“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

come thou long expected

I thoroughly enjoy celebrating the Christmas season.  I like the bright lights and decorations, the baking and yummy treats, the crowded shopping and wrapping presents, the parties and corny Hallmark movies (that make my husband cry), and the extra time spent with friends and family.  I also really enjoy Christmas music. I like new contemporary songs and the old classic carols.  For this week of devotions I will be sharing with you some thoughts on a different carol each day.

The Carol, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” was written in 1744 by Charles Wesley.  Although, not as popular as some other Christmas Carols, it does have a wonderful message.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

The central theme of the song is that Jesus’ birth fulfilled Israel’s longing for a Savior.  God’s chosen people were waiting for the Messiah, who was promised to them by God.  Throughout the Old Testament, written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, God’s prophets repeatedly told the Jewish people of a coming Messiah.  Jesus’ birth fulfilled many prophecies, such as the following:

“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

“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

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2.

 

The long expected Jesus came not only to fulfill Israel’s prophecies, but also to save the entire world.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16) Jesus is God’s plan for salvation for each of us.  As Wesley states, Jesus is the “hope of all the earth,” the “dear desire of every nation” and the “joy of every longing heart.”

-Jill McClain

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I’ve Got to Tell Somebody

John 1_41 42

John 1:35-42

Not much story about Andrew is recorded in the Bible, but his enthusiasm for sharing with his brother is of special note. We believers have found the Messiah, The Christ, the savior of Israel and coming King. Are we as excited to share with our relatives, friends, and neighbors as Andrew was? We should be. As the popular hymn says, “The need of the world is Jesus.” We should be about the business of proclaiming the gospel message at every opportunity we meet. The messiah has appeared and died for our sins. He will appear the second time to restore the earth wide Kingdom to his Father. This is good news and every body needs to know about it.

-Larry Rankin

Struck, Panic, Changed

acts 2 36.png

Acts 2

Do you like cinnamon rolls? They are amazing. One of the best treats money can buy and the best way to break a diet, especially if you eat an entire can in one sitting. Well they are good as long as they aren’t burnt to a crisp.

I had cooked some tacos for chapel lunch at the Bible College that day. After I had cooked and made sure I put everything out for the tacos, I then decided to go ahead and make my plate. So I got in line, eventually sitting down to eat my delicious tacos. About my second bite into my third taco, I got a funny feeling. I slowly put my taco on my plate. After about a second or two of staring blankly at the wall I gasped, grabbing my chest, then rapidly departing my chair. I ran to the kitchen only to find twenty four smoking, burnt cinnamon rolls.  After that day I always made sure multiple people knew I was cooking cinnamon rolls.

Have you ever had one of these moments? They are, for a short time, terrifying. That is because you know you did something wrong or in my case forgot something very important. What feeling is it we feel in that moment? Our good friend Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, describes it as “pierced to the heart”. It is that moment when we are struck, then we panic, and we change.

Peter gave a powerful sermon to some who doubted about Jesus being the Christ, and how it was all of their faults that he was crucified. He talked about Jesus’ resurrection and how He fulfilled the scriptures they all knew beforehand. Scripture such as Psalm 110:1 “The LORD said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for my feet.” Which concludes that they crucified the Messiah they had all been waiting to deliver them from evil. After Peter finishes his sermon it happens to them, “they were pierced at the heart” Acts 2:37 After this they began to panic, and  ask what should they do about such events and choices they have made in the past. Peter answers them in Acts 2:38 “Repent, and be baptized, everyone of you, for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Here is my takeaway, don’t wait till its too late – you might be burning the cinnamon rolls of life. We don’t always realize that we are forgetting something, or that we are wrong, but when we do we feel pierced at the heart. Understand that you have sinned and need repentance, and forgiveness of sin.

Jesse Allen.

 

Hey My name is Jesse and I am currently in my Pastoral Internship with Blood River Church of God. I am originally from St.Louis, Missouri and love Cardinal Baseball, fish and coral aquariums and Hope for a kingdom that will be restored here on the earth. Thank you for reading!

Know Your Audience

Matt 1 22

Matthew Chapter 1

I remember in high school English classes the teachers talking about knowing your audience.  I really enjoyed math and science classes, but English and literature classes were a different story.  I really didn’t like figuring out the audience, the theme, symbolism, etc.  However, I now know that in at least some cases, the teachers were correct.  You gain a lot of extra understanding when you know the primary audience for a book.  I say primary audience in this case because I firmly believe that all of the Bible was written to everyone who will take the time to read it or listen to it.  However, the author had a primary audience they were writing to at the time.

Each gospel was written for a different primary audience.  Matthew was writing to the Jews who had a good knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.  They would have learned the prophecies regarding the Messiah and were looking towards the fulfillment of those prophecies.

The first chapter of Matthew starts with the genealogy of Jesus.  This is the first step to showing that Jesus is the Messiah they are looking for.  Several prophecies are fulfilled in this.  The first is that the Messiah is a seed of Abraham (Gen 22:18).  The Messiah is a descendent of Isaac (Gen 21:12) and a descendent of Jacob (Num 24:17), and a descendent of Judah (Gen 49:10).  Then, skipping a few generations, the Messiah is from the line of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10) and David (Jeremiah 23:5).  All of these names are listed in the genealogy of Jesus recorded in the first seventeen verses of Matthew.

They may not have each known every one of these prophecies, but the people who first read or heard the gospel of Matthew probably knew at least some of them.

After we finish looking at the genealogy, Matthew moves on to the birth of Jesus.  Compared to the gospel of Luke (which was written primarily to the Greeks), the account of the birth of Jesus is very brief.  Why would this be?  It goes back to the primary audience, and what was necessary to show Jesus is their Messiah.

Matthew basically tells that Mary was going to have a baby, Joseph was told about it and listened to what an angel said to him, and Mary remained a virgin until Jesus was born.  Matthew then quotes an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

We can read scripture and learn tons without understanding who the primary audience was at the time each book was written.  However, understanding the audience, culture, etc., can add a whole new dimension to our understanding.

-Andrew Hamilton

To Encourage Your Faith

Introduction to Hebrews

Hebrews 1 5b

This next week I, Kyle McClain, will be accompanying  you in reading the first six chapters of Hebrews, and the beloved Sarah Blanchard will close out the book of Hebrews the following week.  I am currently attending the Atlanta Bible College, and I will be graduating with my bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry this semester.  I hope you enjoy this week’s study of Hebrews, and I hope it positively impacts your life.

The book of Hebrews is found in the non-Pauline epistles section (Hebrews-Jude).  Many consider the book of Hebrews to be an epistle/letter.  However, it lacks all the normal marks of a New Testament letter.  If you look at the other letters/epistles from the New Testament, they identify the author and recipients, contain a formal greeting, and offer a prayer or thanksgiving.  However, Hebrews does not include any of these.  It could better be termed as an exhortation or sermon than a letter.  You can perceive Hebrews as one big sermon series; the chapters all flow together as one.  It is a stream of consciousness; it’s one flowing word of encouragement.

There are many discussions and debates as to who the author of Hebrews is.  There’s a plethora of different theories of who it could be: Paul, Apollos, Priscilla, a random follower of Paul, etc., and there’s a reason for that.  It’s because there is no clear indication in the book or church history as to who the author of Hebrews is.  It is ok not to know who wrote the book of Hebrews.  What’s important is that whatever was written was inspired by YHWH.  With that said, we do know that the author was Jewish, very well schooled in the Old Testament and Jewish philosophy, and knew Timothy.  There also seems to be a specific audience that the author wrote this for.  The audience is a group of wavering Jewish Christians.  These Jewish Christians were not confident in their faith and at times doubted the need for Christ.

Now let’s take a minute and step in the shoes of these Jewish Christians.  Ever since the time of Abraham, the Jews were looking forward for their Messiah.  For 2,000 years many came and professed to be the Messiah, but they all died and their followers soon died thereafter.  Then after 2,000 years of waiting another man by the name of “Jesus” claims to be the Messiah.  His story was different, as we all know, from the other false messiahs.  Hindsight, it is very clear to us that Jesus is the Messiah.  However, it was a very hotly debated topic back then as to if Jesus was the true Messiah.  It was not a popular belief among the Jewish population to believe Jesus was the true Messiah.  However, those Jews who did were scrutinized from their Jewish families, friends, and community.  All the people that these Jewish Christians knew, loved, and cared for despised and judged them.  Their lives were turned upside down.

It’s easy to point our fingers at these Jewish Christians and discredit them for their lack of faith in Jesus at times, but they were truly going through a lot.  The writer of Hebrews had a select group of Jewish Christians in mind who were wavering, and the author wrote Hebrews to encourage them and reassure them of the need for Jesus.  I hope that as we go along through the book of Hebrews that you too may be encouraged and reassured of the need for Jesus.

In Christian Love,

Kyle McClain

Who is the Son of God?

 

Luke 22

luke 22_46

Yesterday, in Luke 21 Jesus was warning the disciples (and those who would follow) of persecution while encouraging them to stand up under it.  And today, in Luke 22 Jesus himself is cast into a fierce storm of persecution.  He will now be showing – not just telling – the disciples, his contemporaries, and all those who would come after him how to stand up under persecution.

But first, a private dinner with his closest disciples to commemorate the Passover – when God saved his people from slavery by the blood of the lamb.  And very soon a new lamb would be sacrificed to save God’s people from slavery to sin.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will not eat the Passover meal, or drink of the cup again, until the Kingdom of God comes.  Communion services are a great reminder of this promise.  At the dinner, he uses the opportunity to remind them once again the secret to great leadership – be a servant.  Stop fighting over who is best…just serve.

I love how even though Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would fail him, he had still prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.  And even though Satan would have the opportunity to “sift all of you as wheat,”  Jesus saw a future for Peter in which Peter would be using those painful experiences to help strengthen his brothers.
And then, in the garden while Jesus is pouring his heart out in prayer – his disciples are sleeping.  I wonder how many times he would prod me and say, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  How much better would Peter – or I – stand Satan’s arrows if he – or I – were fully filled up with prayer rather than whatever feels good or most urgent at the moment?

Enter, Judas – and the chief priests and the guards and the great betrayal!  And even in the midst of the hurt and personal persecution – Jesus gives healing as he restores the servant’s ear.

Early the next morning, Jesus is brought before the chief priests and elders and is questioned about who he is. Is he the Messiah?

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

They didn’t expect the Son of God to have appeared as a baby in a manger.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to have a rag-tag group of followers in the countryside.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to be persecuted at their own hands.  Beware of what you expect from the Son of God.  Keep reading the gospels – and all of God’s Word to see who God really is, and who the Son of God is!

-Marcia Railton

 

 

The Boy who Changed – and Is Still Changing – the World

Luke 2

Luke 2 final

“Do not be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Luke 2:10-12

 

Today, we are reading through Luke chapter 2 which contains one of the most popular accounts written in the Bible—which is the birth of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. Regardless of our religious affiliation or background, we are familiar with the story line. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be registered under Caesar Augustus’s decree. While there, it comes time for Mary to give birth. Because there is no room in any inn, she must give birth in a stable.

 

For us, this narrative is important because it is the beginning of the story of a man who turned (and is still turning) the world upside down. We can skip forward and see how much of an impact Jesus had on so many, and we can also see how he works in our lives today.

 

But imagine being in the shoes of Mary, Joseph, and even the shepherds. They weren’t able to skip ahead, they had to live it out. For Mary and Joseph, they had to trust in God that he would see them through. They had to have strong enough faith that God would do what he said he would do. For the shepherds, imagine going from a normal day to having an angel tell you that the Son of God has been born. The Messiah is here! It is even written that they were terrified (Luke 2:9).

 

Why does this matter? I just think it’s important for us to realize that these heroes we read about in the Bible were more than just characters. They were real people. They didn’t get the luxury of knowing what was written on the next page. They had fears, and they weren’t perfect. They had to trust in God and his purpose. They had to believe that God was going to hold their hand through everything. Imagine the trust! Imagine the faith!

 

So as you read today, place yourself in their shoes. Because if we can understand what Mary and Joseph went through, maybe we can learn to emulate their faith in our own lives.

 

-Leslie Jones