The Crimson Worm: Psalm 22, 9 June 2024

The Crimson Worm: Psalm 22
Restoring Your Soul: Psalms

Series Big Idea: The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul.
Big Idea: Psalm 22 is a remarkable portrait of the suffering Messiah centuries before his birth who is worthy of our worship and praise today.
On Friday, September 22, 2006, I was in one of the darkest moments of my life, living in a hospital with a sick child at the beginning of what would be a nine-year journey of pain and suffering, one which still impacts my life and family to this day in both good and tragic ways. My journal records me clinging to God, knowing that He is good and faithful and in control, and I was certainly out of control. Rather than play Bible Roulette and hope some inspiring scripture would appear as I randomly opened the book, I looked at the date, saw it was September 22, and turned to Psalm 22. I could hardly get beyond the first verse.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1, NIV)
I shared this story several years ago, but as we continue our series on the Psalms, I wanted to return to this prophetic text which literally made me weep. Perhaps the words are familiar, not from the pen of King David, but the lips of King Jesus. The scene is the crucifixion of Jesus on the day we call Good Friday. He is hanging on the cross, nails in his wrists and feet, thorns on his head, and agony in his heart, body, and soul.
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Mark 15:33-34, NIV)
Some might think my connection to these words had to do with my suffering, but instead it thrust me into an empathy with God the Father like never before. My child—and God’s son—were in tremendous agony, but they were not alone in their pain. It’s been said the worst thing a human can do is bury their child. One of the things near the top is parenting a suffering child.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1, NIV)
Jesus knew the scriptures and quoted them from the cross. Psalm 22—like the rest of the psalms—was originally a song. We’re even told about the music.
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David. (Psalm 22:0)
I wish I could hum the tune for you, but David failed to record it!
Jesus quoted the first verse of Psalm 22 on the cross, but we never need to fear about God forsaking us. The writer of Hebrews said,
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
            “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV)
That’s good news. That’s great news! When you’re hurting, lonely, afraid, rejected, anxious, discouraged, depressed, disappointed, or just sad, cling to this promise. A few psalms later, it says,
For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. (Psalm 37:28a, NIV)
God will not forsake you…ever. David felt forsaken by God, but it was never a reality.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
            Why are you so far from saving me,
            so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1, NIV)
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
            by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:2, NIV)
How many of you can relate to sleepless nights? It’s not just a new parent thing!
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
            you are the one Israel praises. (Psalm 22:3, NIV)
I love how David shifts gears. This is common in his prayers and psalms. He’ll go from one extreme to the other, angry and then confident, depressed then hopeful. I think begins looking inward at his own circumstances and then looks up. Don’t miss this, though…
we can pour out our heart to God.
I think this is one reason why David is called a man after God’s own heart…twice. He kept it real. He didn’t wear a mask or pretend everything was ok. He was fully present in the moment, honest about his God-given emotions, and held nothing back, but he didn’t remain in his misery. After getting things off his chest, he looked up to God and remembered his conversation partner.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
            you are the one Israel praises. (Psalm 22:3, NIV)
This is our God!
In you our ancestors put their trust;
            they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
            in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (Psalm 22:4-5, NIV)
We can trust God fully. I’m so glad. From generation to generation, God is faithful. He is trustworthy, and He’s the same God today as He was thousands of years ago when this was written.
Now David shifts again, this time returning to himself.
But I am a worm and not a man,
            scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
            they hurl insults, shaking their heads. (Psalm 22:6-7, NIV)
I am a worm. What an interesting statement. We’ve already seen the prophetic nature of this psalm with echoes of Jesus on the cross.
What’s fascinating here is found in the original Hebrew language. A common worm or maggot is “rimmah,” but here the word for “worm” is “towla” or “tola’ath,” referencing a specific, crimson worm found in Israel. It’s actually a deep scarlet, the color of blood. 
I heard a podcast about this crimson worm and almost drove my car off the road! A red dye was extracted from this worm, used for the curtains in the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:1) and the high priest’s garments. The dye was also used to purify a leper (Lev. 14:4-6). Listen to this:
When the female crimson worm is ready to lay her eggs, which happens only once in her life, she climbs up a tree or fence and attaches herself to it.  With her body attached to the wooden tree, a hard crimson shell forms. It is a shell so hard and so secured to the wood that it can only be removed by tearing apart the body, which would kill the worm.  
The female worm lays her eggs under her body, under the protective shell. When the larvae hatch, they remain under the mother’s protective shell so the baby worms can feed on the living body of the mother worm for three days.  After three days, the mother worm dies, and her body excretes a crimson or scarlet dye that stains the wood to which she is attached and her baby worms. The baby worms remain crimson-colored for their entire lives.  Thereby, they are identified as crimson worms.
On day four, the tail of the mother worm pulls up into her head, forming a heart-shaped body that is no longer crimson but has turned into a snow-white wax that looks like a patch of wool on the tree or fence. It then begins to flake off and drop to the ground looking like snow.
Isaiah 1:18 says,
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
            says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
            they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
            they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, NIV)
Is that crazy or what? This is a picture of Jesus, dying on a tree to save us. Three days. Death. Heart-shaped body. Snow white…
500-1000 years before Jesus is crucified King David references a crimson worm with prophetic language. Amazing! Let’s return to the text:
“He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
            “let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
            since he delights in him.” (Psalm 22:8, NIV)
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
            you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
            from my mother’s womb you have been my God. (Psalm 22:9-10, NIV)
David praises the LORD for His deliverance. He trusts God, even in the midst of trials.
Do not be far from me,
            for trouble is near
            and there is no one to help. (Psalm 22:11, NIV)
Many bulls surround me;
            strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. (Psalm 22:12, NIV)
Roaring lions that tear their prey
            open their mouths wide against me. (Psalm 22:13, NIV)
I am poured out like water,
            and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
            it has melted within me. (Psalm 22:14, NIV)
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
            and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
            you lay me in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:15, NIV)
Have you ever felt like this?
Dogs surround me,
            a pack of villains encircles me;
            they pierce  my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16, NIV)
Did you catch that reference to Jesus’ crucifixion?
All my bones are on display;
            people stare and gloat over me. (Psalm 22:17, NIV)
They divide my clothes among them
            and cast lots for my garment. (Psalm 22:18, NIV)
This happened to Jesus in John 19:24. This is a bleak picture that shifts yet again.
But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
            You are my strength; come quickly to help me. (Psalm 22:19, NIV)
Deliver me from the sword,
            my precious life from the power of the dogs. (Psalm 22:20, NIV)
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
            save me from the horns of the wild oxen. (Psalm 22:21, NIV)
I will declare your name to my people;
            in the assembly I will praise you. (Psalm 22:22, NIV)
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
            All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
            Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! (Psalm 22:23, NIV)
For he has not despised or scorned
            the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
            but has listened to his cry for help. (Psalm 22:24, NIV)
God always hears His children. It’s hard to understand why He sometimes seems distant or even sleeping, but He will never forsake you. In the midst of your darkest suffering, He is present. And He understands.
Jesus knows suffering. He lived a perfect life, yet he was executed by that which he created.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
            before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. (Psalm 22:25, NIV)
There are a few more verses.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
            those who seek the LORD will praise him—
            may your hearts live forever! (Psalm 22:26, NIV)
All the ends of the earth
            will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
            will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the LORD
            and he rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:27-28, NIV)
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
            all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
            those who cannot keep themselves alive. (Psalm 22:29, NIV)
Posterity will serve him;
            future generations will be told about the Lord. (Psalm 22:30, NIV)
They will proclaim his righteousness,
            declaring to a people yet unborn:
            He has done it! (Psalm 22:31, NIV)
So What?
The Bible is filled with prophecy, including over 300 Old Testament references that foreshadow Jesus hundreds of years before his birth. The crimson worm is an incredible symbol of Christ and his work on the cross to die for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. We see David’s gut-wrenching honesty followed by praise to the Almighty. Ultimately we see the LORD reigns over all and is worthy of our worship and devotion.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

More Signs of the End, 30 May 2021

More Signs of the End
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 13:14-37

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Keep watch, for the end of the world is coming…soon!

Open your eyes! Look around! Be on guard! Be alert! Get ready! Keep watch! Watch!

This morning we continue and conclude Mark chapter thirteen, what is known as the Olivet Discourse, words spoken by Jesus on the Mount of Olives about the future. The chapter begins

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1)

The temple was the most sacred place, essentially the center of the world for the Jews. I can’t imagine something comparable in our culture…maybe the US Capital or, in Toledo, 5/3 Field…just kidding! But the temple was arguably the most important and majestic structure on the planet.   

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)   

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
(Mark 13:3-4)

They ask two questions: when and what will be the sign. He spends verses 5-13 describing what will happen first, including wars, natural disasters, persecution, and the preaching of the gospel—or good news—to all nations. Today we’ll see more details about when this—the destruction of the temple—will occur…though it also appears he is speaking about the end of all things and his return.

Today I’m going to do my best to give you a crash course in biblical prophecy. I can almost guarantee you it will frustrate you, if only because my sermon will last nine hours! Just kidding! But to understand today’s text, some background is necessary.

The prophet Daniel in the Old Testament used a peculiar phrase three times (9:27, 11:31, 12:11) in his short book: “abomination that causes desolation.” It speaks of the Gentiles polluting the Jewish temple with idolatry. It was defiled in 167 BC by Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) with pig’s blood poured on the altar in an offering to Zeus, an event predicted in Daniel 11:31. It led to three and a half years of intense persecution for the Jews.

“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. (Daniel 11:31)

The temple was defiled again in AD 70 by the Romans when they destroyed the city of Jerusalem.

Paul Carter notes, “The catastrophe of AD 69-70 is, in a sense, a foreshadowing of the catastrophe of satan’s little season or the Great Tribulation…just as Rome encircled Jerusalem, so shall the antichrist encircle the people of God in the last days.”

Jesus said in last week’s text there will be many signs of the beginning of the end, but they’re not the end. They’re like a woman with birth pains—having contractions. That doesn’t mean the baby has arrived. It’s just a signal that the process has started. In many ways, our world has been in the midst of tribulation since Jesus ascended into heaven. We have seen wars and famines and earthquakes—and pandemics! The past 2000 years have been a season of tribulation. It has hard for Jesus. It has been hard for his followers who have been persecuted, tortured, and even martyred.

Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Mark 13:13)

following Jesus is dangerous…but worth it. Saved people persevere.

Now we come to the most controversial part of the chapter. Is Jesus speaking of the events that would occur in AD 70 with the destruction of temple, or something further into the future…perhaps even things have not yet occurred in the past 2000 years? Or both?

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Mark 13:14)

This was a sign, a signal. “Let the reader understand” is a way of saying, “This is Bible code. There’s a message here. Don’t miss it!” The first part of the chapter said to stand firm, but now Jesus says when you see these things, go. Flee! Jewish Christians heeded this warning and they did leave Jerusalem before it was destroyed in AD 70, saving many lives.
In AD 69, there was a succession of four Roman emperors‑Nero, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian—filled with murder, violence, and civil war. Then in AD 70 during the destruction, people starved, practiced cannibalism, and fought for food scraps. Titus burnt the temple and crucified thousands of Jews. Yet more Jews were killed by other Jews than by the Roman invaders. It was a brutal time.

Matthew Henry notes, “The Jews had rejected Christ as an abomination, though he would have been their salvation, and now God brought on them an abomination that would be their desolation, an abomination that was spoken about in this way by Daniel the prophet (9:27), and that would bring about a cessation of the sacrifices offered under the Law of Moses.”

Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. (Mark 13:15-16)

Survival is more important than stuff.

How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! (Mark 13:17)

They will be the most vulnerable. They usually are!

Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. (Mark 13:18-19)   

Jesus doesn’t say when this will happen, but urges them to pray.

Again, Christians fled Jerusalem in AD 70 when it was invaded. Many took refuge at Pella in the Transjordanian mountains.

“If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. (Mark 13:20)

Praise the LORD! God is sovereign and in control. We may question why God allows certain things, but don’t think for a moment that He is out of control He has given us free will to make choices, but He always has the last world. He may have given us—and satan—freedom, but there are limits.

