Archive for the ‘Advent’ category

Joy to the World!

December 24, 2011

I encourage you to meditate on the lyrics of this familiar Christmas hymn. I have enjoying ruminating over it in recent days leading up to today. May you with gladdened hearts receive the King!

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Merry Christmas! From the Bristers

December 24, 2011

The Incarnation [Odd Thomas]

December 22, 2011

HumbleBeast puts it out there very nicely. Check out Odd Thomas on the Incarnation . . .

 

Steps to Sharing the Gospel with Your Family During Christmas

December 8, 2011

Since Crossway made it free for Kindle, I’ve been browsing through Randy Newman’s book, Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Your Family Members, Your Close Friends, and Others You Know Well.  This is an incredibly important topic as I have come to find it harder to share the gospel with family members as it is with an unknown person in my community.  I imagine this is true for most if not all Christians.

In the conclusion of his introductory chapter, Newman provides four steps for sharing the gospel with your family. I though they were very thoughtful and practical.  Check them out.

1.  If you don’t already have one, develop a system for prayer for your family.  Perhaps you can set aside a section in a prayer journal.

2.  Begin your prayers for your family with thanksgiving.  This may be more difficult for some people than others.  Regardless of your family’s well-being, thank God for the family you have and all the accompanying benefits you can identify.

3.  You may need to include prayers of confession as well–confession of your lack of love for your family, your idolatry of control in trying to change them, your reliance on your ability to convict them of their sin instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to do that, your coldheartedness, haughtiness, and self-righteousness, etc.  Ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light of truth on your darkness of sin.

4.  If you haven’t already done so, “come out of the closet” as a Christian to your family.  Pray for gentle words and a gracious demeanor mixed with bold confidence. . . . Aim for your announcement to be informational rather than evangelistic.  You can trust God to open evangelistic doors later.

#3 nailed me.

One thing I might add, especially if you have a large family: look for opportunities in the course of the day when it is not so hectic where you might be able to enjoy a sustained conversation with a family member who is not a Christian.  In a large group setting, conversations tend to stay on a superficial level, but if you can get alone with one or two family members for 10-15 minutes or longer, you will have a greater opportunity of magnetizing the conversation to the gospel and how Jesus has changed, and is changing your life.

Good News for Sinners on Christmas Eve

December 24, 2010

The Greatest Gift – The Incarnation

December 13, 2010

O Source of all good,

What shall I render to You for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on
wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me
to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mind and I am his.

In him, you have given me so much
that heaven can give no more.

~ “The Gift of Gifts”
taken from The Valley of Vision

O Holy Night – Shane and Shane

December 3, 2010

Love the rawness of this video. Hate that it was cut off before the song was finished. Check it.

Hallelujah

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving folks! Here’s a couple of fun videos of flash mobs breaking out in the Hallelujah Chorus in malls this year.  Now here’s an encouraging trend I would like to see go viral in the real world!

He’s here

November 30, 2009

The Good News of Christmas at Grace

November 23, 2009

About six weeks ago, I received in the mail a bag that said “The Good News of Christmas.”  In the bag was an ESV New Testament, a personalized invitation, an ESV Study Bible trial for 30 days, and a tract by Max Lucado.  After discussing this with our pastoral team, we felt that this was an excellent opportunity to share the Christmas story with others by putting the Bible in the hands of unbelievers in our community, getting into the story of their lives, and hopefully sharing the story of how Jesus Christ has changed our lives.

This time of the year is a rather unique period in the calendar season where spirits are lifted and hearts are more open and receptive to receive from others, even strangers, a kind and sincere offer.  It is our desire to see Jesus become more than a Christmas carol, and that through the story of the gospel, He would be treasured by those who looking to lesser things to provide them greater joy.

When Peter referred to the new birth in his first letter, he told his readers that they had been born again

“not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever’” (1 Peter 1:23-25).

The Scripture which is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15) is an imperishable seed, unlike the seeds of grass and flowers which wither and fade.  The new birth comes through the living and abiding word of God which endures forever.  What greater gift could we give to those in our community?  Gold and silver will fade and loose their value.  God’s Word is precious and enduring.  The things of this world may bring make other happy for a moment, but those who have “been brought forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18) will experience happiness both now and for eternity.

We want people to see the kingdom of God, not just sing about Christ the newborn King in a sentimental way.  But Jesus said this is impossible unless they are born again.  The good news for us is that the Spirit is blowing wherever He wishes; we do not know where, when, or who He will draw, convict, and bring to life.  But we do know that by the Spirit and through the Word, we have everything we need to reach a world of people enjoying the Christmas season while failing to enjoy Christ.   It is our prayer that the Spirit, the Great Evangelist, will own our efforts to bring the Scriptures to thousands of people in our city, and through the imperishable seed of the Word, everlasting fruit will spring up as the kingdom is established in the hearts of men.

Last night, we handed out 1,200 of these bags to our members and suggested to them the following ways of getting into the community:

Individually

1.   Students: give Christmas presents to everyone in your classes (yes, all of them)
2.  Employees: give Christmas presents to all of your coworkers
3.  On Black Friday, spend the morning passing out these gifts to those in line waiting to get into stores
4.  In businesses where you normally frequent, give these bags to everyone who works there (in my case, it would be Panera Bread, Uno’s Chicago Grill, Chick-fil-a, Publix, and the local 7-11 Gas Station)
5.  Take a box with you in the car so that wherever you go, you will have some with you to give to those you encounter, such as in parks, shopping centers, bank tellers, etc.
6.  Provide an opportunity for those in your neighborhood whom you have not met to come over for dinner and read the Christmas story together while giving them these gifts while inviting them to our Christmas Eve service

Community Groups

1.  Customize the bags with invitation to your next community group meeting
2.  Host a neighborhood Christmas Party and give these gifts away
3.  Go door-to-door (look out!) canvassing the neighborhoods around where your community group meets, or perhaps give them away you go Christmas caroling
4.  Distribute these bags in your community, inviting those interested to an evangelistic Bible study where everyone will be reading through the gospel of John together

These are just some ideas I came up with and shared with our members yesterday evening.  There are numerous other ways that you creative folk can come up with for sure.  Here at Grace, we have been ramping up for next year’s mission trips, and one of the ways we are preparing our church to engage in overseas missions is to think and live like missionaries here.  I have challenged our members to think of this next month as a one-month mission trip to their own backyard.  When you are on mission, you think less of yourself and are tuned into how the Lord may be leading you to make a direct impact in the lives of others.  It is my hope that such a structured opportunity will train more of our members to live evangelistically as their normal standard of living as we seek to create a missional culture and celebrate the work of the Spirit in sending us out to make Christ known.

If you would like to read and learn more about this outreach opportunity click here.  The only caveat I would make is the evangelistic tract by Max Lucado may be something you want to leave out.  Since you are the ones stuffing your bags, you can make that choice (I would prefer it not be in there).  Other than that, the fact that you can get a New Testament and invitation in a nice bag for $1 is wonderful.  I hope others seize this opportunity in an affordable way to give the gift of the New Testament to a world that news to know that God has spoken and has sent His Son Jesus into the world to rescue sinners and cause us to sing, “Glory to God in the highest!”

On This Day 40 Years Ago

December 24, 2008

On this day 40 years ago, it was recorded that 1 out of 4 people on the face of the earth watched and listened to the first broadcast from space where live television footage captured images of planet Earth.  The Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to orbit around the moon, serving as a preparatory trip for Apollo 11 where man would land on the moon.  On their ninth orbit, the crew broadcasted this brief and historical clip Christmas Eve, 1968:

Psalm 8
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening and Family Worship for the Advent Season

December 2, 2008

For the month of December, ChristianAudio.com is giving away the first 90 days of Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening.  For years, this devotional by Spurgeon has been my favorite to read (although Winslow’s Morning Thoughts is challenging it!).  To download the audio, go here and remember to use “DEC2008” as the coupon code to get it for free.

Also, Christ the King Presbyterian Church (Raleigh, NC) has provided a helpful resource for families during the advent season which you can download and use during family devotions or family worship.  The PDF includes discussion outlines and songsheets for worship in a nice format.  To download this 58-page resource, click here.

Holy Child Who Chose the Hearts of Men

December 24, 2007

Holy Child who chose the hearts of men
To be His favoured home
Leaving heaven’s gates for Bethlehem
God came to call His own
Now to us the highest King is born
Behold the Royal Son
Glory kneels to mend all that is torn
The promised Child has come

Joy and pain as man He knew on earth
No place to lay His head
As a servant He embraced this world
And on a cross He bled
Having borne the deepest grief of man
He rose to heaven’s throne
Now I’m sheltered in the Father’s hand
I stand by grace alone

May the gift of God amaze us still
The triumph of all time
As His child I kneel to Heaven’s will
To make His purpose mine
Though this road be scarred with trial and pain
It’s paved with lavish grace
Knowing Him will be my greatest gain
My hope the Saviour’s face

(By Keith & Kristyn Getty)

From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

December 24, 2007

“From heaven above to earth I come
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing:

“To you this night is born a child
Of Mary, chosen virgin mild;
This little child, of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all the earth.

“This is the Christ, our God and Lord,
Who in all need shall aid afford;
He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free.

“He will on you the gifts bestow
Prepared by God for all below,
That in His kingdom, bright and fair,
You may with us His glory share.

“These are the tokens ye shall mark:
The swaddling-clothes and manger dark;
There ye shall find the Infant laid
By whom the heavens and earth were made.”

Now let us all with gladsome cheer
Go with the shepherds and draw near
To see the precious gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.

Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this child, so young and fair?
The blessed Christ-child lieth there.

Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through whom the sinful world is blest!
Thou com’st to share my misery;
What thanks shall I return to Thee?

Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
How weak art Thou, how poor and small,
That Thou dost choose Thine infant bed
Where humble cattle lately fed!

Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
It yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.

For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou, King, so rich and great,
As ’twere Thy heaven, art throned in state.

And thus, dear Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To make this truth quite plain to me,
That all the world’s wealth, honor, might,
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep;
I, too, must sing with joyful tongue
That sweetest ancient cradle-song:

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto us His Son hath given!
While angels sing with pious mirth
A glad new year to all the earth.

(By Martin Luther)

Eternal Glory of the Sky

December 23, 2007

Eternal Glory of the sky,
Blest Hope of frail humanity,
The Father’s sole begotten One,
Yet born a spotless virgin’s Son!

Uplift us with Thine arm of might,
And let our hearts rise pure and bright,
And, ardent in God’s praises, pay
The thanks we owe him every day.

The day-star’s rays are glittering clear,
And tell that day itself is near:
The shadows of the night depart;
Thou, holy Light, illume the heart!

Within our senses ever dwell,
And worldly darkness thence expel;
Long as the days of life endure,
Preserve our souls devout and pure.

The faith that first must be possessed,
Root deep within our inmost breast;
And joyous hope in second place,
Then charity, Thy greatest grace.

All laud to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the holy Paraclete.

(By Ambrose of Milan)