“Why Have You Fallen On Your Face?” – The Questions God Asks Us

Word of Encouragement- Week Ending March 17th, 2012

Series: The Questions God Asks Us

“Why Have You Fallen on Your Face” – Joshua 7:10

The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. – Joshua 7:10-12a

There’s a time to pray and fall on our faces before God in repentance. But sometimes there is a time to prayerfully act to cleanse and purify ourselves as a congregation before God. God taught Joshua and the people that sometimes even more urgent than our prayers before God is the urgency to bring about proper discipline in the congregation because of sin.

God had greatly blessed Israel with His promises and covenant faithfulness. God had promised to be with Joshua and with Israel as they entered into to possess the Promised Land (Josh. 1-2). God had promised to give Israel everything that they would need for life and godliness as a congregation and they were to be consecrated to Him, holy as God is holy (Josh. 7:13). Rather than finding hope in the grace of God alone, Achan was tempted to be satisfied in something else. He coveted, and the entire congregation was guilty because of it.

Israel had failure in their spiritual war against Ai because ‘The people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things’. Israel was called to be God’s instrument of absolute judgment on Ai (and the Canaanites), but Achan from the Tribe of Judah ‘took some of the devoted things’. ‘And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel’ (Josh. 7:1). [*Note: “Devoted things” [Heb. “herem”] were lives and possessions that were to be totally obliterated before the face of God as a temporal judgment upon sin; nothing was to remain as a type of Last Day Judgment”].

Before a congregation can expect God to bless their labors and give them spiritual success in spiritual warfare, they must act to cleanse themselves from sin. God said to Joshua: “I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (Josh. 7:12-13). As God’s people it is important for a congregation to practice regular confession of sins in corporate worship, accountability, and biblical discipline to prevent impurity because of sins in a congregation.

Achan, who was the one responsible for God’s temporal judgment, confessed his sin of covetousness (although there were great consequences- Josh. 7:20-21, and there was also lying and stealing involved, Josh. 7:11). But his confession was not quick enough; Achan did not confess his sins willingly because he felt the weight of sin against God and the congregation. He apparently thought he could continue to hide in his sins without any consequences for himself or his church (see Josh. 7:16-19; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1ff).

Although God knew where the sin was to be found, and the guilty party (because He is the searcher of our hearts), he appointed Joshua and the leaders to find the sin that was affecting the entire congregation (Josh. 7:14ff). Joshua searched and waited patiently, humbly and diligently for a confession of sin (when Joshua approached Achan, he was very courteous and humble in his discipline practice which is extremely exemplary and commendable to all Christians, Josh. 7:19). This kind of confrontation of another in the congregation is not easy, and should be soberly and humbly done with God’s leading (Josh. 7:14ff).

Is there anything worse than sin? Do you know that in Scripture sin is so dangerous it is vividly described as transgression against God, slavery, idolatry, leprosy, God’s punishment, insanity, etc.? Is there anything worse than sin? Just to think of how God is offended by sin should be enough to deter us! Think of the potential dangers of what one “little” sin can do to destroy a person, rip apart a family, and severely affect an entire congregation of God’s people?

Have you seen the horrendous damage that can be done because of unforgiveness, resentment, anger, child abuse, divorce, murder, rape, greediness, theft, division, grumbling, complaining, and/or incest??!! God is serious about judgment upon sin and its prevention in His people!

When we think about the discipline that is carried out in Joshua 7 of stoning and burning, we can be shocked and speechless. But I wonder why we can be more concerned at the kind of discipline in this passage than we are of the offensive sinfulness of Achan. Why are we not angry because God has been offended and His Spirit grieved? Why is it that we are not incensed and deeply angry because of covetousness, and the lying and stealing, and the affects of our sins on others? Shouldn’t we more shocked by the sin than the discipline that is recorded here?

The Bible teaches that discipline is important as an obedient response to God’s Word (Matt. 18:15-18; Heb. 12:5ff). Thankfully, discipline practices of the Old Covenant have changed since the coming of Christ, but the need for discipline is the same in every congregation. Why would we think otherwise? God saves a people, and completes His work in a people; God saves individuals to be part of a corporate church. Why would we not be accountable to God and to one another? I realize disciple has been abused, and there will be a day of judgment for the abuse of it as well as a day of judgment for those who have not practiced it as they should.

Biblical discipline is a loving practice.When our children flagrantly sin against God, themselves, and our families, we do not merely go to pray for them to show them our love. That we must do as well! But we also lovingly practice discipline which the bible teaches is one of God’s means of growth in grace and Christ-likeness (Hebrews 12:5ff).