At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. (Mark 13:21-23)   

Jesus is warning them—and, perhaps, us. Watch out! Get ready! Don’t be deceived. Then he seems to shift to his second coming. He uses apocalyptic language and quotes Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4…

“But in those days, following that distress,

“ ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ (Mark 13:24-25)   

Can you imagine? And this wasn’t even the end of the world, though it would be the end of their world.

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. (Mark 13:26)   

The Son of Man is a reference to Daniel 7:13. Those are glory clouds, not rain clouds! This will be a great moment! Jesus’ complete vindication. John saw something similar in his revelation…

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Paul used similar language in his letter to the Thessalonian church…

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Encouraging words, indeed! Back to Jesus’ words in Mark…

And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. (Mark 13:27)   

A great harvest will occur which will include not only Jews, but Gentiles, too. We are called to make disciples “of all nations.” Now Jesus tells a parable.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. (Mark 13:28-29)

The disciples wanted signs. Jesus gives them one.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Mark 13:30-31)

This will last no longer than forty years, the typical length of a biblical generation. But wait, Jesus says “this generation?” Some believe that meant the events up to verse 23, excluding his second coming from verses 24-27. Others think it refers to “this race” as in the Jewish people, not Jesus’ contemporaries. If that’s the case, “all these things” includes both the temple’s destruction and the second coming. Jesus guarantees these things will occur. Jesus always keeps his promises.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32)

It’s ridiculous—and quite frankly a waste of time—to predict when this will happen since Jesus doesn’t even know! Anyone arrogant enough to give a date thinks they’re greater than the Messiah! What’s the point? It’s certainly not to make predictions!

Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (Mark 13:33)

Be on guard! Be alert!

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. (Mark 13:34)

Keep watch!
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. (Mark 13:35-36)   

Keep watch!

What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” (Mark 13:37)   


So What?

Be on guard! Be alert! Keep watch!

That’s it. That’s the message. It’s an old message that is extremely relevant today. As I said last week, we’re one day closer than yesterday!

Jesus doesn’t say worry about the antichrist. He doesn’t say be anxious about the mark of the beast. He doesn’t even say get stressed about satan. He simply says tribulation is coming, get ready, and what follows will be wonderful for those who remain faithful to God. Jesus is coming back soon. Are you ready?

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Signs of the End, 23 May 2021

Signs of the End
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 13:1-13

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Get ready, for the end of the world is coming…soon!

One of the most common questions I get as a pastor is, “When will Jesus return?” The broader culture describes it as “the end of the world.”

You may recall about a decade ago many were saying the end of the world would coincide with the Mayan calendar’s ending on December 21, 2012. 12-21-12.

Wikipedia is packed with past predictions of the end of the world, beginning with the Jewish Essene sect in 66-70, Some thought it would end on January 1, 1000.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the end in 1941 in the middle of four dates given by Herbert W. Armstrong. Then there was Jim Jones in 1967, Charles Manson in 1969, the Jehovah’s Witnesses again in 1975, Pat Robertson said 1982, Edgar C. Whisenant in 1988 (
88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988), Louis Farrakhan in 1991, Harold Camping in 1994 (and 1995!), and Nostradamus 1999.

Many of you were around at Y2K and experienced great commotion at the turn of the millennium. Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, and even Jonathan Edwards thought 1.1.2000 would be the big day.

Unfortunately, the predictions continue to this day. I only have two responses:

  1. 1. We’re one day closer than yesterday.
  2. 2. Get ready!

Today we’re back in the book of Mark, the shortest of the four gospels, “good news,” that tell about the life of Jesus. He’s why we’re here. He’s our guide, our leader, our Savior, our LORD, our Senior Pastor. When you focus on Jesus, you can forget all of the religious mumbo jumbo, conspiracy theories, cults, and heretics. Jesus is our authority. This is why we talk about him, sing to him, and love him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Today and next Sunday we’re in Mark chapter 13 in what is known as the Olivet Discourse, also found in Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21. It is sometimes called the Little Apocalypse because of its apocalyptic or literally “uncovering” language.
One of the challenges with apocalyptic language (besides pronouncing it!) is the questions raised, specifically whether it speaks of a past, present, or future event.
Biblical prophecy often has more than one meaning in view. It can be challenging to discern whether what we’re reading is something in the future or a past event that followed the prediction…or both!

If you w
ere drive west on the Ohio Turnpike and stay on I-80, eventually you’ll see what looks to be a large mountain ahead, maybe a hundred miles in the distance. As you get closer to the Rocky Mountains, however, you’ll discover what looked like one mountain is actually a series of mountains. What looks like rock 150 miles away may also include peaks 160, 170, perhaps 200 miles away. There is no definitive point of the Rocky Mountains (unless you count the gift shop at Rocky Mountain National Park!).

The same can be said about biblical predictions of the future. Many people think they know what exact day or event is being described, but it might be a reference to more than one. Broadly, many of the prophecies of Jesus were fulfilled about 2000 years ago during his first coming…while many will not occur until he returns…soon!

The context of Mark chapter 13 is Jesus’ rising popularity with the crowds and the growing hatred of him by the religious leaders. In chapter four, Jesus talked about “hearing.” In this discourse, the them is “watching,” watching out for the way evil will materialize. The images are not always pretty. Pastor Keith spoke of suffering last week, and persecution has been a way of life for so many followers of Jesus throughout the ages. But Jesus will have the last word! I’ve read the end of the book!

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1)   

The temple was incredible, one of the wonders of the Roman world. It covered one-sixth of the city! The Babylonians destroyed the original temple of Solomon. The book of Ezra describes the smaller replacement. Now centuries later in our text, Herod Antipas was still completing the edifice started by his father, Herod the Great.

Imagine this temple, twice the size of the Athens Acropolis. It covered thirty-five acres. Perhaps most impressive were the stones mentioned here, some 45 feet long, 11 feet high, and 12 feet thick!

If you go to Jerusalem today, you can see the remains at the Temple Mount.

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)   

That’s a jolting statement! What do you mean, Jesus? Will there be an earthquake? A tornado? How do you know?

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
(Mark 13:3-4)

Like so many today, they wanted to know about end times. Jesus had given them valuable real estate advice! Don’t buy those building! They won’t last!

They wanted to know when. Give us a date, Jesus! Maybe we’ll go on vacation that week and avoid the destruction. They also wanted a sign.

Jesus said to them:
“Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. (Mark 13:5-6)   

Jesus says watch for imposters who will deceive. Has this ever happened in history? Absolutely! False messiahs have formed cults and led many astray. Jesus is warning them of what is ahead, though he gives no dates.

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (Mark 13:7)   

He tells them to watch for calamities of human origin: wars and rumors of wars. Has this every happened in history? Of course! Tragically, there have been wars somewhere on the planet since…well almost since Adam and Eve! For the most part, USAmericans are unfamiliar with war, at least on our soil. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to live in Israel today in the midst of the conflict…or other places where war is ensuing.

Jesus says wars must happen. Why? He knows the human heart. He knows our lust for power, for money, for domination over another. He knows our enemy and the death and destruction he always leaves in his path. He says, “Do not be alarmed. Keep calm!”

Jesus says watch out for calamities of human origin.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
(Mark 13:8)   

This is actually the place to start to understand our text for today. Jesus says watch out for natural calamities like earthquakes, famines, …pandemics?! He doesn’t say these are signs of the end, though. They are just the beginning.

Now Jesus moves to the next sign: persecution.

“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. (Mark 13:9)   

The book of Acts is filled with the fulfilment of these prophecies. While they most certainly asked, “Why, LORD?” during their persecution, it prompted the spread of the gospel to other peoples. God had a plan. God always has a plan!

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (Mark 13:10)   

The parallel in the book of Matthew says,

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

One of the driving passions of our church and denomination’s founder, A.B. Simpson, was to see the Great Commission completed so that Jesus could return. He took this verse at face value.

Is it a statement of what will occur or a condition for Jesus’ return.

New York Journal reporter approached Dr. Simpson with the question, "Do you know when the Lord is coming?"

"Yes," he replied, "and I will tell you if you promise to print just what I say, references and all."

The reporter's poised notebook gave the ready promise.

"Then put this down: 'This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto the nations and then shall the end come.' Matthew 24:14. Have you written the reference?"

"Yes, what more?"

"Nothing more."

The reporter lowered his pencil and said, "Do you mean to say that you believe that when the Gospel is preached to all nations Jesus will return?"

“Just that.”

"I think I begin to see daylight," answered the reporter. "I see the motivation and the motive power in this movement."

"Then," said the Alliance leader, "You see more than some of the doctors of divinity."

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (Mark 13:10)   

It’s a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. Which comes first? Can we actually make the end come sooner by preaching the gospel to all nations? It seems like Jesus is stating what will occur rather than a precondition for his return, but I maybe wrong. Regardless, we are all called to make disciples, to love others well, to always be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have, to share good news.

Jesus continues…

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)   

I would imagine the disciples found this to be incredibly encouraging.

Today we desperately need the Holy Spirit. I need the Holy Spirit each time I stand before you, and I pray He speaks through me. My wisdom is not worth much, believe me!

The persecution would expand beyond the government.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. (Mark 13:12)   

Jesus is warning them of the cross they must pick up daily to follow him. The enemy will divide families. Two thousand years of history have born this out. It’s heartbreaking to hear of people rejected by their families when they begin to follow Jesus, but it should come as no surprise. Following Jesus is dangerous…but worth it.

Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
(Mark 13:13)   

That’s a troubling yet comforting sentence! I’ve never met anyone who wants to be hated, but entering the kingdom of heaven will be worth it. All believers will someday be vindicated. Jesus never breaks a promise!

So What?

I know some of you have been told this passage is about the second coming of Jesus. Others believe it’s about the end of the world. Where does this fit into the Millennial reign of Christ? Was all of this fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple? I actually believe the latter, but I could be wrong.

Again, biblical prophecy can be challenging to understand. We do know Jesus will return someday. We are told repeatedly to be ready…and to get others ready. For centuries, our brothers and sisters in the faith have faced tremendous suffering and even martyrdom, and that may be our fate someday, too.

In our text for today, Jesus says do not be alarmed. He says those who stand firm will be saved. If we seek God’s glory instead of our own, His Kingdom will come and His will will be done. I’ve always been amazed that the persecution we avoid is often the very thing that results in the spread of the gospel, the good news. What Jesus said here came to pass as recorded in the book of Acts and Philippians 1. Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

We need to get ready…for the return of Christ.
We need to get ready…for the possibility of suffering.

Tom Wright notes, “…those Christians who don’t face persecution often face the opposite temptation, to stagnate, to become cynical, to suppose that nothing much is happening, that the kingdom of God is just a pious dream.”

We also need to get others ready. Everyone deserves a chance to know Jesus.

Jesus never breaks a promise! He not only made predictions about the destruction of the most beautiful building in the world, he promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. He said in verse 11 that the Holy Spirit would come and give them words to speak when they were arrested and on trial.

Next week we’ll see Jesus address when the destruction of the temple will occur and more signs of the end, even if today’s passage merely described the events leading up to the end of the temple.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

The Tenants, 11 April 2021

The Tenants
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 12:1-12

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Jesus—the rejected cornerstone—challenges religion once again while predicting his own death.

I love stories! Do you? There’s nothing like a great story…especially one with surprises. There are few things more exciting than suspense…and few thing more boring than a predictable plot. I think that’s one reason I rarely watch a movie more than once. If I know the ending, there’s no mystery to solve.

The Bible is packed with stories. After all, it’s not a book, but a library…of 66 books! Some parts of the Bible are filled with poetry, others with instructions, and still others with history. Today we’re returning to Mark’s story, gospel, good news, biography of Jesus. Chapter twelve is between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The religious leaders are becoming so envious and agitated with Jesus that they are literally finding a way to kill him. In the previous chapter, Mark tells us

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. (Mark 11:18)

The Jews were God’s chosen people, but they were frequently led astray by corrupt kings and self-righteous religious leaders who were more concerned about their own glory than God’s. Jesus repeatedly confronted them, leading to their hostility. Spoiler alert: they succeed in killing the Messiah. But…

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

The Jewish chief priests and teachers of the law knew the scriptures we call the Old Testament. You could call it the Jewish Bible. Many memorized long sections and even entire books. They were so passionate about the rules they often missed the purpose behind the rules…a deeper relationship with God.

