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December 3, 2018, 3:00 PM

Prepare the Way

Mark 1:2-8.

If you have ever traveled with a tour group, someone prepared the way for your trip. An individual or group booked your hotel stays, arranged the itinerary, secured transportation and places you would visit and tickets needed for venues. 

While John the Baptist was not operating a tour agency, God used John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. As God spoke through the prophet Isaiah: “Look, I send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way. This will be the voice in the wilderness calling out: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”

John’s ministry was to prepare people for Jesus’ public ministry and message. John’s goal was not to draw people to himself, but to get people ready for Jesus. 

And what was John the Baptist’s ministry and message? 

John the Baptist baptized people in the Jordan river, calling people to turn from their sins and receive forgiveness. He declared that this was a baptism of repentance. And people came. From all over the country of Judea, even the city of Jerusalem. People came to be baptized as they confessed their sins. 

You’d expect people to be drawn to a guy whose ministry would appear attractive, winsome. Well, John’s wasn’t. Far from it. First of all, John wore garments of camel hair tied at the waist by a leather belt. And John did not dine on Baptist potluck dinners consisting of green bean casseroles, either. Chick-fil-a? Nope. John got his protein and carbs from dining on locusts and wild honey. Not something you would likely see posted on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. And John’s message was unvarnished: “REPENT!” Certainly not a winsome, crowd pleasing message.

John didn’t seem to care about what people thought of him. He wasn’t craving attention for himself. He had one concern: preparing folks for the appearance of the Messiah who is called Christ — the long awaited, promised Savior Redeemer.

When questioned by the religious investigators sent from Jerusalem, John readily said, “I am not the Christ.” “Well, who are you? We have to report something back to those who sent us!” John answered them: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ Just as Isaiah the prophet said.”

John the Baptist’s humility is noted in Mark 1:7. “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John declared that he himself was not even worthy to untie Jesus’ shoelaces! Essentially, John said that he is nobody who is simply baptizing people with water. But Jesus will baptize folks with the power of the Holy Spirit resulting in conviction over sin, repentance, changed hearts and transformed lives! 

  • How is your heart before God? Is your heart proud and self-seeking? 
  • Does your life and speech bring attention to you - or to Jesus?
  • Talk to God. Look at yourself through the mirror of the Bible. Confess areas and ways that you have sought to please people more than God. Ask the Lord to transform your heart to reflect that of a humble servant who is simply pleased to obey and serve the Master.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:10

November 30, 2018, 12:00 AM

For the First Sunday of Advent

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Designate someone to read the first section describing the Advent wreath and the first candle. Ask someone else to read the Bible verses. (When lighting the candle, exercise safety and caution, especially supervising children who might want to help with lighting the first candle.)

You’ll notice that this wreath is made of evergreens, symbolizing life in a world always marked by winter and death. The circle reminds us of God’s unending love and the eternal life He makes possible for us through Jesus.

"The first candle of Advent symbolizes hope."   It is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” 

The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival.

Isaiah 7:14 says:    “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Isaiah 9:1-2 says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”

Isaiah 9:6-7 says: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”


O God: In Jesus is our hope. Jesus is the fulfillment of Your promises. In Jesus we have hope. We find in Jesus our hopes fulfilled. Amen!

Light the first candle!

November 29, 2018, 4:40 PM

Observing Advent this Christmas

Observing Advent?  That doesn’t sound like a Baptist tradition, does it?

Actually, you’d be surprised. Many Baptist churches around the world observe Advent, including quite a few Southern Baptists. 

What is Advent? Advent means “arrival” or “coming.” Observing Advent helps us to prepare our hearts for Christmas by remembering who Jesus is and why He came. The weekly observance can be done with the entire family involving reading related Bible passages, praying and lighting the candle. You could even sing Christmas hymns as well! Family interaction and participation is what makes Advent special for the whole family. 

Advent is observed on the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Some years Advent will begin on the last Sunday of November.

Traditionally, an Advent wreath is a circle of evergreens that symbolizes eternity and eternal life. Four candles are placed on the wreath. A new candle is lit each week. In the center of the wreath is a larger candle that will be lit last on Christmas Day; this is the Christ’s Candle. 

The first candle represents hope; it is lit the first Sunday of Advent. This first candle is also known as the “Prophet’s Candle.”

On the second Sunday of Advent, the hope candle (the Prophet’s Candle) is lit first. Then the second candle, known as faith or Bethlehem’s Candle, is lit.

On the third Sunday of Advent, the first two candles are lit (symbolizing hope and faith). Then the third candle is lit; this is the “Shepherd’s Candle,” which represents joy.

On the fourth Sunday of the first three candles are lit (symbolizing hope, faith and joy). Then the fourth candle is lit; this one symbolizes peace. It is the “Angel’s Candle.”