ESV Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

ESV Proverbs 15:10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.

We love our children and we don’t want them to hurt themselves or others. In fact, the Scriptures teach that if we are not disciplined, we are not truly loved by God (Heb. 12:8). Therefore, it is important to note that discipline when done with grace, and with an eye toward restoring the sinful offender, is a great act of God’s love. Just as we love our children in this way in our family, so we should love one another in the church in this same way.

ESV Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Biblical discipline can serve as a warning for both young and old of the consequences of sinning against God Almighty. Biblical discipline can protect our families, prevent sinful practices from growing and being nurtured in God’s church, causing the increase of sin and impurity in others. The truth is that we should have all by now been immediately judged for our sins against God and one another (see Acts 5:1ff). But God is patient and merciful toward us.

In the New Covenant, the judgment on Achan has fallen completely on the Lord Jesus Christ in our place. Can you see Jesus, the Beloved Savior, God in the flesh for us, taking our sin debt upon Himself; Jesus taking much more than a stone-crushing blow to the skull as He falls under the power of sin’s consequences on the cross.

Can you see God Almighty crushing Jesus under His mighty power and wrath for our sins (Isa. 53:10)? Can you see Jesus who knew no sin at all, becoming the sin-bearer of every last sin of all of God’s people past, present and future in the burning wrath and fury of God’s judgment (2 Cor. 5:21)?

Achan was punished for His sins and transgressions; Jesus was punished for our sins and transgressions. Rejoice!

Peace returned to Israel after Achan’s death; Peace comes permanently to God’s people through Jesus’ death (cf. Romans 5:1ff). Rejoice!

God was reconciled to Israel through Achan’s death and judgment; Believers are reconciled to God through the death and judgment of Christ in our place. Rejoice!

Achan’s suffering because of His sins healed Israel; Jesus’ suffering because of our sins heals all of God’s people. Rejoice! The Bible teaches:

He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

As believers, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us and this is all of grace, so that we will live purely for Him. We are unleavened as God’s people; sin has been removed from us in Christ and so we are to live like it as a congregation! Let us listen to the Apostle Paul in a similar New Covenant situation:

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” – 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8

As we consider the grace of the Lord Jesus, let us seek to be accountable, and to hold each other accountable in sincerity and truth; the leaven of sin will leaven the whole lump of the congregation! No man is an island, certainly not a Christian. We are in fact all part of one body in Christ (1 Cor. 12). Every person’s sin, including mine (and how I know this so deeply and sadly!), grieves God Almighty (Eph. 4:30) and has terrible consequences and harmful affects on my family and my congregation.

So, let us act humbly before God. Let us be patient and loving, but let us seek to love one another enough to discipline and hold each other formally accountable (Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 5:9-13). Let us speak and live the truth together in love. Recognizing that we are all potentially dangerous and sinful people, who are tempted with covetousness and other forms of idolatry that only Jesus Christ can heal (1 Cor. 10:12-13; 1 John 5:21; Col. 3:5).

“Why have you fallen on your face?”

If you have been convicted by the Spirit of your sins, then confess them. If you confess your sins, then go and make any restitution that needs to be made with others. Believe that if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8ff).

Then go and confidently follow Christ, telling others who love you of your proneness to certain wickedness, the sins that so easily beset you, and live confidently before God in His grace and love. Be encouraged to submit to one another in love, thanking God that others are watching over you and helping you to resist your sin, and to encourage you to endure righteously to the end!

ESV Hebrews 3:12-13:Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.


In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

“Who Has Made Man’s Mouth…Is It Not I, the LORD?” – Questions God Asks Us

Word of Encouragement- Week Ending March 10th, 2012

Series: The Questions God Asks Us

“Who Has Made Man’s Mouth…Is It Not I, the LORD?” – Exodus 4:11

ESV Exodus 4:11-12: Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”


At some time in your life, you have felt that dreaded nervousness that crawls up within you when you must perform the important music recital you have practiced intensely and often, or you must prove your skills to your teammates and the crowd when all seem to be depending upon you to hit the ball when the bases are loaded, or you have been asked to give a presentation and a speech before other people. “Speak before other people!!”


At these times, we ask internally, thinking to ourselves: “What will they think?” “How will I do?” “Will I make a fool of myself?” “Will I forget everything I have learned?”


Our confidence weakens and wanes and we are filled with flittering tummy butterflies that reveal our anxieties and fears. The reason we get this way ultimately is because we are focused more on our self rather than upon the Living God. We get too focused merely on our gifts rather than the Gifter-Giver really. And that is why we are so anxious and fearful.