Jesus repeatedly spoke of the law and the prophets in reference to the Hebrew Bible. The five books of Moses—known as the Pentateuch—are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The prophets covered the other books, though some put the psalms or other writings in a third category.
Before we look at Jesus’ words in Mark, I want to examine a passage from the prophet Isaiah. This is a poem…a love song.

Isaiah 5:1 (NLT)    Now I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a rich and fertile hill.
2 He plowed the land, cleared its stones,
and planted it with the best vines.
In the middle he built a watchtower
and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.
Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes,
but the grapes that grew were bitter.

Isaiah 5:3    Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah,
you judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more could I have done for my vineyard
that I have not already done?
When I expected sweet grapes,
why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?

Isaiah 5:5    Now let me tell you
what I will do to my vineyard:
I will tear down its hedges
and let it be destroyed.
I will break down its walls
and let the animals trample it.
6 I will make it a wild place
where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,
a place overgrown with briers and thorns.
I will command the clouds
to drop no rain on it.

Isaiah 5:7    The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.
He expected a crop of justice,
but instead he found oppression.
He expected to find righteousness,
but instead he heard cries of violence.

In case you missed it, the vineyard owner is God and the vineyard is Israel. The vineyard failed to produce good fruit in the same way the people of Israel abandoned justice and righteousness for oppression and violence. It sounds a bit like our world today, doesn’t it?

It’s likely that this passage had been memorized by some of Jesus’ audience when

Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. (Mark 12:1)   

I’m sure they were saying to themselves, “We know this story. We know how it ends. We can reenact it right now.”

This was actually a common arrangement. Vineyard owners would rent their land to farmers in return for a share of the harvest.

There’s a lot of talk these days about tenants, people who rent land or property from a landlord. The COVID-19 pandemic led the government to make it more difficult for landlords to evict tenants who lost their jobs and were unable to pay their rent.

The relationship between tenant and landlord can often be a little tricky. As I mentioned last month, expectations are crucial in any relationship. This is why we have contracts that spell out the arrangement.

At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. (Mark 12:2)   

There is no surprise here. This was exactly what was supposed to happen.

But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. (Mark 12:3)   

This was not supposed to happen! What kind of tenants would do such a thing?

Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. (Mark 12:4)   

The original Greek word for “struck on the head” is similar to the word for beheaded, which could be a subtle reference to John the Baptist.

He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. (Mark 12:5)   

These tenants are ruthless! They not only pay the crops to the vineyard owner, they violently attack every member of the collection agency!

“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ (Mark 12:6)   

Does this seem a little naïve? The owner is going to send his son? His only son? His son whom he loved? In the culture, a family member of a wealthy household would be respected far more than a servant.

If the son shows up, the tenants might assume the owner is dead.

“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. (Mark 12:7-8)   

These are evil tenants! How dare they reject the son! They surely thought they would lay claim to the property if the owner and His son are dead. In the Jewish culture, squatters could claim the property of a deceased person who had no inheritor.

In this case they not only killed the owner’s only son, they threw him unburied, a terrible offense to Jews.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. (Mark 12:9)   

Is that harsh? Is that fair? In Isaiah, God punished the vineyard or Israel for not producing good fruit. Here, the tenants are clearly to blame. The religious leaders caused Israel’s corruption…and now they will be removed.

10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

“ ‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Mark 12:10-11)   

This is another Old Testament quote, this time from Psalm 118:22. Many believe this was sung at the dedication of the second Temple or Jerusalem’s rebuilt walls. It was sung on Palm Sunday in the previous chapter!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Jesus is the son. The stone was a symbol for the Messiah. God sent his son to earth, knowing he would be killed. Jesus is the rejected one. He is the cornerstone. Up until this point, the religious leaders thought the tenants were the evil Romans, but now they realize Jesus is saying they are the tenants, the violent ones in charge of the vineyard (Israel). The tenants in the story are the leaders of Israel.

The surprise in the story is the good guys—or at least the righteous-looking religious leaders—are actually the bad guys. The servants in the story, by the way, are the prophets sent by God. If you know anything about biblical prophets, they were hated and persecuted.

There are three special offices or positions in the Old Testament: prophet, priest, and king. Jesus is all three…the greatest prophet, our great high priest, and the King of kings.

Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away. (Mark 12:12)   

The religious leaders would kill Jesus soon. He would die. But he is risen! He is risen indeed!

So What?

I wrestled for a while this past week trying to discern what relevance this story has for us today. Here are a few reflections:

  1. 1. The Old and New Testaments are two parts of the same story. This might not be news to some of you, but Jesus updating Isaiah’s story shows both his knowledge of the ancient account and his masterful use of retelling.

  1. 2. Biblical prophecy gives credibility to the Bible. This is one of many account in which Jesus predicted his own death. This parable became reality on Good Friday. We don’t worship the Bible. We worship Jesus, but the Bible is a reliable tool we have to know and understand God and His plan for humanity. It’s not just a bunch of fairy tales or the result of a dream (or indigestion). It’s a historically accurate, archaeologically-verifiable library of books assembled in multiple languages from multiple continents over hundreds of years…with one overarching metanarrative of God’s love for us and His desire for us to respond in obedience.

  1. 3. God wants a relationship with us. He wants a relationship with you. Does He have one? This is where the religious leaders missed the boat. They tried to be good, moral people but failed to do the only two things God requires: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

  1. 4. In the story, the Jews were God’s chosen people. They were the fruitless vineyard. Today, the Church is understood to be God’s people. God—the vineyard owner—gave the vineyard to the Church. If we are God’s vineyard today, what kind of fruit are we bearing? What kind of fruit are you bearing? If you look at the passages that surround today’s text, you’ll get an idea of what God requires of us.

  1. a. Our place of worship is to be a house of prayer for all nations (Mark 11:17)
  2. b. We are to be a forgiving family (11:25)
  3. c. We are to give to God what belongs to God (12:17)
  4. d. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (12:30)
  5. e. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (12:31)

The fruit we owe the owner—God—is our obedience. We are to be an accepting, prayerful, devoted, forgiving, and loving fellowship built around Jesus, the cornerstone that binds everything together. Otherwise, we may face God’s judgment. Good fruit comes from being connected to vine…Jesus (John 15).

The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the LORD has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:22-23)

Jesus was hated and rejected. He was pierced, crushed, and crucified. But he conquered sin and death. He is risen! He is risen indeed! The LORD has done this! It is marvelous! This is the greatest story ever told!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Is The End Near? 14 June 2020

Is the End Near?
Series—What in the World is Going On?

Big Idea:
Are you ready for the return of Jesus? Are others?

What in the world is going on?
If you’re like me, you’ve asked that question a lot lately.

The deadly coronavirus is one thing. The lockdowns and ensuring chaos have been—at least for many—even worse.

The senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are one thing. The ensuring protests and violence are—at least for many—even worse.

What in the world is going on? Are these the last days? Is Jesus coming back soon? If so, what difference does it make?

Last week I mentioned one of the most common questions I get is, “Are we living in the end times? Are these the last days? Paul wrote these words to his disciple, Timothy:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Does that describe our world today? I think so!

Does that describe Paul and Timothy’s day in the first century? Yes!

The Bible is not always the easiest book to understand. I think we can discern the meaning of Exodus 20:13. It says,

“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)

But what about those other passages which talk about beasts and horns and fire? It can be confusing…and even scary.

The Bible is not a book. It’s a collection of books…sixty-six books written over hundreds of years in multiple languages by a variety of authors…yet they fit together as one beautiful story. When we study the Bible, we must ask three questions:

  • - What did it mean then? This is known as exegesis. It is important to discover the original, intended meaning of a passage because a text cannot mean what it never meant.

  • - What does it mean now? This is known as hermeneutics.

  • - How do we apply it to our lives? So what?

(Note: a great resource for hermeneutics—studying the Bible—is Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth)

This is a simple process, but not necessarily easy!

One of the key factors in reading the Bible is understanding the type of literature. If you go into a bookstore (remember those?!), you can find graphic novels, reference volumes, comic books, biographies, and satire. If you don’t understand the difference, you’ll almost certainly end up with some crazy conclusions!

In the same way, we cannot read the poetry of the Psalms the same way we read the laws of Leviticus. The stories of the prophets are different from Paul’s personal letters. There’s one type of literature that is especially fascinating and misunderstood: apocalyptic.

VIDEO: Apocalyptic Literature,

One of the most provocative chapters in the Bible is Matthew 24. Jesus responds to his disciples’ questions about the end of the age.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:4-8)

He’s speaking of the end, right? Actually, he says in verse six these “things must happen, but the end is still to come.” When will all of this occur? It already has! I can prove it!

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. (Matthew 24:9)

He’s not speaking to us. He’s talking to his followers about 2000 years ago! They all died in the first century, nearly all of them martyred.

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:10-13)

Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience looking for signs of the Messiah. You may have heard this is about a future event, but it’s obvious Jesus is speaking about first-century events, specifically the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70.

This past week I was listening to the Alliance’s EquippingU podcast where they were discussing the moral decline of our nation, the marginalization of Christianity, and opposition to the views of the Church. These verses in Matthew sound a lot like our present day. One person said that we no longer have home-field advantage, to which the other speaker said those in the first century would remark that we still have it easy compared to their experience living under Roman rule.

If we read the Bible as if it was written to us, we’ll end up with some radically different conclusions than if we understand it was written for us. These events Jesus is describing already occurred…yet we can relate to them today.

Some have said there are four approaches to apocalyptic texts:

Preterist these events occurred around the time the text was written (“past”)
Idealist this describes the ongoing conflict between good and evil
Historicist this helps us understand God’s perspective in human history
Futurist these describe events in the future, before and during the end times

Which approach is the best? It depends! In some cases, more than one might be useful.

Despite the difficult conditions of the early church in the first century, the Holy Spirit came (Acts 2) and did incredible things, moving the Church from Jerusalem to regions across the known world. Jesus predicted that, too!

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
(Matthew 24:14)

This is a famous verse in the Christian & Missionary Alliance. It has been understood by some to mean when everyone on the planet hears the good news of Jesus, Christ will return. If we evangelize the whole world, we can go home!

I’m not saying that’s necessarily wrong, but it’s not what Jesus was referencing. This was fulfilled nineteen centuries ago!

It is possible that it speaks of two eras, one in the past and one in the future. This is true for some prophecy even about the Messiah. Some speak of the first coming of Jesus, others his return, and perhaps some describe both!

So What?

Are these the end times? Yes…but they began around AD 70! Actually, the war began in 66 AD until 70 AD.

Is the anti-Christ alive today? It’s possible, but previous generations said the same thing. Does it really matter?

Is Jesus returning soon? Absolutely! He said so…about two thousand years ago!

It can be fascinating to listen to predictions, look for prophetic fulfillment in the news, and get excited about the Second Coming of Christ, but there’s really only two things we must do:

  1. 1. Get ready.
  2. 2. Get others ready.

Get Ready. Jesus said later in Matthew 24,

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44)

Jesus is coming. When? Soon! In our lifetime? I have no idea! All I know is we’re one day closer than we were yesterday! The point is to get ready. If you want to study this chapter, many believe the first 35 verses were fulfilled in 70 AD (preterist), while verses 36-51 speak of the future (futurist)

Someday this body will die. It might be from COVID, cancer, or a car accident. We don’t know when, but the odds are pretty good! Only one generation will be alive when Jesus returns. It might be ours, it might be thousands of years from now.

I’m afraid too many people waste time and energy trying to figure out the
when instead of focusing on the Who.

After describing many great men and women of faith, the writer of Hebrews continues,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Family, we need to fix our eyes—and our attention—on Jesus. Will there be trials? Absolutely! Will people hate us? In every generation. Will we be martyrs? It’s always possible, and not historically unusual.

