Joining The Angel Choir

The angels are highly visible around the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, but here’s the amazing thing—we are invited to join the angelic choir singing praise to Jesus! 

Nowhere else do we see such a concentration of angels as during Christ’s time on earth, and especially at His birth. In the Old Testament prior to Christ’s birth, and in the New Testament following Christ’s ascension, we don’t see as many angels clustered together on Earth— 

    • Gabriel brings a birth announcement to Zechariah 
    • Gabriel brings a birth announcement to Mary
    • an angel talks to Joseph in a dream (three times!) 
    • an angel gives instructions to the wise men in a dream
    • angels minister to Jesus in the wilderness after His battle with the devil 
    • angels are poised for action in case Jesus calls on them prior to His crucifixion
    • angels are present at Christ’s tomb after His resurrection
    • and a massive angel choir sings at Christ’s birth (Luke 2:8-14) 

Charles Wesley wrote a Christmas carol called Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. In the first stanza, we’re invited to “join the triumph in the skies.” But how can someone sing a song grand enough, majestic enough, or worthy enough to honor Almighty God?! That would be like me being asked to compose a song or play something on the piano to honor Mozart—how could I play anything worthy of his musical talent? 

In a similar way, when the Israelites thought about coming into God’s presence, they were gripped with knee-knocking, gut-churning fear (Exodus 19:16-19; 20:18-19)! 

But notice that the angels didn’t sing, “God is born in Bethlehem.” They sang, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Christ: the Messiah; the One who sets things right. No wonder this is such good news of great joy that brings peace and God’s favor (Luke 2:10, 14). 

The simple fact is that we couldn’t approach God and join in their angelic song. Instead, Jesus approached us as our Messiah, our Deliverer. How could this happen? Wesley’s carol reminds us that Jesus came so that God and sinners are reconciled! 

The First Advent is God approaching us. If we allow Jesus to reconcile us to our Holy Heavenly Father, then we have no fear of Christ’s Second Advent. His Second Advent will be attended to by angels just like His First Advent (Matthew 25:31-32; Mark 8:38; Jude 1:14-15). Those who haven’t had their sins forgiven will hear a song that is soul-crushing to them, while those who have accepted the reconciling work of Jesus will join with the angelic host in a victorious song bringing glory to God forever and ever (Revelation 14:9-11; 15:1-4). 

We don’t have to wait until we get to Heaven to join the triumph of the skies. We can join the angelic choir right now in singing our praise to God today. And every day! 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to look at the fantastic messages in our Christmas carols. 

Overcoming Unbelief Before It’s Too Late

Unbelief can shut down the “Shalom Cycle” that God intends for our lives. Even worse, unbelief can put us on a slippery slope that could be disastrous for our future! So it is vital that we understand what unbelief is, how we can recognize it in our own lives, and the steps we can take to recover from unbelief. 

First of all, let me remind you of what the Shalom Cycle looks like—

Quite simply, when we are grateful for what God has already done for us it fuels our trust in God’s future grace to meet our needs. 

But when we forget to be grateful and gratitude turns to grumbling, unbelief displaces trust.

A good way to remember how unbelief works is thinking of it as an un-complete faith. An un-complete faith is lacking power to trust God because of one of two reasons:

  • Either we don’t know there is a promise available to us,
  • Or we know of a promise but don’t think it applies to our circumstance. 

J.C. Ryle pointed out that, “Unbelief has a power to rob man of highest blessings.” 

Hebrews 3 shows us that left unchecked and uncorrected, unbelief can turn into disbelief. You can remember this word by defining it as a complete disintegration of faith. Notice in Hebrews 3 how quickly the word unbelieving becomes turns away from God, and how closely associated are the words unbelief and disobeyed (Hebrews 3:12, 19-20). 