Now understand there is a natural tendency to feel a bit apprehensive and nervous about an important situation where you have worked hard and desire to do your best, but often we have an unnatural, sinful tendency to let our feelings overwhelm us because we lack focus, and because we lack focus, we lack confidence and trust in God. Let us remember that we were never meant as humans to do anything apart from God (we were created by God to be “with Him”). We were all created dependent, and we must remain dependent, trusting, creatures, who constantly remember that God is always with us as He has promised to be!


Moses was like us. One of the beautiful truths of Holy Scripture is that the people in God’s story are all fallen, sinful creatures like us, who make the same mistakes, fall into the same sinful traps, and are frightened, anxious and scared just like us (1 Cor. 10:11-13).


In our passage from Exodus 4, God was on the verge of delivering His people from over four hundred years of slavery. He had heard the cries of His people, and He had remembered His covenant. It was time for God to act powerfully on behalf of the people (Exodus 2:24-25). God called Moses at the burning bush and revealed His name to him (Exodus 3:10-14).

Yet Moses was apprehensive to do the will of God. Moses thought of his own weaknesses, rather than God’s great strength. Moses focused more on himself rather than upon the living God who was with him. Moses feared that he was too ineloquent to speak in God’s name, and not to mention, he knew intimately the challenge of marching right up into Pharaoh’s palace to tell this great king that God had called to free the people from slavery.

But soberly and pointedly God asks Moses: “Who has made man’s mouth?” The question is to get Moses to think of God rather than himself. If God wants to deliver, God will deliver according to His power, because of His loving-kindness and mercy! God asks the question about His own power of creation in making man’s mouth, to assure Moses that He has plenty of strength and power to do what Moses might be unable to do.

This was the heart of matter, wasn’t it? God was faithfully present with Moses, and had clearly made His glory and power known to Moses, but Moses’ focus was on the challenging situation and his own abilities, and not on the God who was powerfully present with Moses to show Himself faithful.

Moses’ concern was on his own speech and ability to speak that was aggravated and accentuated in the light of a challenging situation. You can understand Moses’ predicament. Rarely will we be called as God’s representative and ambassador to face a mighty dictator with God’s Word. Yet daily we are called to represent the LORD in our lives and deeds, and it can be just as intimidating sometimes, especially if it is a powerful person, or a person we want to impress.

Going face to face with Pharaoh, the ‘KING of Egypt’ in all his power and glory was extremely intimidating we must admit. But Moses was essentially comparing his powers and abilities with those of Pharaoh and his court. God was calling Moses to draw confidence and trust in Him alone. While Moses was intimidated and concerned about these things, he lost sight of God.

Isn’t Moses a bit like you and me? Like many of us, at times we are too focused on self to do any real good and to bring powerful change in this world?! As Christians, we are to learn to focus on God’s power through us as we make ourselves available to Him in Christ. The truth of Scripture is NOT “God helps those who help themselves” but rather “God helps those who have no hope and help in themselves”! My father used to say when I would say “I can’t do such and such” that “Can’t never could.” I have come to realize that this may be true at times, but overall it is false. I think I would say now (as an older man):

Not “can’t never could” but “Can’t often does a lot of good, when ‘can’ts’ could’ is focused on God’s good.”

Like Moses, we also have intimidating situations, although they differ in degrees, we nevertheless get anxious and fearful and focus on ourselves. In our lives, the question that God asked Moses could be put to us like this: “Who has given you the gifts you have?” “Who has given you your present job?” “Who has called you to teach your family biblical truth?” “Who has given to you resources that you can learn grow in godly wisdom?” “Who has called you to pray for hardened and unbelieving friends and relatives?” Who has given you the very words of God in Christ to make known to the world in your daily witness?”

“Who has given to you your present position and calling to fulfill it for God no matter how great the opposition, and no matter how incapable and weak that you feel you can do it?” Who has called you and not someone else to do what you do for God’s glory?”

All of us when we encounter what we perceive a difficult situation try to take a quick inventory of our own gifts and abilities, and then we tend to either go forward confidently, or move backward cowardly based on our estimation of these abilities. We often compare ourselves with others, and we try to finitely evaluate the work of others with our own. Rarely do we see God in this first. But we must. God has given us what we need for all situations; can we trust Him? Do you trust God? Here is the truth: You are weak; others do have greater gifts; you will make mistakes and you will fail; but the point is not what you have to offer God, but the immeasurably great power that God offers to you to do His will!! (Eph. 1:18-23).

It is not about comparing gifts with others, as much as understanding that if God has called you to a task to glorify His name, no matter how incompetent you may be, no matter how many others could probably do it better, God will be with you, and will bring His appointed and ordained results out of you because of His power, and through your weak, yet willing obedience.