We need to turn our eyes away from the tv news and social media and toward Jesus. Followers of Jesus have no reason to fear. None. Zero. Zip! When we look to him, we will not grow weary and lose heart. We will not freak out about chaos in the world, instead preparing for the new heaven and new earth. We must be ready for our end…and get others ready, too. Tomorrow may be too late.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Family, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. He’s the reason we’re here. He’s our hope—not our economy, politicians, or popularity. From Genesis until the end of Revelation, God is in control. He’s got this! We need to get ready…and we need to help others get ready, too. Now is the time to share good news with our family, friends, and even strangers. We need to pray, engage in spiritual conversations, and tell our story. Perhaps the best way to love well is to introduce people not to religion, but to Jesus.

These are crazy times. Are these the last days? Maybe. We’ve been in the end times for two thousand years, but someday Jesus will return. Are you ready? Are your friends ready?

Family, our world is out of control. Coronavirus. Racism. Political divisions. Fear. Anxiety.

The world needs Jesus! He’s coming soon. Let’s get ready. Let’s get others ready. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Isaiah: Hope, 1 December 2019

Isaiah: Hope
Series—Away in a Manger
Isaiah 40:3-5, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Isaiah 60:2-3, Isaiah 9:2, 6-7, Matthew 1:20-25

Series Big Idea:
The Skit Guys have provided us with resources to view Advent from five different perspectives.

Big Idea:
Isaiah’s people were exiles in need of hope, not unlike our captivity to sin and need of salvation today.

It’s finally here! The turkey has been put away, the credit cards are maxed out, The Game is over, and Advent has begun, this season of expectant waiting and preparing for both the celebration of Jesus’ first arrival to our world and his promised return. The word “advent” comes from a Latin word meaning “coming,” and we’re spending this month focused on the first and second comings of the Messiah.

Throughout our series
Away in a Manger, we’re going to look at the nativity of Jesus from the perspectives of various characters in the story, covering the five themes of Advent in the five Sundays of December. Today’s theme is hope and our character is a prophet who wrote about 700 years before the birth of Jesus, yet his predictions were spot-on, giving tremendous credibility to both the Holy Bible and our faith.

Do you like music? Do you like Christmas music? I love Christmas music, though I always wait until I see Santa in the Thanksgiving Day parade before I listen to it. One of the things that makes Christmastime so special is how it engages all of our senses: we hear the carols, eat the gingerbread, touch the ornaments, smell the pine tree, and see the lights. Perhaps the greatest soundtrack of the season was composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel…The Messiah. How many have attended a performance of it?

If you’re familiar with it, you surely recognized our scripture reading today from the book of Isaiah, whose name means “the salvation of Yahweh” or “the salvation of God”:

A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Every Valley Shall Be Exalted (2 versions)

Most every year at this time I think about doing a sermon series on Handel’s Messiah. Interestingly, it covers more of the Good Friday events than the Christmas story, so maybe this spring…!!!

Back to Isaiah, he made at least nineteen different prophecies that were fulfilled centuries later by Jesus the Messiah.

(You can find a chart of them

Although Handel tied it together with chapter 40, it says in chapter 52

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. (Isaiah 52:13)

Jesus said,

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)

Paul said of Jesus,

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Perhaps the most famous prophesy related to Advent states,

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin
will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

This was echoed by Matthew when he wrote his gospel or “good news” about Jesus.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:22-23)

I might add “Immanuel” is one of my favorite words for Jesus. He came and become one of us. Although it occurred two thousand years ago, God came to earth. He laughed and cried, knew joy and hardship, was tempted in every way, and understands pain of the most horrific kind. While Jesus is physically beyond our planet, he knows suffering. He can relate to whatever trial you are facing today. He was with us, he is with us by the Holy Spirit who lives in every follower of Jesus, and one day soon he will be with us again when he returns, the second “coming” which we remember during Advent.

When Isaiah wrote his prophecies, the people of God had become unruly and disobedient. Their sins brought death and destruction and their abandonment of God brought about devastation. Isaiah understood the only way the people could experience peace was through repentance, turning away from their sin and rebellion and returning to God.

I believe that message is spot-on in our nation today. Other than Christmas, it seems the only time we hear the name of Jesus outside of a church gathering is when it’s used as a swear word.

(When did it ever occur to someone to use Jesus as profanity? Why not Pinocchio or Hitler or even satan?)

We are a divided nation, an anxious nation, a fearful nation. Is it any wonder? Life apart from God will always break down eventually. We’re simply not wise enough our own. We were created for relationship with God and one another, yet it seems like every day we’re bombarded with another message stating it’s all about us.

In Isaiah’s day,
foreign nations such as Assyria and Babylon overtook God’s people and eventually led them into exile. That means they were taken from their homes and land. Imagine being kicked out of your home this afternoon, maybe sent to a different city, state, or even country. Some of you know what displacement is all about.
People that experience exile for any length of time hope for survival and rescue. When we read the news today—whether we’re in our homes or not—it’s obvious we’re not following God. Our cities are filled with abuse, violence, corruption, human trafficking, addiction, exploitation, divorce, pornography, disease, debt, depression, and other signs the enemy is experiencing some victories.
What we need is hope!
When we were preparing to distribute goodie bags with Saturate Toledo, I reminded our teams not to worry about soliciting. We weren’t soliciting. I told them they were delivering good news. They were hope dealers!
Isaiah offered hope to those in exile, proclaiming the coming of Messiah. One of my favorite prophecies is found in chapter 61:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, (Isaiah 61:1)

That’s what Jesus did, and today we re-present Jesus to our world. We are to be his hands and feet, proclaiming good news to the poor…and rich. We are called to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

We do that through Cherry Street Mission.
We do that through Kairos Prison Ministry.
We do that through Dinner Church.

We are hope dealers!

We aren’t the hope, but we deal it, we deliver it, we proclaim it. Jesus is the hope of the world!

Hollywood’s not the hope.
Government’s not the hope.
Our school systems are not the hope.
Science isn’t the hope.
Jesus is the hope of the world! He was. He is. He will always be.

Listen to these hopeful words from Isaiah:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Could we use that today?

Could you use a Wonderful Counselor?
Could you use a Mighty God?
Could you use an Everlasting Father?
Could you use a Prince of Peace?

Hope came about 700 years after Isaiah prophesied these things. His name, Jesus, means “God saves.” About 700 year after Jesus was born, a group of monks sang a song which would become “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Here’s a little background on the song from Eric Metaxas:

“I want you to imagine yourself in a monastery in the 8th century. It’s December 17th and you’ve gathered with your brothers for Vespers, the sun-set prayer service. As with all Vespers, at the heart of the service is the chanting of select psalms, each of them preceded and followed by what is known as an antiphon, a sung or recited response. What sets December 17th apart, and the six nights that follow it, are the seven antiphons used only on these nights. Each one is a name of Christ – specifically, they are Messianic titles from the book of Isaiah: Sapieta (wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix (Root of Jesse), Clavis (Key of David), Oriens (Dayspring), Rex (King of the Nations), and Emmanuel.
Because each of these titles is preceded by the word “O,” they are known as the “O Antiphones.” If this sounds familiar, it should. I have just given you a glimpse into the origins of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” – the greatest Advent, or should I say, Christian Hymn of all time. While I asked you to imagine an 8th-century monastery, the O Antiphons predate the 8th century. The Roman philosopher Boethius, who lived in the late 5th and early 6th centuries, alludes to them in his writings. It’s reasonable to suppose, as one scholar put it, that ‘in some fashion, the O Antiphons have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early church.’
But it’s what they teach us, and not just their antiquity, that gives them their power. The composer and musicologist Robert Greenberg has noted that if you take the first letter of each of the Messianic titles in reverse order, by December 23rd, you have the Latin phrase ERO CRAS which means, ‘Tomorrow I will come.’”
While yesterday in exile may have been bad and today may not seem to be much better, we have hope knowing that if not tomorrow, soon, He will come again. The second Advent is closer than we may realize even if we feel like exile has lasted far too long from our vantage point of life. If we feel like we are still in exile, may we join with the monks and the many throughout the ages who have sung the song of advent hope: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel.”
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Credits: Some ideas from The Skit Guys.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Messenger: John the Baptist, 30 April 2017

    Messenger: John the Baptist
    Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
    Mark 1:1-8

    Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

    Big Idea: John prepared the way for Jesus’ coming…and so can we.

    Holy Spirit

    Last night I returned from the Missio Alliance conference near Washington DC. It was a great opportunity to connect with new and old friends, hear from world-renown theologians, and be reminded of the most misunderstood member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

    If you are a follower of Jesus, you were given the Holy Spirit. God dwells within you. What an amazing reality, one we often forget. I have much to say at a later date about the Holy Spirit, but for now I simply want to welcome and acknowledge the Spirit’s presence here.

    Would you please take a moment of silence and pray, inviting the Holy Spirit to open your heart to the Word of God and to give me words to speak?


    Many years ago, I heard about this new rock group that allegedly had one or more Christians in it named Bourgeois Tagg. They were the opening act for singer Robert Palmer’s concert at Pine Knob, now DTE Music Theatre in metro Detroit. Some friends of mine asked if I wanted to go to the show, not to see the headliner, but to check out the opening act. We all liked their performance, and before I knew it we were backstage meeting the band! It was surreal for a teenager to be backstage with rock stars! They were excited to have fans thousands of miles from their Sacramento home. It was a memorable night for all of us.

    Over the years I’ve spent enough time talking with touring musicians to know being an opening act can be a tough gig. You usually stand between the fans and the headliner. It can be great exposure for a new artist, but it can also be a struggle.

    Have you ever been an opening act? Maybe you played on the junior varsity team before the varsity team took the court or field. Perhaps you introduced a keynote speaker at a big event, aware that people did not come to see you!

    Today we’re going to look at Jesus’ opening act, his cousin John.


    In Jesus’ day, a messenger would precede the arrival of any important person. Today, the media lets us know if a rock star, celebrity, or politician is coming to town. Imagine a world without the Internet, TV, radio, or even newspapers. Messengers would ensure the roads were in good repair (good luck in Toledo!), make arrangements for food and lodging, and announce the arrival of the dignitary. This is what John did for Jesus.

    Last week we looked at the first verse of the book of Mark in our quest to discover the real Jesus. Charles Carter told me if we take one verse each week we’ll be studying the book for more than ten years! Today we’ll tackle seven more verses, but first, let’s review verse one:

    The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1)

    Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. He is God. Jesus is 100% and 100% human. This book is the gospel—or good news—of Mark. Jesus is the gospel. The gospel is Jesus is LORD.

    The comma at the end of the verse is not a typo. The sentence continues in verse 2:

    as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: 
    “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way” — 
    “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
    ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’ ” (Mark 1:2-3)

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the reasons I trust Jesus is the hundreds of prophecies he fulfilled. This is actually a collection of three different Old Testament books—Exodus (23:20), Malachi (3:1), and Isaiah (40:3). These writings said hundreds of years before the birth of Christ a messenger would come before Jesus. John the Baptist is that messenger.

    And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4)

    Were there baptism before Christian baptism? Yes!

    In first-century Judaism, people would cleanse themselves according to the book of Leviticus when they were impure from things such as touching a leper or a corpse. Later, when Gentiles converted to Judaism, the meaning of baptism was extended as a sign of the covenant given to Abraham.

    This does not fully explain John’s “baptism of repentance.” One group at Qumran, the people known for creating the Dead Sea scrolls, believed a person could not become clean if they disobeyed God’s commandments. Their manual stated,

    "For it is through the spirit of God's true counsel concerning the ways of man that all his sins be expiated, and when his flesh is sprinkled with purifying water, it shall be made clean by the humble submission of his soul to all the precepts of God."

    To enter their community, one would need to “go into the wilderness to prepare there the way of Him; as it is written, ‘Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a path for our God.” The wilderness is key in Jewish history, the place where they were tested, where they rebelled against God, and where they sinned and repented.

    John preached repentance, urging people to turn away from their sins. To repent is to turn away, to do a 180. The Greek word is “metanoia” and means a change of mind or direction. John was preaching of the need for people to change, to get off the throne of their lives and surrender to God. He was obviously very effective.

    The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. (Mark 1:5)

    People traveled to see this preacher. It had been more than 300 years since a prophet was active in Israel. They were convicted of their sins, confessed them, and were immersed in water, in the Jordan River.