We need to correct and reverse unbelief as quickly as possible. We do this through capturing our thoughts—or thinking about what we’re thinking about—and identifying three warning signs: 

  1. Worrying all the time—God wants you to enter His rest, not wallow in worry (Hebrews 3:11) 
  2. Making contingency plans—the Israelites forgot to be grateful and they grumbled instead. The next step (since they didn’t trust that God’s future grace would take them into the Promised Land) was to disobey by concocting a Plan B: “Let’s go back to Egypt.” 
  3. An inward focus on self-preservation—we no longer encourage others but think only of ourselves (Hebrews 3:13). 

If you detect any of these warning signs, quickly repent (Revelation 3:2-3) and then run to Jesus for help. One of the most honest prayers you can pray—and one of the prayers Jesus answers the quickest—is “Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24). 

“Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 

Take control of grumbling by gratitude
Take control of unbelief by repentance and running to Jesus for help
Then help others take control of their unbelief by encouraging one another daily

Join me next Sunday for the final message in our 4-part series on God’s Shalom. 

Sunbeams From God

For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Psalm 36:9

“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” —C.S. Lewis

“So we can say that when we ‘look along’ the heavens and not just ‘at’ the heavens, they succeed in their aim of ‘declaring the glory of God.’ That is, we see the glory of God, not just the glory of the heavens. We don’t just stand outside and analyze the natural world as a beam, but we let the beam fall on the eyes of our heart, so that we see the source of the beauty—the original Beauty, God Himself.  This is the essential key to unlocking the proper use of the physical world of sensation for spiritual purposes. All of God’s creation becomes a beam to be ‘looked along’ or a sound to be ‘heard along’ or a fragrance to be ‘smelled along’ or a flavor to be ‘tasted along’ or a touch to be ‘felt along.” —John Piper 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 27-28

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

Jeremiah 27-28

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 27-28.] 

     God does not act according to His own precedents, therefore logic or a vivid past experience can never take the place of personal faith in a personal God. … God is constantly stirring up our nests that we may learn that the only simplicity there is is not the simplicity of a logical belief, but “the simplicity that is in Christ” [2 Corinthians 11:3]. … 

     Never try to explain God until you have obeyed Him…. The only bit of God we understand is the bit we have obeyed. … Never be surprised if there our whole areas of thinking that are not clear, they never will be until you obey (John 7:17). …

     We never gain any knowledge by intellectual curiosity, but only as a relationship of simplicity to God is it maintained. In John 9 Our Lord was dealing with religious teachers who had known God’s way in the past but they were blind to His ways in the present. … Our Lord’s phrase “blind leaders of the blind” was used of those who built their teaching as to how God would act in the future on their knowledge of how He had acted in the past, instead of on a personal knowledge of God. …  

     We have to keep in unbroken touch with God and give every soul the same freedom and liberty before God as God gives us. …

     No silence is so profound as the silence that falls on a soul that has quenched the Spirit of God by concentration on religious convictions. … Our only safety is in concentration on God with nothing between.

From Notes On Jeremiah

God is infinitely creative—He never has to repeat Himself. For proof, just look at the billions of unique snowflakes! 

We must be very careful not to say, “God, You worked just like this last time so I expect You to work exactly the same way this time.” Let God be God; let Him do what He knows is best to do. Don’t tell God how He’s supposed to work, and don’t teach others to interact with God the same way you have interacted with God. 

Let God be God—unique, inimitable, creative, sovereign, omnipotent, personal—with you and with others. 

Notes On Jeremiah (book review)

Oswald Chambers always gives me unique perspectives on passages of Scripture—even ones that I thought I already knew quite well. He does this again as he dives deep into one of the major prophets in his book Notes On Jeremiah.

These Notes are really his lecture notes from his classes at the Bible Training Institute. Once again, these classes were cut short by the outbreak of The Great War (what we now call World War I), so we only have his brilliant insights through Jeremiah chapter 29. 

Chambers himself noted, “The conception of these studies is that man must look higher for the source of life and salvation than the experience of life. … Jesus Christ is the only One Who can throw light on the prophecies of Isaiah, and He is the only One Who throws any kind of light on the acute suffering and amazing misery of this prophet [Jeremiah].” 

