The Everlasting Hope In Our Everlasting Lord

It was for our benefit that God came to Earth in His First Advent, not in thunder, and lightning, and all the brilliance of His heavenly glory, but as a Baby. Otherwise, He would have been unapproachable by sinful man. 

But make no mistake about it—although born as a human baby, Jesus was still “Christ by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord”! 

The thought of God being everlasting permeates the Scriptures:

    • He is everlasting Lord
    • He fulfills an everlasting covenant
    • so He is worthy of everlasting praise
    • His everlasting arms support us
    • and give us His everlasting love and everlasting kindness
    • His everlasting salvation gives us everlasting life, or rejecting it leads to our everlasting punishment
    • and in His presence is everlasting joy  

Charles Wesley captures this fully-God-fully-Man essence in his song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by calling Jesus the everlasting Lord and then listing His humanness at His First Advent with phrases like offspring of a virgin’s womb, veiled in flesh, incarnate Deity, pleased as Man with men to appear, and Immanuel. 

Jesus came to earth as Man not because He was forced to, but because it fulfilled the everlasting covenant that God had planned. The writer of Hebrews explains beautifully how He became like us in all of our humanness so that He could be a merciful help to us (see Hebrews 2:10-18). 

When Matthew tells the birth story of Jesus, he includes a line pregnant with meaning: “All this took place to fulfill…” (Matthew 1:22). 

What “all this”? Just take a look at Christ’s genealogy in the opening verses of Matthew 1. You see Abraham who tried to “help” God fulfill the covenant by fathering a child with another woman; Jacob who swindled his birthright from Esau; Judah who fathered Perez through his widowed daughter-in-law, whom he thought was a prostitute; Rahab was a prostitute; Ruth was a non-Jewish foreigner; David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed, and from their relationship came Solomon; Solomon’s son split the kingdom in two; from Abijah to Jeconiah the kings became progressively more and more evil; from Jeconiah forward the kings were without a kingdom; and then Joseph was a prince without a throne or even the glimmer of a hope of a throne. 

Yet ALL THIS took place to fulfill God’s plan. All of history is His story! Every deed and misdeed was used by God to fulfill His everlasting plan of redemption. Jesus had a very human family tree so that none of us could be outside His merciful reach.

What’s your genealogy like? More good than bad? What about your own history? More mess ups than positives? Nothing in your genealogy—past or present—can ever stop our everlasting Lord from fulfilling His everlasting covenant with YOU (Romans 8:28)! 

Christ’s genealogy is proof that your genealogy is no hindrance to His everlasting plan! 

It may appear He is late in time, but behold Him come at just the right time. Accept Him as your everlasting Lord, lean on His everlasting arms, and bask in His everlasting joy. 

Jesus—our Immanuel here—came so you could have all of God’s everlastingness! 

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

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. 

The Dangers In Grumbling

God wants to give us His peace. The Hebrew word is shalom and it means a deep tranquility found in a personal relationship with Jesus that is greater than all external circumstances. Sadly, many people block the shalom God wants them to have. 

The “shalom cycle” looks like this…

Our gratitude for the things God has done fuels our faith in God’s future grace. That faith-filled expectation serves as fuel for our prayers, and answered prayer gives us even more for which we can give thanks. 

But the shalom cycle can break down when we forget to be thankful. My friend Scott Troost says that ungrateful people are usually characterized by—

  • Being bitter and unforgiving
  • Constantly attending their own pity parties 
  • Struggling with low self-esteem
  • Being greedy and covetous for the things they don’t have

Scott goes on to explain how we can stop the grumbling ingratitude from derailing the shalom cycle. 

  1. Be thankful for what you have, instead of wishing for things you don’t have (Philippians 2:14).
  2. Keep a gratitude journal of all that God has done for you (Habakkuk 3:2). 
  3. Notice how God has given you strength to make it through challenging times in the past (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). 

“There’s a huge difference between being thankful for something and being thankful in something. We are to be thankful always.” —Scott Troost 

As I talked about last week—we need to think about what we’re thinking about. This is the key to spotting those grumbling, ungrateful thoughts before they derail the cycle and rob us of God’s shalom. 

Join us next week for the third part of our 4-part series in which we will be uncovering another way that the shalom cycle can become derailed. Please join us either in person or on Facebook Live. 

What Is Shalom?

Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. Some of the best definitions of shalom include ideas of completeness, soundness, and wholeness. One Jewish rabbi commented that when you say “Shalom” to someone, you’re really saying, “may you be full of well-being.” Or another way of thinking of shalom is—nothing missing, nothing broken. 

Some have tried to describe shalom as the absence of conflict, but that’s not quite accurate. On the verge of going into the Promised Land to fight their enemies, God commanded Aaron to speak a blessing of peace of the people (Numbers 6:24-26). And just before Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9-10). 

Shalom is not controlled by outward circumstances. Shalom is a deep-seated, rock-solid, unshakable assurance that I am in God’s hand. 