    Water is a powerful image throughout the Bible. It begins at creation, as God separates the waters from the earth. It covers the earth during the days of Noah. God miraculously parts the sea through Moses, allowing the people to walk on dry ground with water on either side. Huge crowds of people (the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem; not literally, of course!) were visiting John. He must’ve been quite popular. As opening acts go, he was developing his own fan base, perhaps partly because of his appearance.

    John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:6)

    Just think about that for a moment! Notice the detail. Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four, a book of headlines. When you vivid descriptions, don’t miss them. John is quite the fashion statement! There’s more than meets the eye. This description is similar to that of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). His unusual diet was part of the prophetic tradition. Locusts were kosher. But remember, he had a greater mission, to prepare the way of the LORD. He was a messenger.

    It’s interesting to note there were other messengers announcing Jesus’ arrival. Old Testament prophets predicted it. The angel Gabriel told Mary. Now John is the messenger.

    Let’s not forget John had a messenger, too. The angel Gabriel first appeared to John’s father, Zechariah, to announce his birth. This was a big deal since John’s parents were elderly, surprised, and somewhat doubtful about having a son. We have messengers all over the stories of John and his six-month younger cousin, Jesus.

    And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. Mark 1:7

    John knows he’s just the opening act. He’s preparing the way. He’s getting people ready for the coming of the Messiah. Despite his popularity as the first prophet in 300 years, he humbly acknowledges his role as messenger and the arrival of someone much greater.

    I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8)

    Baptize means to immerse, to overwhelm, to submerge. This is what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives. As John prepares the way for Jesus, Jesus prepares the way for the Holy Spirit. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus said

    But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

    Have you ever wished Jesus was here? Me too! Jesus said it was good for Him to leave, though, to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us—all of us. Do you trust Jesus? He prepared the way for the Holy Spirit, a wonderful gift available to all of us who surrender to the Spirit.

    Now catch this! Jesus said

    Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

    I want to give you an assignment for this series. As we go through the book of Mark, think about what it would mean for us to do what Jesus is doing in the text.

    Let’s review:

    Gabriel announces the births of John and Jesus
    John prepares the way for Jesus first coming
    Jesus prepares the way for the Holy Spirit
    The Holy Spirit fills us.
    We are invited to prepare the way for Jesus’ second coming
    We are called to be messengers. We are to prepare the way for the return of the King. We are to announce His arrival.

    I know the idea of being a messenger for Jesus may sound scary or weird. What do we do, go door-to-door and tell everyone to get ready for Jesus? That’s one way to do it! Perhaps another way is to stop, be still, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the name of a person, pray for them, and ask the Spirit for an opportunity to talk with them about Jesus. Here are a few simple starter questions:

    Do you believe in God? Why or why not?
    Who is Jesus?
    Who is Jesus to you?
    Where are you at on your spiritual journey?
    When have you felt the most loved?

    When it comes to proclaiming the truth of Jesus, it should never feel forced. We’re not sales people for Jesus, getting others to sign up for church membership or fire insurance. We’ve been given the Holy Spirit to guide us, to lead us, to allow us to re-present God in word and deed to our world. It’s not about us. We’re just the opening act. We’re only the messengers preparing the way for the coming of the King of kings, Jesus Christ. We are privileged to let the whole world see our risen King!

    Credits: some ideas from NT Wright, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Palm Sunday, 9 April 2017

    Palm Sunday
    Series: A Love That Never Dies
    Matthew 21:1-11

    Series Big Idea:
    Throughout Lent, we prepare for Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return

    Big Idea: We can shout, "Crucify," "Save us now," or praises.

    Matthew 21:8-11

    Today is Palm Sunday, the remembrance of an interesting parade in Jerusalem, a procession planned centuries earlier. The prophet Zechariah wrote

    Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
    See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
    lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

    (Zechariah 9:9)

    What was the meaning of this assembly? What’s the big deal with Palm Sunday?

    Have you ever been to a parade? There’s something exciting about marching bands, floats, waving celebrities…and candy. Don’t forget candy. I think that was my favorite part, as a kid, racing to pick up candy off the ground!

    This parade was not announced with TV ads and Facebook invitations. It wasn’t an annual festival like the 4
    th of July or Memorial Day. The setting was the city of Jerusalem. Jesus was attracting crowds, teaching the scriptures like no other rabbi, infuriating the religious people, and healing the sick. His name was a lightning rod of controversy, perhaps not unlike Trump, Obama, or Putin today. You loved him or you hated him. Rumors spread about his friend, Lazarus, being raised from the dead (John 12:17-19), and the crowd was hoping to see this dead man walking. Wouldn’t you? Matthew chapter 21 begins…

    As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21:1-3)

    I love this! In our day, it might be, “Hank and Ryan, go to the Ford dealer up the street, tell the owner you’re borrowing a Mustang for the Lord, and drive it here.”

    This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

    “Say to Daughter Zion,‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” (Matthew 21:4-5)

    Don’t miss this! One of the reasons we can fully trust Jesus and the Bible is prophecy. Jesus himself fulfilled over three hundred Old Testament prophecies stated centuries before his birth. Here’s one. Zechariah prophesied Palm Sunday.

    The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. (Matthew 21:6-8)

    The people made way for this processional. There was no police escort or blocked-off streets, but the crowd made their own path to welcome Jesus into the city.

    King Solomon rode into Jerusalem on a donkey centuries earlier, lowly transport for a king. Jesus was even more powerful than Solomon, yet the ultimate demonstration of humility.

    Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself  by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)

    This is our God. This is our King. Jesus loved the people of Jerusalem with an everlasting love, a love that would not die. He looked into their eyes. He heard their cries.

    The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 

    “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
    “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 
    “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)

    This was likely not the crowd who would yell, “Crucify him!” This group seems to be spontaneously assembled, more like those Jesus called “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” They were desperate. “Hosanna” meant “save now,” a plea for help, salvation, and rescue, though it seems to have an element of praise and adoration in this scene.

    The road would have been rough and rocky. Even today it is anything but smooth. Jesus was a celebrity, riding on a donkey, jostling from one side to the other.

    Jesus knew the road ahead, not just the path of the people but the path to the cross, the instrument of death he would face days later. Yet Jesus did not weep for himself. He was sad for the city, for Jerusalem, for its people, it children. He knew the crowds were looking for freedom, deliverance from Rome. They were probably less aware of the oppression of their sins, but they sought a savior from tyranny.

    When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:10)

    The whole city was stirred. Children were especially noisy and excited. Perhaps they heard of Jesus’ great love for kids in a world where only men were given respect and honor. We know the religious leaders were greatly disturbed by the cheering of the children, maybe aware of how kids often bring their parents to faith.

    I want to camp out for a moment on the city’s question, “Who is this?”

    The people did not have access to 24/7 news channels, billboards, newspapers, or websites. Even if they did, photography had not yet been invented! It was natural for them to wonder who was drawing such attention.

    Who is this? This may be the most important question in human history.

    The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:11)

    Who is Jesus? A prophet? A teacher? God? Human? Messiah? King? Savior? Lord?
    Who is Jesus? That’s what you and I must answer.

    Last week we read about a sign placed above his head, “King of the Jews.” Is he your king?

    Just as his donkey stumbled on the rough road, he knows our road can be difficult. It can be rocky. There can be unexpected surprises, both good and bad. There are joys and sorrows, victories and disappointments. Where is he when things get tough? He is with us, Emmanuel, God with us. I realize this is bittersweet—comforting to know he is present but frustrating when he doesn’t intervene and fix everything broken in our world. “If you’re here, prove it!”

    I don’t have easy answers. I don’t understand a lot of things in this world—death, loss, pain…but he does. Jesus is not a fairy tale character. He’s not a superhero who flew above the storms of life. He experienced temptation and trials. On purpose! He chose to suffer. He went from the streets of Jerusalem to the way of the cross, from palms to passion, from agony to death…and then from death to resurrection. But that’s next Sunday.

    So What?

    The crowds had expectations for Jesus. They wanted him to rescue them from Roman rule. They wanted him to heal their sick. They had plans for him!

    What about you? What expectations do you have for Jesus? A pain-free life? Happiness? Financial prosperity? Instant answers to all of your prayers?

    Jesus knew the hearts of the crowds who shouted, “Hosanna! Save us now!” He knew the hearts of the crowds who would shout, “Crucify him!” He knows your heart and mine, our selfish impulses, our hopes, our dreams, and our secret sins. Yet he loves us. He forgives us for our misguided motives. He washes our sins white as snow. And that gives us reason to sing, reason to rejoice. Today we praise Jesus because he is worthy. He is alive. He demonstrated his love for us. He offers forgiveness and reconciliation. He heals diseases and broken relationships. He provides peace, hope, and joy. We love him because he first loved us.

    Credits: Some ideas from Rev. Steven H. Albers, CTA.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • God With Us, 20 December 2015

    God With Us
    Series: Be Here Now
    Matthew 1:18-23

    Series Overview:
    Christmas is the celebration of “presence.”

    Big Idea: God is fully present with us…and Jesus will return soon.


    This morning we conclude our series “Be Here Now,” a series about presence. The first two weeks we talked about how important it is for us to be fully present with one another and with God, a challenge in our multi-tasking, screen-filled, noisy world…especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

    Last Sunday we shifted from our presence to God’s presence with us. We read several passages from the Psalms written by David where he declares the presence of God even in the midst of suffering and fear. His faith in God was stellar…and yet the Messiah had not yet come to earth. In fact, it would be hundreds of years until Isaiah prophesied…

    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

    David—and Isaiah—could only imagine the events we celebrate this week.

    Proclaim FM’s sign is correct. Christmas is about three words: God with us.

    In his book
    Radical, David Platt tells this fascinating story:

    I remember sitting outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia. Men and women filled the elaborate, colorful temple grounds, where they daily performed their religious rituals. Meanwhile, I was engaged in a conversation with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader in this particular community. They were discussing how all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different. “We may have different views about small issues,” one of them said, “but when it comes down to essential issues, each of our religions is the same.” I listened for a while, and then they asked me what I thought. I said, “It sounds as though you both picture God (or whatever you call god) at the top of a mountain. It seems as if you believe that we are all at the bottom of the mountain, and I may take one route up the mountain, you may take another, and in the end we will all end up in the same place.” They smiled as I spoke. Happily they replied, “Exactly! You understand!” Then I leaned in and said, “Now let me ask you a question. What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are? What would you think if I told you that God doesn’t wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?” They thought for a moment and then responded, “That would be great.” I replied, “Let me introduce you to Jesus.”

    I get frustrated when I hear religions lumped together. Religion is man’s search for God. Jesus did not come to start another religion. He came to bring God to us.

    This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

    But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

    All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:18-23)

    Let’s set aside the fact a virgin named Mary become pregnant.

    Let’s set aside the fact an angel visited Mary…and Joseph.

    Let’s set aside the fact this baby fulfilled prophesies that were hundreds of years old.

    Let’s even set aside the fact this baby would become the most famous and controversial figure in human history, teach the most quoted truths ever recorded, model for us what it means to be truly human, perform miracles, die for us, conquer sin, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven.

    God is with us.

    God was with us. God will be with us. God is with us now.

    Jesus came. Jesus is coming. Jesus is here.

    Jesus came.

    Advent and Christmas are similar yet different. Advent is a time of waiting. The Latin word means “coming.” The first meaning of Advent refers to the first coming of Jesus the Messiah. He uniquely fulfilled hundreds of prophesies, about 324 to be exact. Here they are:

    Gen. 3:15.....He will bruise Satan's head.....Heb. 2:14, 1 Jn. 3:18
    Gen. 5:24....The bodily ascension to heaven illustrated....Mk. 6:19 Gen. 9:26,27...The God of Shem will be the Son of Shem...Lu. 3:36 Gen. 12:3...As Abraham's seed, will bless all nations...Acts. 3:25,26 Gen. 12:7...The Promise made to Abraham's Seed...Gal. 3:16 Gen. 14:18...A priest after Melchizedek...Heb. 6:20 Gen. 14:18........A King also........Heb. 7:2 Gen. 14:18...The Last Supper foreshadowed...Mt. 26:26-29 Gen. 17:19.......The Seed of Isaac.......Rom. 9:7 Gen. 22:8...The Lamb of God promised...Jn. 1:29 Gen. 22:18...As Isaac's seed, will bless all nations...Gal. 3:16 Gen.26:2-5..The Seed of Isaac promised as the Redeemer..Heb.11:18 Gen. 49:10...The time of His coming...Lu. 2:1-7; Gal. 4:4 Gen. 49:10.......The Seed of Judah.......Lu. 3:33 Gen. 49:10......Called Shiloh or One Sent......Jn. 17:3 Gen. 49:10...To come before Judah lost identity...Jn. 11:47-52 Gen. 49:10...To Him shall the obedience of the people be...Jn. 10:16 Ex. 3:13,14........The Great "I Am".......Jn. 4:26 Ex. 12:5...A Lamb without blemish...1 Pet. 1:19 Ex. 12:13...The blood of the Lamb saves from wrath...Rom. 5:8 Ex. 12:21-27...Christ is our Passover...1 Cor. 5;7 Ex. 12:46...Not a bone of the Lamb to be broken...Jn. 19:31-36 Ex. 15:2...His exaltation predicted as Yeshua...Acts 7:55,56 Ex. 15:11...His Character-Holiness...Luke 1:35; Acts 4:27 Ex. 17:6...The Spiritual Rock of Israel...1 Cor. 10;4 Ex. 33:19...His Character-Merciful...Lu. 1:72 Lev.14:11..The leper cleansed-Sign to priesthood..Lu.5:12-14; Acts 6:7 Lev.16:15-17...Prefigures Christ's once-for-all death...Heb. 9:7-14 Lev.16:27...Suffering outside the Camp...Mt. 27:33; Heb. 13:11, 12 Lev.17:11...The Blood-the life of the flesh...Mt. 26;28; Mk. 10:45 Lev.17:11...It is the blood that makes atonement...1 Jn. 3:14-18 Lev.23:36-37...The Drink-offering: "If any man thirst." ..Jn. 19:31-36 Num. 9:12...Not a bone of Him broken...John 19:31-36 Num. 21:9...The serpent on a pole-Christ lifted up...Jn. 3:14-18 Num. 24:17...Time: "I shall see him, but not now."...Gal. 4:4 Deut. 18:15..."This is of a truth that prophet."...Jn. 6:14 Deut. 18:15-16..."Had ye believed Moses, ye would believe me."...Jn. 5:45-47 Deut. 18:18...Sent by the Father to speak His word...Jn. 8:28, 29 Deut. 18:19...Whoever will not hear must bear his sin...Jn. 12:15, Deut. 21:23...Cursed is he that hangs on a tree...Gal. 3:10-13 Ruth 4:4-9...Christ, our kinsman, has redeemed us...Eph. 1:3-7 1 Sam. 2:10...Shall be an anointed King to the Lord...Mt. 28:18; Jn. 12:15 2 Sam. 7:12...David's Seed...Mt. 1:1 2 Sam. 7:14a...The Son of God... Lu. 1:32 2 Sam. 7:16...David's house established forever...Lu. 3:31; Rev. 22:16 2 Ki. 2:11...The bodily ascension to heaven illustrated...Lu. 24:51 1 Chr. 17:11...David's Seed...Mt. 1:1; 9:27 1 Chr. 17:12, 13a...To reign on David's throne forever...Lu. 1:32, 33 1 Chr. 17:13a..."I will be His Father, Son."...Heb. 1:5 Job 19:23-27...The Resurrection predicted...Jn. 5:24-29 Psa. 2:1-3...The enmity of kings foreordained...Acts 4:25-28 Psa. 2:2...To own the title, Anointed (Christ)...Acts 2:36 Ps. 2:6...His Character-Holiness...Jn. 8:46; Rev. 3:7 Ps. 2:6...To own the title King...Mt. 2:2 Ps. 2:7...Declared the Beloved Son...Mt. 3;17 Psa. 2:7, 8...The Crucifixion and Resurrection intimated...Acts 13:29-33 Psa. 2:12...Life comes through faith in Him...Jn. 20:31 Psa. 8:2...The mouths of babes perfect His praise...Mt. 21:16 Psa. 8:5, 6...His humiliation and exaltation...Lu. 24:50-53; 1 Cor. 15:27 Psa. 16:10...Was not to see corruption...Acts 2:31 Psa. 16:9-11...Was to arise from the dead...Jn. 20:9 Psa. 17;15...The resurrection predicted...Lu. 24:6 Psa. 22:1...Forsaken because of sins of others...2 Cor. 5:21 Psa. 22:1...Words spoken from Calvary, "My God..." Mk. 15:34 Psa. 22:2...Darkness upon Calvary...Mt. 27:45 Psa. 22:7...They shoot out the lip and shake the head...Mt. 27:39 Psa. 22:8..”He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him"...Mt. 27:43 Psa. 22:9......Born the Savior......Lu. 2:7 Psa. 22:14...Died of a broken (ruptured) heart...Jn. 19:34 Psa. 22:14,15...Suffered agony on Calvary...Mk. 15:34-37 Psa. 22:15........He thirsted........Jn. 19:28 Psa. 22:16...They pierced His hands and His feet....Jn. 19:34,37;20:27 Psa. 22:17,18...Stripped Him before the stares of men...Lu. 23:34,35 Psa. 22:18.....They parted His garments.....Jn. 19:23,24 Psa. 22:20,21...He committed Himself to God...Lu.23:46 Psa. 22:20,21..Satanic power bruising the Redeemer's heel..Heb. 2:14 Psa. 22:22.....His Resurrection declared.....Jn. 20:17 Psa. 22:27...He shall be the governor of the nations...Col 1:16 Psa. 22:31.....“It is finished"......Jn. 19:30 Psa. 23:1....“I am the Good Shepherd"....Jn. 10:11 Psa. 24:3......His exaltation predicted......Acts 1:11; Phil. 2:9 Psa. 30:3......His resurrection predicted......Acts 2:32 Psa. 31:5...“Into thy hands I commit my spirit"...Lu. 23:46 Psa. 31:11...His acquaintances fled from Him...Mk. 14:50 Psa. 31:13...They took counsel to put Him to death...Jn. 11:53 Psa. 31:14,15..." He trusted in God, let Him deliver him"...Mt. 27:43 Psa. 34:20.....Not a bone of Him broken.....Jn 19:31-36 Psa. 35:11....False witnesses rose up against Him....Mt. 26:59 Psa. 35:19...He was hated without a cause...Jn. 15:25 Psa. 38:11.....His friends stood afar off.....Lu. 23:49 Psa. 40:2-5...The joy of His resurrection predicted...Jn. 20:20 Psa. 40:6-8....His delight-the will of the Father....Jn. 4:34 Psa. 40:9....He was to preach the Righteousness in Israel....Mt. 4:17 Psa. 40:14...Confronted by adversaries in the Garden...Jn. 18:4-6 Psa. 41:9.....Betrayed by a familiar friend.....Jn. 13:18 Psa. 45:2...Words of Grace come from His lips...Lu. 4:22 Psa. 45:6...To own the title, God or Elohim...Heb. 1:8 Psa. 45:7...A special anointing by the Holy Spirit...Mt.3:16; Heb.1:9 Psa. 45:7,8...Called the Christ (Messiah or Anointed)...Lu. 2:11 Psa. 55:12-14...Betrayed by a friend, not an enemy...Jn. 13:18 Psa. 55:15...Unrepentant death of the Betrayer...Mt. 27:3-5; Acts 1:16-19 Psa. 68:18...To give gifts to men...Eph. 4:7-16 Psa. 68:18...Ascended into Heaven...Lu. 24:51 Psa. 69:4...Hated without a cause...Jn. 15:25 Psa. 69:8...A stranger to own brethren...Lu. 8;20,21 Psa. 69:9...Zealous for the Lord's House...Jn. 2:17 Psa. 69:14-20...Messiah's anguish of soul before crucifixion...Mt. 26:36-45 Psa. 69:20...“My soul is exceeding sorrowful."...Mt. 26:38 Psa. 69:21...Given vinegar in thirst...Mt. 27:34 Psa. 69:26...The Savior given and smitten by God...Jn. 17:4; 18:11 Psa. 72:10,11...Great persons were to visit Him...Mt. 2:1-11 Psa. 72:16...The corn of wheat to fall into the Ground...Jn. 12:24 Psa. 72:17...His name, Yinon, will produce offspring...Jn. 1:12,13 Psa. 72:17...All nations shall be blessed by Him...Acts 2:11,12,41 Psa. 78:1.2...He would teach in parables...Mt. 13:34-35 Psa. 78:2b...To speak the Wisdom of God with authority...Mt. 7:29 Psa. 88:8...They stood afar off and watched...Lu. 23:49 Psa. 89:27...Emmanuel to be higher than earthly kings...Lu. 1:32,33 Psa. 89:35-37...David's Seed, throne, kingdom endure forever...Lu. 1:32,33 Psa. 89:36-37...His character-Faithfulness...Rev. 1:5 Psa. 90:2...He is from everlasting (Micah 5:2)...Jn. 1:1 Psa. 91:11,12...Identified as Messianic; used to tempt Christ...Lu. 4;10,11 Psa. 97:9...His exaltation predicted...Acts 1:11;Eph. 1:20 Psa. 100:5...His character-Goodness...Mt. 19:16,17 Psa. 102:1-11...The Suffering and Reproach of Calvary...Jn. 21:16-30 Psa. 102:25-27...Messiah is the Preexistent Son...Heb. 1:10-12 Psa. 109:25...Ridiculed...Mt. 27:39 Psa. 110:1...Son of David...Mt. 22:43 Psa. 110:1...To ascend to the right-hand of the Father...Mk.16:19 Psa. 110:1...David's son called Lord...Mt. 22:44,45 Psa. 110:4...A priest after Melchizedek's order...Heb. 6:20 Psa. 112:4...His character-Compassionate, Gracious, et al... Mt. 9;36 Psa. 118:17,18...Messiah's Resurrection assured...Lu. 24:5-7;1 Cor. 15:20 Psa. 118:22,23...The rejected stone is Head of the corner...Mt. 21:42,43 Psa. 118:26a...The Blessed One presented to Israel...Mt. 21:9 Psa. 118:26b...To come while Temple standing...Mt. 21;12-15 Psa. 132:11...The Seed of David(the fruit of His Body)...Lu. 1:32 Psa. 138:1-6...The supremacy of David's Seed amazes kings... Mt. 2:2-6 Psa. 147:3,6...The earthly ministry of Christ described...Lu. 4:18 Psa. 1:23...He will send the Spirit of God... Jn. 16;7 Song. 5;16...The altogether lovely One...Jn. 1:17 Isa. 6:1...When Isaiah saw His glory... Jn. 12:40-41 Isa. 6:9-10...Parables fall on deaf ears...Mt. 13:13-15 Isa. 6:9-12...Blinded to Christ and deaf to His words...Acts. 28:23-29 Isa. 7:14...To be born of a virgin...Lu. 1:35 Isa. 7:14...To be Emmanuel-God with us... Mt. 1:18-23 Isa. 8:8...Called Emmanuel...Mt. 28:20 Isa. 8:14...A stone of stumbling, a Rock of offense... 1 Pet. 2:8 Isa. 9:1,2...His ministry to begin in Galilee...Mt. 4:12-17 Isa. 9:6...A child born-Humanity...Lu. 1:31 Isa. 9:6...A Son given-Deity...Lu. 1:32; Jn. 1;14; 1 Tim. 3:16 Isa. 9:6...Declared to be the Son of God with power... Rom. 1:3,4 Isa. 9:6...The Wonderful One, Peleh...Lu. 4:22 Isa. 9:6...The Counsellor, Yaatz...Mt. 13:54 Isa. 9:6...The Mighty God, El Gibor...Mt. 11:20 Isa. 9:6...The Everlasting Father, Avi Adth...Jn. 8:58 Isa. 9:6...The Prince of Peace, Sar Shalom...Jn . 16:33 Isa. 9:7...To establish an everlasting kingdom...Lu. 1:32-33 Isa. 9:7...His Character-Just...Jn. 5:30 Isa. 9:7...No end to his Government, Throne, and Peace...Lu. 1:32-33 Isa. 11:1...Called a Nazarene-the Branch, Netzer...Mt. 2:23 Isa. 11:1...A rod out of Jesse-Son of Jesse...Lu. 3:23,32 Isa. 11:2...The anointed One by the Spirit...Mt. 3;16,17 Isa. 11:2...His Character-Wisdom, Understanding, et al....Jn. 4:4-26 Isa. 11:4...His Character-Truth...Jn. 14:6 Isa. 11:10...The Gentiles seek Him...Jn. 12:18-21 Isa. 12:2...Called Jesus-Yeshua...Mt. 1:21 Isa. 25:8...The Resurrection predicted...I Cor. 15:54 Isa. 26:19...His power of Resurrection predicted...Jn. 11:43,44 Isa. 28:16...The Messiah is the precious corner stone...Acts 4:11,12 Isa. 29:13...He indicated hypocritical obedience to His Word...Mt. 15:7-9 Isa. 29:14...The wise are confounded by the Word...I Cor. 1:18-31 Isa. 32:2...A Refuge-A man shall be a hiding place...Mt. 23:37 Isa. 35:4...He will come and save you...Mt. 1:21 Isa. 35:5...To have a ministry of miracles...Mt. 11:4-6 Isa. 40:3,4...Preceded by forerunner...Jn. 1:23 Isa. 40:9..."Behold your God."...Jn. 1:36;19:14 Isa. 40:11...A shepherd-compassionate life-giver...Jn. 10:10-18 Isa. 42:1-4...The Servant-as a faithful, patient redeemer... Mt.12:18-21 Isa. 42:2...Meek and lowly... Mt. 11:28-30 Isa. 42:3...He brings hope for the hopeless... Jn. 4 Isa. 42:4...The nations shall wait on His teachings... Jn. 12:20-26 Isa. 42:6...The Light (salvation) of the Gentiles...Lu. 2:32 Isa. 42:1,6...His is a Worldwide compassion... Mt. 28:19,20 Isa. 42:7...Blind eyes opened... Jn. 9:25-38 Isa. 43:11...He is the only Savior... Acts. 4:12 Isa. 44:3...He will send the Spirit of God... Jn. 16:7,13 Isa. 45:23...He will be the Judge... Jn. 5:22;Rom. 14:11 Isa. 48:12...The First and the Last...Jn. 1:30;Rev. 1:8,17 Isa. 48:17...He came as a Teacher...Jn. 3:2 Isa. 49:1...Called from the womb-His humanity...Mt. 1:18 Isa. 49:5...A Servant from the womb...Lu. 1:31;Phil. 2:7 Isa. 49:6...He is Salvation for Israel...Lu. 2:29-32 Isa. 49:6...He is the Light of the Gentiles...Acts 13:47 Isa. 49:6...He is Salvation unto the ends of the earth... Acts 15:7-18 Isa. 49:7...He is despised of the Nation... Jn. 8:48-49 Isa. 50:3...Heaven is clothed in black at His humiliation... Lu. 23:44,45 Isa. 50:4...He is a learned counsellor for the weary... Mt. 11:28,29 Isa. 50:5...The Servant bound willingly to obedience... Mt. 26:39 Isa. 50:6a..."I gave my back to the smiters."... Mt. 27:26 Isa. 50:6b...He was smitten on the cheeks... Mt. 26:67 Isa. 50:6c...He was spat upon... Mt. 27:30 Isa. 52:7...To publish good tidings of peace... Lu. 4:14,15 Isa. 52:13...The Servant exalted...Acts 1:8-11; Eph. 1:19-22 Isa. 52:13...Behold, My Servant... Mt. 17:5; Phil. 2:5-8 Isa. 52:14...The Servant shockingly abused... Lu. 18:31-34; Mt. 26:67,68 Isa. 52:15...Nations startled by message of the Servant... Rom. 15:18-21 Isa. 52:15...His blood shed to make atonement for all... Rev. 1:5 Isa. 53:1...His people would not believe Him... Jn. 12:37-38 Isa. 53:2a...He would grow up in a poor family.... Lu. 2:7 Isa. 53:2b...Appearance of an ordinary man... Phil. 2:7-8 Isa. 53:3a...Despised.... Lu. 4:28-29 Isa. 53:3b...Rejected... Mt. 27:21-23 Isa. 53:3c...Great sorrow and grief... Lu. 19:41-42 Isa. 53:3d...Men hide from being associated with Him... Mk. 14:50-52 Isa. 53:4a...He would have a healing ministry... Lu. 6:17-19 Isa. 53:4b...He would bear the sins of the world... 1 Pet. 2:24 Isa. 53:4c...Thought to be cursed by God... Mt. 27:41-43 Isa. 53:5a...Bears penalty for mankind's transgressions... Lu. 23:33 Isa. 53:5b...His sacrifice would provide peace between man and God... Col. 1:20 Isa. 53:5c...His back would be whipped... Mt. 27:26 Isa. 53:6a...He would be the sin-bearer for all mankind...Gal. 1:4 Isa. 53:6b...God's will that He bear sin for all mankind... 1 Jn. 4:10 Isa. 53:7a...Oppressed and afflicted... Mt. 27:27-31 Isa. 53:7b...Silent before his accusers... Mt. 27:12-14 Isa. 53:7c...Sacrificial lamb... Jn. 1:29 Isa. 53:8a...Confined and persecuted... Mt. 26:47-27:31 Isa. 53:8b...He would be judged... Jn. 18:13-22 Isa. 53:8c...Killed.... Mt. 27:35 Isa. 53:8d...Dies for the sins of the world... 1 Jn. 2:2 Isa. 53:9a...Buried in a rich man's grave... Mt. 27:57 Isa. 53:9b...Innocent and had done no violence... Mk. 15:3 Isa. 53:9c...No deceit in his mouth... Jn. 18:38 Isa. 53:10a...God's will that He die for mankind... Jn. 18:11 Isa. 53:10b...An offering for sin... Mt. 20:28 Isa. 53:10c...Resurrected and live forever.... Mk. 16:16 Isa. 53:10d...He would prosper... Jn. 17:1-5 Isa. 53:11a...God fully satisfied with His suffering... Jn. 12:27 Isa. 53:11b...God's servant... Rom. 5:18-19 Isa. 53:11c...He would justify man before God... Rom. 5:8-9 Isa. 53:11d...The sin-bearer for all mankind... Heb. 9:28 Isa. 53:12a...Exalted by God because of his sacrifice... Mt. 28:18 Isa. 53:12b...He would give up his life to save mankind... Lu. 23:46 Isa. 53:12c...Grouped with criminals... Lu. 23:32 Isa. 53:12d...Sin-bearer for all mankind... 2 Cor. 5:21 Isa. 53:12e...Intercede to God in behalf of mankind... Lu. 23:34 Isa. 55:3...Resurrected by God... Acts 13:34 Isa. 55:4...A witness... Jn. 18:37 Isa. 59:15-16a...He would come to provide salvation... Jn. 6:40 Isa. 59:15-16b...Intercessor between man and God... Mt. 10:32 Isa. 59:20...He would come to Zion as their Redeemer... Lu. 2:38 Isa. 61:1-2a...The Spirit of God upon him... Mt. 3:16-17 Isa. 61:1-2b...The Messiah would preach the good news... Lu. 4:17-21 Isa. 61:1-2c...Provide freedom from the bondage of sin and death... Jn. 8:31-32 Isa. 61:1-2...Proclaim a period of grace... Jn. 5:24 Jer.23:5-6a...Descendant of David...Lu. 3:23-31 Jer. 23:5-6b...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 13:13 Jer. 23:5-6c...The Messiah would be both God and Man... 1 Tim. 3:16 Jer. 31:22...Born of a virgin... Mt. 1:18-20 Jer. 31:31...The Messiah would be the new covenant... Mt. 26:28 Jer. 33:14-15...Descendant of David... Lu. 3:23-31 Eze.17:22-24...Descendant of David... Lk. 3:23-31 Eze.34:23-24...Descendant of David... Mt. 1:1 Dan. 7:13-14a...He would ascend into heaven... Acts 1:9-11 Dan. 7:13-14b...Highly exalted... Eph. 1:20-22 Dan. 7:13-14c...His dominion would be everlasting... Lu. 1:31-33 Dan. 9:24a...To make an end to sins... Gal. 1:3-5 Dan. 9:24b...He would be holy... Lu. 1:35 Dan. 9:25...Announced to his people 483 years, to the exact day, after the decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem... Jn. 12:12-13 Dan. 9:26a...Killed... Mt. 27:35 Dan. 9:26b...Die for the sins of the world... Heb. 2:9 Dan. 9:26c...Killed before the destruction of the temple... Mt. 27:50-51 Dan. 10:5-6...Messiah in a glorified state... Rev. 1:13-16 Hos. 13:14...He would defeat death... 1 Cor. 15:55-57 Joel 2:32...Offer salvation to all mankind... Rom. 10:12-13 Mic. 5:2a...Born in Bethlehem... Mt. 2:1-2 Mic. 5:2b...God's servant... Jn. 15:10 Mic. 5:2c...From everlasting... Jn. 8:58 Hag. 2:6-9...He would visit the second Temple... Lu. 2:27-32 Hag. 2:23...Descendant of Zerubbabel... Lu. 3:23-27 Zech. 3:8...God's servant... Jn. 17:4 Zech. 6:12-13...Priest and King... Heb. 8:1 Zech. 9:9a...Greeted with rejoicing in Jerusalem... Mt. 21:8-10 Zech. 9:9b...Beheld as King... Jn. 12:12-13 Zech. 9:9c...The Messiah would be just... Jn. 5:30 Zech. 9:9d...The Messiah would bring salvation... Luke 19:10 Zech. 9:9e...The Messiah would be humble... Mt. 11:29 Zech. 9:9f...Presented to Jerusalem riding on a donkey... Mt. 21:6-9 Zech. 10:4...The cornerstone... Eph. 2:20 Zech. 11:4-6a...At His coming, Israel to have unfit leaders... Mt. 23:1-4 Zech. 11:4-6b...Rejection causes God to remove His protection.. Lu. 19:41-44 Zech. 11:4-6c...Rejected in favor of another king... Jn. 19:13-15 Zech. 11:7...Ministry to "poor," the believing remnant... Mt. 9:35-36 Zech. 11:8a...Unbelief forces Messiah to reject them... Mt. 23:33 Zech. 11:8b...Despised... Mt. 27:20 Zech. 11:9...Stops ministering to the those who rejected Him... Mt. 13:10-11 Zech. 11:10-11a...Rejection causes God to remove protection... Lu. 19:41-44 Zech. 11:10-11b...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 14:7 Zech. 11:12-13a...Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver... Mt. 26:14-15 Zech. 11:12-13b...Rejected... Mt. 26:14-15 Zech. 11:12-13c...Thirty pieces of silver thrown into the house of the Lord... Mt. 27:3-5 Zech. 11:12-13d...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 12:45 Zech. 12:10a...The Messiah's body would be pierced... Jn. 19:34-37 Zech. 12:10b...The Messiah would be both God and man... Jn. 10:30 Zech. 12:10c...The Messiah would be rejected... Jn. 1:11 Zech. 13:7a...God's will He die for mankind... Jn. 18:11 Zech. 13:7b...A violent death... Mt. 27:35 Zech. 13:7c...Both God and man.. Jn. 14:9 Zech. 13:7d...Israel scattered as a result of rejecting Him... Mt. 26:31-56 Mal. 3:1a...Messenger to prepare the way for Messiah... Mt. 11:10 Mal. 3:1b...Sudden appearance at the temple... Mk. 11:15-16 Mal. 3:1c...Messenger of the new covenant... Lu. 4:43 Mal. 4:5...Forerunner in the spirit of Elijah... Mt. 3:1-2 Mal. 4:6...Forerunner would turn many to righteousness... Lu. 1:16-17
    Did you catch all of them?!