Indeed, many of Chambers’ lectures start with “the experience of life” that most of us have had (or are having at present), and then he tries to take us both higher and deeper. Using Jeremiah’s prophesies like a searchlight, Chambers shows how these Old Testament words find their ultimate relevance and fulfillment in the dazzling Advent of Jesus Christ. 

Jeremiah was prophesying in the darkest days of Judah, just before the city was overthrown by the Babylonians. In the face of this darkness, Jeremiah shines out a light of Ultimate Hope. This is a valuable resource for Christians today who are living in sin-darkened days.

If you are looking for a great companion resource for your Bible reading time in Jeremiah, please add Notes On Jeremiah to your library. 

Fight Like Jesus

God announces to the world that Jesus is His Son, but as soon as the devil has an opportunity to tempt Jesus he begins with, “IF You are the Son of God….

“This is the bedrock of EVERY temptation. If satan can cause us to reject, doubt, or forget our original identity as beloved sons and daughters of the King, he can get us to fall for any number of tricks and non-satisfying pleasures.” —Honoring Christ In Human Rights (a YouVersion reading plan)

The devil has always been a slanderer and a prosecutor—always leveling charges against God’s children, trying to get them to feel unworthy of God’s love. He still does this today. 

Don’t let him. It’s time to fight back!

How?

We read in Revelation: “For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:10-11).

Jesus—the Lamb of God—shed His blood for you. You have been purchased with an amount that is incalculable. You have so much worth to your Heavenly Father! You did nothing to earn this payment of blood, you just receive it by faith. 

But we also need “the Word.” Notice that every time the devil attacked Jesus, He responded by saying, “It is written,” and then He quoted the Word (see Luke 4:1-12). We must do the same. 

When the devil says you’re unworthy of God’s love, you say, “It is written, ‘There is no condemnation for me because I am covered by the blood of Jesus’” (Romans 8:1).

When the devil says God can’t or won’t help you, you say, “It is written, ‘If God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for me—how will He not also graciously give me everything I need?’” (Romans 8:32). 

When the devil says you can’t resist his temptations for very much longer, you say, “It is written, ‘Greater is He that is in me than anything you’ve got. I have submitted myself to God and I will not give in to you, so you must flee from me!’” (1 John 4:4; James 4:7).

When the devil says you’re all alone in this world, you say, “It is written, ‘God said He would never leave me, and His Spirit is inside me right now and forever’” (Hebrews 13:5; John 14:16-18).

Dear friend, the blood of the Lamb covers you. Now use His Word to refute every single charge the devil tries to use to slander you. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 12

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

Jeremiah 12

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 12.]

     Few suffer more seriously in character than the men and women who for one reason or another are exempt from frank, honest criticism. …  

     Progressive realization does not mean that God reveals Himself by inches, but that we realize His revelation of Himself by inches as we obey. … 

     God would have been “a wall of fire round about and…the glory in the midst” [Zechariah 2:5] if they had been obedient. The difference between God as a consuming fire and natural fire is just this, that the further you get away from God the more fiercely you feel His burnings, but when you are close to Him, you will find it is a glorious protection. … 

     The truth about God is Jesus Christ—light, life and love. Whatever is dark to us will, by means of our obedience, become as clear as the truth which we have made ours by obedience. The bit we do know is the most glorious, unfathomable delight conceivable, and that is going to be true about everything to do with God and us. The process is continual obedience. 

From Notes On Jeremiah 

God wants to reveal Himself to us, even if He has to be a consuming fire in order to do so! 

God will burn up everything that keeps us from obeying Him—everything that takes our attention off of Him. He will burn up everything worthless so that we can know what is of incalculable worth; namely, Himself. 

If you want to have more of God revealed to you, scrupulously obey the parts that have already been revealed to you. 

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