and was originally written in Latin?! I’m talking about the chorus from Angels We Have Heard On High which simply says, “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” 

That Latin phrase means Glory to God in the highest! The idea is that our praise of God is both excellent and increasing in its level of adoration. The Latin phrase is shorthand for a doxology that is traced back to 300 AD.

The angels aren’t the subject of this carol, but the focal point is to Whom their song is being raised—“Come to Bethlehem and see Him Whose birth the angels sing; come adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

The idea of gloria in excelsis is to keep making our praise bigger and more magnificent. We are to MAGNIFY what God has done for us through the advent of Jesus.  

In Hebrew, the word gadal is usually translated as “magnify” or “glorify” in English, and it means something that is growing and becoming more powerful. David uses gadal as he not only praises God from deep within his soul but encourages others to join in his song (Psalm 34:1-3). 

In Greek, the word megalynō is also translated “magnify,” and means to make something great, make it obvious, declare it to be great, celebrate it. Mary’s song called The Magnificat begins with this word (Luke 1:46).

I cannot make God great because He is already THE GREATEST! 
I cannot make God powerful because He is already OMNIPOTENT!
But I can make His greatness and His power more obvious by celebrating Him!

 

Just like a magnifying glass doesn’t make an object bigger, it just helps us see it better. So, too, our praise and adoration don’t make God bigger, it just helps others see Him better.  

So I have a question to ask you—which I’ve already been asking myself—

How will you give gloria in excelsis Deo this Christmas season and beyond?

Poetry Saturday—Angel Hymn

Glory to You who have shown us the light.
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all people.
We praise You, we bless You, we worship You, we glorify You, we give thanks to You for Your great glory.
Lord, King, heavenly God, Father, Almighty; Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit.
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, You who take away the sins of the world. —Angel Hymn / Doxology (~300 AD)

Glory to God in the highest
and peace to His people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
Almighty God and Father,
we worship You, we give You thanks,
we praise You for Your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
You take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
You are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For You alone are the Holy One,
You alone are the Lord,
You alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen. —updated in the Book of Common Prayer (~1975)
%d bloggers like this: