JESUS IS BETTER.
Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so. There is quite a bit of good theology in that lyric. The love of Jesus is affirmed, while holding a high view of the Scriptures. This is enough for a child to get started. It is beautiful in its simplicity. It would in fact be quite enough, but there is more…so much more to who Jesus is. We start there, but we do not stop there because Scripture does not stop there. Jesus is superior to the Old Testament prophets that lead to him. He is superior to the angels. He is superior to the temple and to the old ways of thinking about salvation. He is so much better. Because of His superiority we are drawn to Him. This superiority is also a call to beware. If He is superior and we neglect His word or His message, then there is no hope for us. The book of Hebrews toggles between passages that exalt the name of Christ and passages that warn us. We are called to see Jesus above all else, and we are warned about the folly of rejecting Him.
We welcome others to God because we were welcomed by God. Christians understand that their faith in God, each one of us, was helped by some human agent. To say it another way, no one comes in the family without a welcomed invitation. We call this the hospitality of the Gospel. This is not necessarily a well-appointed home, but rather a life that welcomes people in. Hospitality is not salvation, but it creates an atmosphere of welcome. Hospitality is making space for grace. There is more to it than that, but no less. As a people who are decidedly for the Gospel advance, we are a welcoming people.
I have three specific prayers for our church family:
First, I am praying that God will show us how to open our lives to others. Second, we will see how to increase our hospitality on our church campus. Third, that this study would prepare our hearts for the opening of the City Center. Let’s pray for each other as we create lives that make space for the grace of God to work in other people.
CHRIST EXALTED. MERRY CHRISTMAS.
Together, we are going to open up the word of God and think about Jesus. Jesus is the destination of Scripture. All things lead up to His exaltation. Throughout the Bible, Jesus is the main subject, which directs Scripture toward the culmination of the plan of God that He alone executes. Jesus is also the most immediate aspect of Scripture. Meaning, while Scripture does many things, the immediate function is to lead us to Christ. This is because in Christ we see the Father. Since God has no greater gift to give us than His presence and Christ is the portal to the presence of God, then what better person can we fixate on than the one who gets us to the Father? During this series, I want us as a church to think deeply about what we are singing. Music is portable theology, and we have a rich tradition of singing this theology more precisely at Christmas than any other time of the year. Each Sunday during these five weeks, we are going to think about Jesus through text, topics and hymns.
May you have a Merry Christmas and May Christ be Exalted!
It may seem a little strange to study a song book of laments. This is among the darkest books in the Bible. For this reason, it is so right, so appropriate. Our world, our days, and our own hearts are filled with dark places and dark times. Perhaps the most tragic of all the verses in Lamentations is the first verse: “How lonely sits the city…” The city of Jerusalem was one of the most vibrant places one could ever imagine. Breathtaking, stunning. Yet while her geography did not change, her majesty did. She is the city that cannot be hidden, even though she would want to be. How lonely. Into that loneliness the prophet Jeremiah weeps. He mourns for the loss of innocence, the loss of blessing, the loss of victory. And then into this downward spiral of feeling, comes one of the most breathtaking passages in all of Scripture: “Great is your faithfulness.” Church, it is no exaggeration that I am thrilled to study this. We explore deep questions about the existence of pain, the place of God in our pain, and what this means about our view of God and how He loves His children. Can there be a greater joy than huddling around the Bible and studying it together? I can’t imagine one.
Over the last 126 years, God has been so good to Immanuel Baptist Church. Our desire is to see the current generations grasp the same vision for tomorrow. To do this, we must tell the story and not hide it to coming generations. During our study in Nehemiah, we learned that God used the people to create a Kingdom advancing Gospel culture. The core values of a Kingdom advancing Gospel culture are being for the Gospel, for the city, and for the world. Being for the Gospel means that we are for the message of the Gospel, but also the mission of the Gospel. We can’t be a people of the Bible, a people of the message, without being a people of the mission. The mission is to be and build reproducing followers of Christ who worship God, connect with others, grow in His Word, and go take the Gospel to the world. All of this is for the kingdom, which keeps our mission in the perspective of God’s great work. Of course, these lessons also help us think through our generations campaign, a campaign focused on creating space for us to create this culture. These are exciting days for the church and I am thrilled to think, study, and pray with you through all of this. Let’s pray for unity of hearts and minds as we seek God’s best.
We spent last summer in the Psalms and I thoroughly enjoyed it. (With 150 Psalms we have quite a few to go before we run out!) Our theme this summer is “I Shall Not Want.” This is the famous line from Psalm 23, the most famous of all the Psalms, and its theme. Since the Lord is our Shepherd, He provides everything we need. God provides all we will ever need. Each Psalm gives witness to this: protection, provision, defense, justice, sweet mercy, forgiveness, compassion, wisdom, help, shelter, or healing. God provides everything we need. His provisions are so rich that it makes us want to sing about it! And so this summer we gather in the chorus of the Hebrew song book to sing the great songs of the faith along with those who have sung before. As always, we are grateful for our own Danny Hinton for writing this curriculum. I’m honestly filled with joy at the thought of growing together in God’s Word this summer.
Nehemiah tells us the end of the Old Testament story. The significance of the events is huge. Think about it. God made a promise to Abraham that his family would have a land and would multiply, and that he would be a blessing to the nation. This was partially fulfilled. The promise was renewed through Moses, and then finally with David. David saw the land, he saw the multiplication, but the eternal blessing to the nations was hard to see. The kingdom was divided, conquered and the people were taken as prisoners…exiles in a foreign land. Just before the curtain closes on the Old Testament, the people return to the land and rebuild. This sets up the events of the New Testament where Jesus comes into a disrupted Jerusalem, and finds a Judaism that has drifted far from God’s original covenant design. The key characters in this story are Nehemiah the great leader, and Ezra the prophet/scribe. This story is filled with great leadership savvy and plot twists. However, mainly it is a story of hope. God keeps His promises. And when He does, how will we respond? That is the end of the story.
Marriage is an area of our lives that we can always grow in, and no matter what stage of life you are in we can all learn from the relationship that God designed to model His relationship with the church. The foundation of each marriage is critical to the stability of the relationship and marriage roles play a vital part in our daily lives. God has called us as men and women to love and respect one another and build each other up.
God is the only one who truly writes His own story. And He did. Graciously the story of God is recorded in our Bibles. The story of God is so overwhelmingly personal and intertwined with the collective stories of human history that it is tempting to think that man is the central player in his own performance. However, the Bible is the record of God and His interaction with His creation. It is the record of His actions and attributes. Understanding that the movement of God is at the core of the Bible is the key to unlocking all that God wants to teach us through it. This study will be a thrill. While it’s ambitious to cover the whole story of the Bible in four weeks, the advantages are huge. We can see, perhaps for the first time, how all the collective stories of the Bible fit into one grand narrative.
Life on Mission
If someone were to ask you to explain your faith, could you do it briefly, concisely, and in a compelling way? Nothing can replace the confidence of knowing you can turn any conversation into a Gospel conversation. Evangelism trends come and go. If you have been a part of church life for any period of time then you realize this. However, we are confident that Life on Mission will be a strategy we can stick with and promote through our many evangelistic outlets. Together we will become equipped to turn everyday conversations into Gospel conversations. With our strategic GO ministry, our growing interest in reaching the community around us, and for the simple reason that all people need to be equipped to share their faith, there is no better time for the whole church to be trained to share our faith. It’s our church on mission; it’s our life on mission.