    Jesus Is Coming

    The first meaning of Advent was the first coming of the Messiah. We look back at it. Christ has come.

    The second meaning of Advent is the second coming. Jesus promised to return. He said

    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

    We wait for His return, His second coming. He said He would return soon, which doesn’t fit our definition of soon, but compared to eternity what’s 2000 years?

    Jesus Is Here…Now!

    Perhaps the most important meaning of Advent is His desire to come into our lives now. Today. Make no mistake, God is here now. When Jesus left the planet physically He sent the Holy Spirit to live in every believer. The transformation many of us have experienced is evidence God has not left us to fend for ourselves here on earth. Miracles occur. Bodies are healed. Hope is found. Broken relationships are mended. Finances are restored. The disturbed find peace. All because of God with us.

    We are in the middle of history, looking back at Jesus’ first visit to our planet—a day we call Christmas, when Christ entered our world—and looking forward to His return, His second coming. While we cry “Maranatha! Come quickly LORD Jesus,” we also seek to be fully present with one another and with our God who is both here and there, on earth and in heaven. In fact Jesus taught us to pray

    your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

    We long for those moments when heaven kisses earth, where God’s presence and power are visible and unleashed. When love conquers indifference and hatred, when peace overcomes violence, when life trumps death, when good wins over evil, when beauty defeats the mundane.

    As we live in the in-between—this period between the first and second comings of Jesus—we find hope not in the created but the Creator, not in presents under the tree on Friday but in God’s presence with us every day.

    God is with us…and that changes everything.

    It means we’re never alone. He’s with us, especially when we’re afraid or suffering.

    It means we have power. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to us as we make disciples, reproducing the life of Jesus to live abundant, fulfilled, exciting lives.

    It means we can experience heaven, moments of supernatural wonder, miracles.

    It means we have access to an unending supply of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control—the fruit of the Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that filled Jesus.

    It also means we can die to ourselves and invite Jesus into our lives to become not only Savior but LORD. It means we give up control and “let Jesus take the wheel.” It means surrendering to our need to be God and submitting our lives to Him, truly seeking His kingdom and His will here and now.

    We have an ancient and sacred practice called baptism in which a person is ceremonially dunked in water—symbolic of a water grave where their old self dies. That sounds harsh, but then they are lifted out of the water signifying resurrection and new life in Jesus Christ. You can’t renovate these temples. You must destroy them first and start from the ground up. You can’t have a resurrection without a death.

    So What?

    Jesus came. Jesus is coming. Jesus is here. Do you know Him? Does He live in you?

    Jesus is the greatest gift you could ever receive. He’s the reason for the season. Do you know Him? He’s here.


    Magnificat: Woman of Praise & Humility, 7 December 2014

    Big Idea: During a visit with Elizabeth, Mary bursts into song, exclaiming timeless truths about God’s power, holiness, mercy, sovereignty, and provision while extolling the virtues of humility. It is one of the first hymns of ancient Christianity and frequently sung in many churches more than two thousand years later.

    Key Scripture: Luke 1:46-56


    This will be a great revelation to you, but I love music! It’s one of God’s most beautiful gifts. From the time I was brought home from the hospital to today music fills my ears, my mind, my life!

    The Advent season is one of my favorite times of year, not the least of which is because of the music. It’s the only time of year in which it is politically correct to sing about Jesus.

    What is your favorite Christmas song?

    This week I found an article that exposed many of the disturbing lyrics in popular songs. For example, in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” the true love would end up receiving 184 birds total. What would you do with 184 birds (I’d rather have the golden rings!).

    In “Santa Claus is coming to Town,” Santa is presented as a stalker, always watching if you’re good or bad. Creepy!

    In “Do You Hear What I Hear?” the singer hears the night wind and a little lamb talking to them. Hmm.

    In “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” the tone is one of cheer and happiness…until the figgy pudding is mentioned. First they demand, “Bring us some figgy pudding” and then threaten by saying, “We won’t go until we get some!”

    My favorite Christmas song might be “O Holy Night.” Listen to these lyrics:

    A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
    Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

    Truly He taught us to love one another
    His law is love and His gospel is peace
    Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother
    And in His name all oppression shall cease
    Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we
    His power and glory ever more proclaim!

    There’s great power not only in lyrics, but music itself. In fact, hospitals today are not only filled with physical therapists and occupational therapists but also music therapists who play soothing music to promote relaxation and healing for patients.

    Of course music is nothing new. One of my favorite stories is how some rabbis believe when God spoke creation into existence He actually sang it into being.

    The Bible is filled with music, with songs. The book of 1 Samuel describes another powerful use of music.

    Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

    Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. (1 Samuel 16:14, 23)

    We are in the midst of a series on Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a remarkable young woman, likely a teenager when she was chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah.

    For the record, while I believe Roman Catholics overrate Mary, Protestants tend to underrate her, some afraid to even talk about her for fear of worshipping her as some have alleged Catholics of doing (disclaimer: two weeks ago I showed a video in which two Catholic priests insisted they do not worship Mary, but they do pray to her which is problematic for me since Jesus is the only mediator between us and the Father, but that’s another matter entirely). We worship and adore God and honor Mary.

    In addition to her own purity and devotion which led to her selection, she knew the scriptures and wrote one of the most famous songs in history. I don’t think it’s ever been on Top 40 radio, but two thousand years later people are still reading the lyrics and incorporating them into new songs.

    We will look at this special song from Luke 1 today, a song called the
    Magnificat, Latin for the first words of the song, translated “my soul magnifies the Lord.”

    Luke 1:46-56

    This song is the Magna Carta of early Christian songs. It poignantly describes the Messiah that was anticipated and would live in Mary’s womb until His birthday.

    Here’s a little background:

    At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
    where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:39-45)

    And Mary said: (Luke 1:46a)

    “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (Luke 1:46b-47)

    Ps. 34: 3: Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.

    Ps. 35: 9: Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.

    Isa. 61: 10: I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

    1 Sam. 2: 1– 2: Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the lord; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

    Hab. 3: 18: yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will be joyful in God my Savior.

    for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. (Luke 1:48a)

    1 Sam. 1: 11: And she [Hannah] made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

    1 Sam. 9: 16: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”

    Gen. 29: 32: Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

    From now on all generations will call me blessed, (Luke 1:48b)

    Gen. 30: 13: Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

    Mal. 3: 12: “Then all nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the lord Almighty.

    for the Mighty One has done great things for me— (Luke 1:49a)

    Deut. 10: 21: He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.

    Ps. 71: 19b: You who have done great things. Who is like you, God?

    Zeph. 3: 17: The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

    holy is his name. (Luke 1:49b)

    Ps. 111 :9: He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name.

    His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50)

    Ps. 103: 11: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.

    Ps. 103: 17: But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’S steadfast love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.

    Ps. 100: 5: For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

    He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
    He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
    He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

    1 Sam. 2: 7-8: The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’S, on them he has set the world.

    Ps. 89: 10: You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.

    Prov. 3: 34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

    Job 12: 19: He leads priests away stripped and overthrows officials long established.

    Ezek. 21: 26b: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low.

    Ps. 107: 9: For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

    He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
    to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:54-55)

    Isa. 41: 8-9: But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham, my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, “You are my servant”; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

    Ps. 98: 3: He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

    Mic. 7: 20: You will be faithful to Jacob and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.

    2 Sam. 22: 51: He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.

    Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:56)

    So What?

    Mary is a singer. She is a song writer. She is a student of the Bible. She is a worshipper.

    We know the story. We know what happens…but she knows only what was told to her by the angel. This is a pregnant teenager—likely—in a culture that despised unwed moms. It may sound romantic to be the mother of Jesus, but she also would experience not only His death but threats to her own life. The awe and wonder of Gabriel’s announcement was surely tempered by the certain death of her own social standing. The humble, pure girl would be treated like a harlot.

    Cradle - Cross - Crown

    When Mary conceived, the world was awaiting a Messiah to fix the brokenness caused by sin and death. Jesus failed to meet the expectations of the Jews, arriving not as a warrior king but a vulnerable baby. Rather than killing His enemies, He was killed by them and even prayed for them as He hung on a cross meant for criminals.

    Advent is all about waiting. Mary did it. The Jews did it. Today we do it as we await His return. It won’t be as an infant so tender and mild but as the powerful King of kings and LORD of lords. During this time in-between, we remember His first entrance into our world, His accomplished mission on the cross, His triumphant resurrection, and His departure to prepare a place for us.

    This season’s celebration is not simply about the birthday of the King but what that life means for us today—grace, forgiveness, life, hope, joy, meaning, purpose, and peace.

    For Further Study

    The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Blood & Water, John 19:31-37, 13 October 2013

    Big Idea: Jesus died, predicted centuries prior in amazing detail lending credibility to the Bible and its message.

    If you could know the future, would you want to?

    Heather and I decided we did not want to know the sex of our children until they were born. Well, we almost decided! Actually, when our girls were born, it was a surprise. In fact, my mother-in-law was so convinced that our second child was a boy that she made blue outfits for him—uh, her. When I said, “It’s a girl!” she was in denial!

    With our third, we wanted to keep it a surprise…until the doctor asked us if we wanted to know since she was 100% sure from the ultrasound. I said, “That must mean it’s a boy” and she said, “Not necessarily. The baby is just perfectly positioned.” The doctor left the room, Heather asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to know?” and in a moment of weakness when the doctor returned, I said, “OK, tell us!” much to the surprise of my wife. I cried tears of joy when I learned a baby boy was joining our family.

    In that moment, I was able to know the future. We told one couple our news, but it was a complete surprise to the rest of the world when Trevor entered the visible world seventeen years ago.

    If you could know the future, would you want to?

    What about your death? If I could tell you when and how you would die, would you want to know?

    Jesus knew. “Sure,” you say, “He’s God,” but any Jew familiar with the Old Testament had clear descriptions of the Messiah, how He would be conceived, where He would be born, and how He would die. Just to give you an idea, here is one list of Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus:

    Simply put, Jesus uniquely fulfilled hundreds of prophecies that were written hundreds and even thousands of years before His birth.

    John 19:31-37

    Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. (31)

    The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. (32-33)

    Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (34-35)

    These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” (36)

    he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Psalm 34:20)

    and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (37)

    “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zechariah 12:10)

    Jesus probably did not die of a broken heart but with a broken heart. I declare Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, and even in His death many came to pass. Oh, and one more thing…
    Jesus died. This may not sound radical, but to many, it is unimaginable. The Muslim Quaran, for example, states…

    And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. (Surat An-Nisa 4:157)

    They believe someone that looked like Jesus died that resembled Him, but if Jesus did not die, we have no hope. If Jesus did not die, the ten martyred disciples wasted their lives, and the countless since. If Jesus did not die, we cannot know God, experience forgiveness, or have eternal life.

    But John, an eyewitness, was there and saw what happened. He said plainly that Jesus died.

    Believe it or not, some believe Jesus survived the crucifixion, which is utterly ludicrous. It is true that crucified people often remained alive, or half alive, for days, but Jesus was so badly beaten prior that it is little wonder He hung for three hours before declaring, “It is finished.”

    No Roman soldier would let a condemned criminal escape death. It would cost them their life.

    Jesus really died—so that we could live—and today we remember His death as He told his original twelve to do. We take the bread and remember His body that was broken and pierced for us. We drink the cup and remember His blood that was poured out for us. Jesus really died, and John was an eyewitness of the tragic yet wonderful event. Jesus died to show His love for us, to reconcile us to a holy God who cannot tolerate sin, to provide forgiveness of our messed up lives, to offer mercy and amazing grace.

    Water and blood are so symbolic, not only in the Jesus story but the entire Bible, pointing to life, cleansing, purification, and forgiveness. Moses inaugurated the first covenant with blood and water. Jesus inaugurates another covenant through His death.

    Jesus is the true Passover lamb who takes away the sin of the world, a lamb that, according to Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12, could not have any broken bones.

    It has been said that we don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. Actually, the holy Scriptures tell us much about the future, and among its revelations is that we will one day stand before a holy God and have to give an account for our lives. How did we live them? Who did we serve? How did we use our time, talents and treasures?

    Jesus came and died…but that’s not the end of the story. Hallelujah! Because He lives, we can face tomorrow…and today…and prepare for His return.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.