O Rest Beside the Weary Road: Good Morning Devotional for 12.28.2021

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During our Christmas Eve service, I mentioned that so many hard things were happening to our people this week. This week has brought about even more harrowing issues that will tinge future holidays for themselves and family.

My former dean from seminary reminded us of these precious words from Edmund Sears, writer of It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. This stanza applies so well.

“And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing!”

Skeptic or Servant: How Will You Respond to God’s Plan? (Luke 1:5-38): ARBC Worship (12.19.2021)

To listen to the audio, go here.

We are called as God’s people to show no partiality, but sometimes we cannot help ourselves. I’m not excusing this when this happens–I’m just stating a reality of our sinful natures. Sadly, we look at people (their clothes, their language, their perceived finances, etc.) and make assumptions about their value and, even more, their usefulness.

We see this here in our lengthy passage for the morning. Some of you know the story, some of you don’t. But I will say this: if you never knew the story and someone told you that one of two people would distrust God’s Word and plan and those two people consisted of a priest of many decades whose job it was to lead the people in the Word and prayer and example and served in a pristine capital city; and the other was a teenage girl with little experience of the world who lived in a backwater town that someone famous asked, “Can anything good come out of here?”–it would be natural for us to say, “Well, the teenager in the rural town would disbelieve. How could someone who preached, prayed, and led for so long and so well disbelieve?”

As you can imagine, God is showing us something here. Both this priest (who goes by the name of Zechariah) and this teenager (Mary) were both needy and both were going to play a critical role in redemptive history. From the very beginning, God launched a plan to, as he said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “Save his people from their sin.” Now was the time that it would all come to fruition. Both a priest and peasant, a skeptic and a servant, would play this pivotal role.

But God would use them both. One to prepare the Way for their long-awaited Messiah–and the other to bring in the Messiah. They responded to God’s plan very differently, but they ultimately responded well. How will we when God shows up?

For more information about this ministry, go to http://www.arbc.net.

Will You Look at the Darkness or the Light? Good Morning Devotional for 12.13.2021

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Many in our country struggle with trusting our governmental leaders. In October of this year, a Gallup poll noted that the approval rating of Congress is 21%, the lowest it’s been all year (Forbes, 10/26/2021). Over the past 15 years, our country has grown more polarized politically. Every political figure is elected based on certain values people and political bases represent. Some want the government to provide every service and to tell them what the next steps should be, while others are on the other end and want the government to stay out of their lives (except for defense) and do not want the government telling them anything at all. Both sides are unhappy, both sides feel as if they are walking in darkness.

So did God’s people in Isaiah. In Isaiah 8, Assyria had employed a scorched-earth policy on the northern tribes of Israel (around 734-732 BC). The Northern Kingdom had failed to seek the things of God and, as God promised, He would bring about consequences for their rebellion and chase after false gods to bring them to repentance and to put the watching nations on notice. Read with me Isaiah 8:22-9:1:

And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness. But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time, he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time, he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations (Isaiah 8:22-9:1).

On this 3rd week of Advent, we approach a passage ripe with the fruit of Christ’s coming–a bringing of his people from gloom to glory through this Light which was to come. And we have a choice of how we will walk and what leaders we will trust. J.A. Motyer, who wrote the commentary on Isaiah, noted:

As always, the people of God must decide what reading of their experiences they will live by. Are they to look at the darkness, the hopelessness, the dreams shattered and believe that God has forgotten them? Or  are they to recall his past mercies, to remember his present promises and make great affirmations of faith?

Because there is a governmental structure we can trust, Christ the Light of the World allows us to walk in peace, a peace that will increase as we walk to and walk in the light. Unto us a child is born, unto us, a son is given! This government is all on His shoulders.

Don’t Waste Your Advent: ARBC Worship Ramp-Up (11.28.2021)

Do you approach Christmas Day with dread or with delight? Sadly, all-too-many approach it with dread because of all the activities to attend and presents to purchase.

The next holiday we celebrate en force is Christmas–a mere 27 days away. As such, today marks the beginning of a liturgical holy season known as Advent. Taken from a Latin word, it means awaiting, anticipation. This serves as a time where we calm our hearts and ready ourselves for the coming Christ-king.

Hymn: Hail Thee, Festival Day

Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day that art hallowed forever;
day when our God ascends
high in the heavens to reign.

Lo, the fair beauty of earth,
from the death of the winter arising,
every good gift of the year
now with its Master returns. 

Daily the loveliness grows,
adorned with the glory of blossom;
heaven her gates unbars, 
flinging her increase of light. 

Christ in his triumph ascends, 
who hath vanquished the devil’s dominion;
gay is the woodland with leaves,
bright are the meadows with flowers.

Christ overwhelms the domain
of Hades and rises to heaven;
fitly the light gives him praise–
meadows and ocean and sky. 

Loosen, O Lord, the enchained,
the spirits imprisoned in darkness;
rescue, recall into life those
who are rushing to death. 

So shalt thou bear in thine arms
an immaculate people to heaven,
bearing them pure unto God, 
pledge of thy victory here. 

Jesus, the health of the world,
enlighten our minds, thou Redeemer,
Son of the Father supreme, 
only-begotten of God! 

Equal art thou, co-eternal,
in fellowship ay with the Father;
in the beginning by thee
all was created and made. 

And it was thou, blessèd Lord,
who discerning humanity’s sorrow,
humbledst thyself for our race,
taking our flesh for thine own. 

Words: Venantius Fortunatus (530-609);
trans. Percy Dearmer, 1906