On Christmas Day, all four candles are lit. Then the candle in the middle is lit, which is “Christ’s Candle.” 

Check back with this blog each Friday prior to Advent. We’ll post a plan for each Sunday’s Advent observance that you can do with your family. You might even want to sing Christmas hymns that come to mind from the Bible readings. 

May this observance of Advent help prepare you and your family’s heart for Christmas and to remember the real meaning of Jesus’ birth and why it matters.

November 26, 2018, 3:51 PM

Good News

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”   Mark 1:1

What is the gospel?  As a noun, ‘gospel’ means good news, good tidings. As a verb, it means to proclaim good news.

Everyone likes to hear good news, right?  “I’ve been accepted to the university I wanted with a scholarship!” “They hired me!”  “I got a promotion with a raise in salary!”  “We’re engaged!”  “I pronounce you husband and wife.”  “We bought a house!”  “We’re having a baby!” This may have brought to your mind may have other pronouncements that herald good news.

Here in the very first verse of Mark’s Gospel, we’re told that the account of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is good news. 

Good news for whom?

Friend, this is good news for us!  This “good tidings” is the declaration of God’s salvation being provided for us through Jesus. You see, we needed to be rescued. We had rebelled against God; each and every one of us has rejected God’s sovereignty in our lives and turned from him to pursue our own way. The Bible calls this sin. All of God’s commands are right, perfect and good; however, we resented his commands and violated them. And sin carries its own penalty: death, separation from God and the coming judgment. And we can’t fix our sin problem. Even our best, most valiant deeds cannot erase the wrongs we have done or thought. This is the bad news we must acknowledge.

Yet, God in his great mercy and love sent Jesus. Jesus, God’s Son, came to live among us and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies: born of a virgin in the obscure village of Bethlehem, a descendant of King David from the tribe of Judah. Jesus lived the perfect life: total obedience to God the Father while led by the Holy Spirit loving and serving others. He willingly gave his life on the cross to pay the price our sins deserved. And in taking our sins upon himself, we received in exchange: forgiveness for our sins, his righteousness and reconciliation with God.

This is the wonder of Christmas. This is why we celebrate Jesus’ birth every December. It really is good news. To Joseph, Mary’s fiancee, the angel of the Lord said: “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21. To the shepherds, the angels said: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11.

Reflect on Mark 1:1. Do you believe this is good news for you?  Who needs to hear this good news today?

November 19, 2018, 1:01 PM

Enter His Gates!

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.”   Psalms 100:4-5 CSB

In order to enter a gate, you must be invited in by the home or landowner.

In order to enter a royal court, you must be received by the king.

Friend, you cannot come into God's presence without His permission. An audience with the King requires that we meet His conditions for entry. On our own merits, we are unable. As clever, creative or charming as we might be, those carry no privilege before God. You see, we have a great problem: sin. Every person has disobeyed God. We have each turned away from Him and rejected His sovereign rule over our lives. Even though God created us, knows us intimately and has our best interests in mind, we rebelled against Him. Our sin keeps us from knowing and loving God as we were intended to do. Why? Because our sin separates us from God; He is holy and righteous; sin will not be tolerated in His presence. As a matter of fact, God's wrath is being stored up against those who have sinned against Him. And our sin debt is so great we could never pay it off.

But there is good news. God in His great love and mercy made a way for us to have our sins pardoned and to be made new so that we could know, love and enjoy Him forever. How? By sending His Son, Jesus, who perfectly loved and obeyed His Father in all things - and willingly gave His life as the perfect sacrifice to pay our debt, to take away our sin and to make us right with God.

Those who trust in Jesus for salvation can freely enter God's gate and do so with thanksgiving because Jesus is the gatekeeper. John 10:7-10. Moreover, those who have looked to Jesus to make them right with God the Father can come boldly into His courts proclaiming His praises. 

If Jesus is your Redeemer, give thanks to God! Bless His holy name!

Why?  Because the Lord is good, so good to offer us salvation. We don't deserve it. God's mercy to us at the cross is His gift of grace. A free gift that Jesus purchased with His own blood. Salvation is God's free gift of favor to those who will receive it, but it is certainly not cheap. 

Give thanks because His faithful love endures forever through all generations!

  • Believer, give thanks to God for your salvation! Sing a hymn or song of praise to worship Him! And tell someone about the goodness and love of God who makes a way for sinners to come into His presence -- through the cross of Christ.
  • If you do not know Jesus, call out to Him. Acknowledge your own sin and rebellion against God. Admit that you need to be rescued and you need to be forgiven. Believe that Jesus' death on the cross was sufficient to pay the price your sins deserved. Then give your life to Jesus in surrender to follow and pursue Him with your whole heart and life. 

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