Isaiah describes how we live in shalom like this—

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind—both its inclination and its character—is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

How do we do keep our mind stayed on God? The Apostle Paul says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Psychologists call this process metacognition: when we think about what we’re thinking about. It’s being aware of our anxious thoughts that are robbing us of shalom and then talking back to them. 

What often robs us of peace is listening to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves! 

Someone once asked evangelist Smith Wigglesworth, “Smith, how do you feel?” He replied, “I never ask Smith how I feel. I tell him how he feels!” Exactly right! 

Why do we make our thoughts obedient to Jesus? Because one of the titles given to Jesus before He was born was Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and Jesus assures us that His peace is unlike anything we can ever find in earthly things (John 14:27, 16:33). 

God’s peace is always there, but our divided minds keep us from experiencing His peace. So Isaiah tells us to keep our mind steadfast on God’s goodness, and Paul says the same thing—Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I want to encourage you to practice what the Bible calls capturing your thoughts—or what psychologists call metacognition. Ask yourself, “Why am I thinking that?” Capture those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. Don’t let your worrisome thoughts rob you of God’s shalom.

Join me this Sunday as we take a closer look at the “shalom cycle,” including the things that can derail it. 

What’s Behind A Church’s ♥able Reputation?

Last week I said if people are going to say “I ♥ That Church!” it has to be a ♥able church. A ♥able church has a ♥able reputation that compromises what Luke captured about the very first Church—internal unity, sincere piety, supernatural results, and practical help.

Once a church has this kind of reputation, how is it sustained? 

First, let me tell you how it’s NOT sustained: A church’s ♥able reputation isn’t sustained by that church focusing on it’s ♥able reputation. 

A ♥able reputation must flow from the constant development of godly character. Otherwise, we substitute what sounds good with what is actually sound, and we substitute what looks good with what is actually good. 

That’s what the Pharisees did—they were more concerned about how their religion looked to others, and not how it aligned with God’s heart. In fact, Jesus told two stories about people that thought they were “in” with God because of their reputation, but God actually says to them, “I don’t know who you are” (see Matthew 7:21-23; 25:1-12). 

Matthew Henry reminded us, “Men may go to hell with a good reputation!” 

But D.L. Moody got the order right when he said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”

I believe the first Church shows us three components of a maturing godly character. 

  1. Our source must be pure. The Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. In other words, they grew with sound doctrine, not with things that sounded like doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3; Acts 17:11). 
  1. Our daily disciplines must be productive. The Christians saw “church” as an every day thing. They didn’t view studying the Scriptures, prayer, fellowship, and other maturing activities a merely something to be checked off their To Do list. 
  1. Our accountability must be in our fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship (koinonia) means an active involvement with the “one anothers” in the Church. What’s especially important is maintaining the highest levels of accountability with each other so that the growth of godly character can continue (see especially Hebrews 10:24-25; James 5:16). 

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, everything is lost.” —Billy Graham 

My church’s ♥able reputation will be sustained as I am committed to growing in godly character. 

So… are you committed to that continual growth? 

A Church With A ♥able Reputation

Demographers report that there are upwards of 70 million people in America that are unchurched. In my own experience, I have found that the unchurched people I have met are really dechurched people. At one time they were a part of a church community, but finding nothing of value there, they left. 

The way the first-century community responded to the Church—the historian Luke says “everyone was filled with awe and enjoying the favor of all the people”—is how people will still respond today to the extent that we resemble that first Church. 

If people are going to say “I That Church!” we have to be a able church!

Here are four qualities that I see in the first Church that gave it such a able reputation— 

  1. Internal unity

Luke uses the word fellowship (Greek: koinonia) which means an intimate, personal involvement in each other’s lives. The historical account lists phrases like devoted, breaking of bread and prayer, together, together with glad and sincere hearts, and one in heart and mind. 

  1. Sincere piety

Church for these first Christians wasn’t a place they went to on a certain day of the week; it wasn’t a set of religious rules they rigorously followed. They didn’t do church because they had to, but because they loved to! Luke says all the believers were together, and every day they continued to meet…with glad and sincere hearts.

  1. Supernatural results

Luke says wonders and miracles, signs, and great power accompanied the Church’s activity. Interestingly, the order is fellowship → awe → miracles, NOT what I would have expected, which is fellowship → miracles → awe. The awe came from the Church’s unified, sincere fellowship, and then the miracles simply confirmed God was there (cf. Mark 16:20). 

  1. Practical helps

Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” The first Christians saw people in need and they helped: they gave to anyone as he had need and they shared everything they had so that there were no needy persons among them. This is exactly what Jesus told us to do (see Matthew 25:34-40). 

People will the Church when they see real among church people! 

If we want to see dechurched people become rechurched people, we need to return to our Christian roots—we need to make sure we are lovingly unified in heart and mind, allowing God to perform the miraculous among us, and then practically meeting the needs of everyone around us. 

Join me this Sunday as we learn more lessons from this first-century Church. You can join me in person or on Facebook Live.

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