“Go, Tell It on the Mountain”

Go, tell it on the mountain

 

“Go, Tell It on the Mountain” was first sung by slaves on American plantations during the 19th century.  The slaves could identify with a Messiah that was born in a lowly manger and lived a humble life.  They embraced the Savior’s promise of a better life for all who would follow him.  And so the slaves eagerly sang the Good News for all to hear.

 

Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flock by night,

Behold throughout the heavens there shone a holy light.

 

Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

The shepherds feared and trembled when, lo above the earth-

Rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Savior’s birth.

 

Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

Down in a lowly manger our humble Christ was born,

And God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.

 

The song tells the story of shepherds watching their sheep on the night Jesus was born.  A bright light startled the shepherds and an angel told the frightened shepherds the news of Jesus’ birth.  As soon as the angels left, the shepherds excitedly decided to go find Jesus.  “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which was just as they had been told” (Luke 2:16-18, 20).

The shepherds were excited to see Jesus and they were eager to tell everyone they met about all they had heard and seen!  They were thrilled that the promised Messiah had finally come and they couldn’t contain their enthusiasm.  They were motivated and anxious to spread the Good News!  Consequently, others in turn learned of the Savior’s birth.

The angel’s announcement to the shepherds was not just good news for the shepherds, but “great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10).  Are you doing your part to spread the good news to all people?  You must go and tell the gospel on your mountain, in your neighborhood, at your school, where you work and everywhere you go.

-Jill McClain

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“Joy to the World! The Lord is Come”

joy to the world

 

Isaac Watts published the words for “Joy to the World” in 1719.  A century after Watts wrote the words, Dr. Lowell Mason, heavily influenced by Handel’s “Messiah”, set the words to music. Watts wrote the famous carol after meditating on Psalm 98.  Psalm 98:4 reads, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.”  This is precisely what Watts was trying to do by writing the hymn.

 
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 earth, 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’ll rule 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, and wonders of His love.

 

The first verse of the carol talks of Jesus coming to earth.  It does not talk about Jesus’ coming as a special baby, but more importantly his coming as King. There is no mention in the entire carol of Bethlehem, a manger, shepherds, or a special star.   In fact, much of the carol has more to do with Jesus’ future, second coming, than with his birth as a baby.

 

The third verse of the carol mentions “thorns infesting the ground” and “the curse”, both references to God telling Adam that the ground would be cursed as a consequence of his sin (Genesis 3:17-18). Because Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, mankind would have to work to produce food, and instead of abundant crops growing effortlessly, now weeds and thorns would be plentiful.  However, the carol is looking forward to a day when there will be no more sin, sorrow or thorns.  We know all too well, that that day has not yet come, but we look forward with confidence to the day Jesus will return to earth again and all the consequences of sin will be defeated.

Although much of “Joy to the World” tells the story of Jesus second coming, it is still a wonderful song for us to sing at Christmastime.  As we celebrate Christmas, it is important for us to remember that Jesus did not stay a baby in a manger.  His story does not end with his death on the cross, or even his resurrection. We sing of “Joy to the World” because we know that one day Jesus is coming back to set up his Father’s perfect, never-ending, kingdom here on earth!

-Jill McClain

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

While shepherds watched

The theme for each of our devotions this week is based on a different Christmas carol.  Today, I would like for us to examine, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”.

 

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around,

And glory shone around.

“Fear not!” said he; for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds,
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind,

To you and all mankind.

“To you, in David’s town this day,
Is born of David’s line,
The Savior who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign:

And this shall be the sign:

“The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid;
And in a manger laid.
“All glory be to God on high,
And to the earth be peace:
Good will henceforth from heav’n to men,
Begin and never cease,

Begin and never cease.”

 

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” tells the story of the shepherds found in Luke 2:8-20.  At the time of Jesus’ birth shepherds were at the bottom of the social ladder.  They often lived for long periods of time, right in the same fields where they took care of the sheep; so most people looked down on them.  God could have announced the birth of his son to the most influential, rich and successful leaders of the time.  However, instead God chose to first tell the lowly shepherds. “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’” (Luke 2:10-11).  God sent his son for all people – for the rich and the poor, the leaders and the abandoned, the educated and the uneducated, the popular and the friendless.  God had his good news first delivered to the shepherds to demonstrate that the gospel is for all people.

The angels told the shepherds that baby Jesus was “born to you” (Luke 2:11).  Typically, we think that a baby is born to his parents.  But Jesus was a gift given to the shepherds, and each of us.  Jesus was born for us, to save us from our sins so that we may one day have eternal life.  Jesus is the ultimate Christmas gift, given to each of us.

When the angels left, the shepherds said, “’Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:15-17,20).  The shepherds heard the good news, they believed it, they told others the good news and they worshiped God. What about you?  Do you believe the gospel?  If so, are you telling others the good news?  And are you spending time worshiping and praising God for the wonderful gift that has been given to you?

 

-Jill McClain

Paul’s Mess, God’s Message

acts 28 31 (1)
At the end of the book of Acts we are following Paul in his ministry as he shares his testimony and all he is learning from God with established groups of believers as well as with those who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ. He is told through a prophet that he will be bound by the Jewish leaders and sent to the Gentiles to share his story.  He is accused by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, then arrested and imprisoned while the Roman authorities try to figure out which side of the story to believe.  Over the course of Paul’s imprisonment he is moved to various cities and meets with several governors as well as King Agrippa.  Then finally he is sent to Rome.  During each of these transitions, Paul has an opportunity to share the story of his conversion…who he was…who he is and who he will continue to be through God’s grace.  Every time he is questioned he says something like the following phrase from Acts 23:1 “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 
Paul faced so much opposition during this period of time and yet he continued to stand firm in his belief that God had a purpose for him which would be fulfilled no matter what…arrest, false accusations, storms, shipwrecks, imprisonment, isolation, death threats, nothing was going to stop God’s message from being spread.
As the book of Acts closes we are given a chance to witness Paul as he teaches a group of Jewish leaders in Rome. 
Acts 28:23-30
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers
to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening,
explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets
he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said,
but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and
began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth
to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26
“‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles,
and they will listen!” [29] [b]
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all
who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord
Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
Some of those who were listening, heard Paul’s message and their lives were changed.  Others found that they couldn’t believe what Paul was preaching and left.  They heard but didn’t understand, they saw but didn’t allow comprehension. Paul kept right on teaching, preaching and sharing his mess so that God’s message could get through.
Oh to have Paul’s boldness and eloquence!  There are many times that we are provided the opportunity to share our own stories of faith with others and we often let them pass us by.  Are we afraid?  Maybe we don’t think they would be interested, or that we’ll be bothering them if we share.  Or maybe we don’t want to offend anyone…but if we are learning from Paul’s example, we need to be sharing our stories of faith regardless of the personal costs.  God’s message will be heard, don’t you want to be a part of that exciting adventure? I promise it’ll be a good one!
-Joyanne Swanson

Messages from God

rebecca4

We may take instant messaging for granted. We have grown accustomed to communicating with each other in real time. Instant messaging in 1844 was a little bit different.  Samuel Morse was a co-developer of Morse Code and helped to develop the commercial use of the electrical telegraph. Morse sent the first official telegraph message on May 23, 1844.  And it is interesting to me that he encouraged a 17-year-old named Annie Ellsworth to choose the text. It was, “What hath God wrought?” This statement is from the King James Version of the Bible from Numbers 23:23.  We might read it as, See what God has done! This statement is from one of the messages pronounced by Balaam and his experiences should convey the importance of only giving the true message of God.

When the Israelites traveled into Moab, King Balak sent messengers to Balaam, a pagan prophet. Balak wanted to pay Balaam to place a curse on the Israelites. Balak’s message was, A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.” But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” Balaam consults with God and does refuse to go with the first group.  Later a second set of messengers arrives.  They delivered this message, “This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.” Balaam does go with the messengers, but he has a strange conversation with his donkey on the journey. And an encounter with the angel of the LORD makes him state on his arrival, “I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” King Balak takes the pagan prophet to three locations inquiring a curse to be pronounced on the Israelites, but each time, Balaam blesses the Israelites. The first three messages of Balaam are blessings on Israel and the last four messages are warnings to the countries that will be conquered.

Later in Deuteronomy 23:5 we are told why God insisted on blessing the Israelites. It states, “However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.”

Balaam missed the point of the messages that he delivered. God loved the Israelites. He continued to send messages of His love and hope to them throughout time. Just as the Apostle Peter said, “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Acts 10:36) How blessed we are that God’s message of love is available to us all.  We don’t need to wait for a prophet from a far away land. God’s message is in the scriptures and He speaks personally to each one of us. Praise God for this Message!

-Rebecca Dauksas

 

 

 

 

The Good News Gospels

john 20 31

Throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s work with His people.  The ups, and the downs.  His plan through the ages.  And through it all – there were prophecies, predictions and foreshadowing of what was coming – a Savior who would take upon himself the sins of all men and make a way for mankind to be reconciled (brought back together) with God.  Some have counted over 350 Old Testament prophecies of Jesus that are fulfilled in the New Testament, everything from: born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, praised while riding on a donkey, performed miraculous healings , not a bone of his body broken, etc…. Jesus fulfills everyone.  He is God’s plan that began in Genesis, or actually before the creation of the world.  And, we have not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 accounts of his life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection in the Old Testament – they are the gospels.  And here’s a little bit about each one:

 

MATTHEW – Old Testament Prophecy Fulfilled in Jesus

Matthew is an excellent link between the Old and New Testaments because Matthew is writing particularly to the Jews to convince them that Jesus is the promised Messiah from God, the same Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had said would come.  Matthew, who knew his OT well, included 53 direct quotes and 76 other references to the Old Testament. Matthew, originally a tax collector, left his work to follow Jesus’ call.  He became one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples who were Jesus’ closest students and followers.  His new life mission was to persuade the Jews that the Savior they had been waiting for had arrived and his name is Jesus.  This book is an excellent introduction to Jesus!  Here we read of Jesus’ geneology, his birth, the visit from the Magi, his baptism and temptation, the calling of the disciples, and the great Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  Many more teachings (often about his favorite topic – the coming Kingdom of God) and miracles are included.  Then Jesus is put to death so we can be forgiven, and then miraculously resurrected 3 days later.  In the final verses the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world and make disciples.  And that is just what Matthew did when he wrote about the man who changed his life.

 

MARK – To the Gentiles: A Suffering Servant Has Come

This is the shortest of the 4 gospel books, packed with action, and perhaps written first.  The author, perhaps called John Mark, was not one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, but was likely a close associate of Peter.  It is thought that Mark listened to all of Peter’s preaching about Jesus and carefully recorded them in what would become the book of Mark.  Mark would also accompany Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  This book was written to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience – perhaps specifically the church in Rome, at a time (60 AD) when powerful Rome was persecuting Christian believers.  It was important that the church be strong in their understanding of who Jesus was and what he did.  In the book of Mark we read of Jesus healing the sick, controlling nature and battling the powers of Satan.  And yet, the Jewish leaders plot to kill him (and do), his neighbors don’t understand him and his family thinks he is crazy.  Jesus is the Ultimate Suffering Servant – with his life – and his death.  Mark is perhaps preparing the church for a little suffering of their own.

 

LUKE – Jesus is Savior of ALL – Jew and Gentile

The author, Luke, was likely a Gentile by birth, and a well-educated doctor.  He also was known as the missionary Paul’s dear friend and fellow missionary.  His introduction states: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may now the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (1:1-4).  Luke was writing to not only tell of Jesus, to strengthen the believers’ faith, but also to assure people that Jesus had come to save the lost – both Jew and Gentile.  He is the only gospel writer to include several parables (one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach using earthly stories with earthly meanings) including: the Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son.

 

JOHN – Jesus is the Son of God who Saves

The author is likely John, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, and the one sometimes called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  John and James had left the family fishing business when Jesus called them to follow him.  They would become 2 of the 12 disciples.  This gospel is the most unlike the other 3 gospels.  Over 90% of John is not found in the other gospels.  John does not include any of Jesus’ parables, or his birth or temptation or ascension.  Instead, he emphasizes who Jesus was – the Son of God.  He includes only 8 miracles, 6 of which are not recorded elsewhere (including water to wine and the raising of Lazarus).  John includes many of Jesus’ “I Am” statements explaining Jesus and his mission.  “I am the good shepherd” (10:11).  “I am the bread of life” (6:35).  “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14:6).  And John is the only author to include the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 14-17) which was Jesus’ last teaching to his 12, as well as his prayers for himself, his disciples and all believers who would follow – including you.

 

 

How many people today think they know who Jesus was – but haven’t read the gospel accounts?  Read them to see God’s plan in action.  See for yourself Jesus’ love and compassion for the lost, as well as his insistence for a changed life (go and sin no more – John 8:11).  See his love for His Father and his commitment to God’s Word and His Will.  See his excitement and teaching about the Kingdom of God and who will be a part of it.  To properly carry on your mission from God – you MUST be in tune with what Jesus’ mission was.  Find it – in the gospels – and you too can share in God’s good news – for yourself and for your hearers.

 

Seek His Mission,

Marcia Railton

 

Come back tomorrow – we will have just one book to cover as we see the history of the early church.  What will they do when Jesus is no longer in their physical midst?

Today’s “Roman Road” – the Internet

matt 24 14

God had prepared the way at just the right time for His Messiah.  He not only prepared people and governments, but He prepared a way for this Good News to travel to the nations.  Up until this time, most ancient roads were dirt paths, but Roman engineers had discovered how to make roads last a long time and they interconnected the entire Empire.  At the time of Jesus, the Roman roads were great highways that went out in many directions from Rome that linked many roads and connected vast territories and kingdoms.  They literally paved the way for the Good News to travel around the known world.

God has once again prepared the way at just the right time.  In Matthew 24 Jesus warns his disciples what the end of this age will be like and what signs to look for as they wait for him to return.  But once again, he lets them know that they don’t need to worry about when it will happen because he has a job for them to do!

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

In fact, they, and we, have a great responsibility and privilege!  We get to help bring about the return of Jesus!

Up until the last twenty years, people have done their best to “go into all the world”, but, going was quite limited.  Even if we sent a few missionaries to every country in the world, we would hardly scratch the surface and wouldn’t reach that many people.

Multitudes have heard about Jesus, but they don’t know him.  Less people have heard about the coming kingdom that Jesus preached throughout his ministry and spent his last 40 days talking about with his disciples.  But God has once again prepared the way!  There is a new road that goes into all the nations!  This road is the internet.

Internet evangelism is how the nations will have an opportunity to hear and receive the Good News.  No longer can one person reach only as many as he knows or comes into contact with.  Today one person, right out of the comfort of his home, can reach millions of people in places he has never been and most likely, never will go.  One person can invest a little time, without investing thousands of dollars in travel expenses, and can do much more, plant more seeds, and encourage more brethren than if he were to board a plane and go somewhere.

We are called to be good stewards of our time and our money.  God has prepared the way!  Can you imagine if the disciples didn’t use the Roman roads and just kept walking the little dirt paths?  As faithful disciples and good stewards, we must use what God has given us if we desire to obey the Great Commission and help bring the return of our anticipated savior!

Read the exciting chapter of Matthew 24 and allow God to convict you for the need to preach this kingdom message to the world.

Whether you are called to missions or not, as a disciple of Jesus, I challenge you to give God and the Great Commission 30 minutes a week and invest in internet evangelism.  Not sure how to do that?  Please reach out to me and I would be happy to help!

I, along with some other experienced missionaries and internet evangelists, will be having a national missions conference and we would love to have you attend!  You can find more details at: http://kogmissions.com/kingdom-missions-academy-conference-training

Come if you are just curious about missions or if you are seriously considering mission work!

-Tracy Zhykovich