It is a dangerous thing to try and finitely, and with limited perspective evaluate our own gifts and work for God, even the Apostle Paul did not try evaluating his work but trusted God (see 1 Cor. 4:3-7).

Be honest with God: What has God called you to do that you know he has called you to do this very day, and yet you are being hindered by your own perceived weaknesses, or you’re evaluating your own gifts with the gifts of others thinking they could do better, or you’re looking to much at the opposition? God calls you right now to behold His power and glory, and His promise to be with you!

If God wants to use man to deliver others, then He will do so. If God gives us our mouths (like Moses) and the power of speech, or he gives us any other gifts to try our best, he will also give us the grace to accomplish what He calls us to accomplish. Even in this situation with Moses, God graciously uses Moses powerfully, but grants him the help of another partner and helper (his brother Aaron), as Moses focuses on God and not himself, and believes and trusts God to do what God has promised to do.

God is instructing Moses in ‘Humility 101’; Moses’ success will be because of God’s power. God doesn’t need our strengths, our gifts, or our confidence in SELF. God wants us to trust Him, and that is all. As Moses would later learn, God wants us to

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today…” (Exodus 14:13).

Here is what we are to learn daily:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We sadly strive as Christians sometimes to become confident in ourselves just like the world. We should strive for excellence, and to work hard for God’s glory, and to seek to gain more competence in our learning and in the using of our gifts and abilities, there is no doubt. But if any change is going to come; if there is going to be any real redemption and rescue from sin, it will be because we put our confidence and hope in God and His power alone. God alone has the power to change both us and other through us.

God redeemed Israel from slavery, and he used a weak and sinful and anxiously frightened man named Moses who had learned to focus on God alone. Moses was God’s instrument, and Moses became more like His LORD as he learned to trust Him by focusing on His Word and the great and wonderful promise that God was always with Him- -no matter what situation! Yet God redeemed—God’s power was revealed and made known that we could boast in God alone!

In the fullness of the times, one greater than Moses came to deliver God’s people! God united Himself permanently to our human nature to speak words of grace and power through humility and meekness (Matt. 11:25-30). Jesus was not someone who was outwardly attractive and gifted (Isaiah 53:2-5); Jesus’ miracles were all done clearly because of the power of God with Him to show that Jesus was truly God in the flesh; the miracles and the great acts of Jesus were not to bring glory to Himself, but to point to the fact that God was truly with Him, and that salvation was found in Jesus Christ alone, God in the flesh for us, who is also with us.

Jesus Christ performed all of God’s will on earth with His glory veiled so that we would know that God is with us too, and that we could remember that if God is with us he is for us, and if he is for us, there is no one who can be against us! (Romans 8:31). Jesus Christ teaches us that God works through meekness and weakness to achieve His powerful goals of salvation and mercy to all who will believe. So we should seek to be like Jesus in all we do, humbling depending upon God alone, and doing it for God alone, boasting in God alone, with our focus on God alone (read Philippians 2:1-11).

The greatest act that Jesus performed for His people was one He had to fully trust God to do. Jesus had to drink the full cup of God’s wrath and punishment for our sins down to the dregs. The Bible teaches:

ESV Mark 14:34-36: And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus knew that in Himself, He couldn’t perform what He was called to do, yet HE NEVER LOST CONFIDENCE IN GOD! He knew that “all things are possible with God” (Mark 14:36), and that God would work through weakness to bring His own powerful will to pass: the redemption of God’s dearly loved people, you and me!

In a great act of weakness, losing all of His gifts and powers, and losing the dear presence of His Father that He had experienced from before the foundation of the world in the bosom of His Beloved Father, Jesus confronted not merely Pharaoh, but the devil and death itself, submitting Himself to the Father’s will in weakness, so that our sins would be judged on Jesus rather than on us.

What is beautiful about Jesus’ mouth is His cry of dereliction for us: ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ In Jesus’ weakness, in His death for our sins, we should see our only hope of redemption. Jesus, who knew no sin, who never- -ever committed one sin in thought, word, or deed, took all of the sins of His people upon Himself, and was crushed by the Father for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:10), so that we could have His perfect righteousness and know that God loves us and is with us for all eternity!

Now, we should hear, even in our greatest weakness as believers redeemed by Jesus, God’s command to us in Christ: “Go, and I will be with you…”; God’s promise to all believers in Christ is: “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exodus 4:12).

In Christ, God makes all of us His mouthpieces to testify of the goodness of God in Christ; to testify of how Christ has set us free from sin and slavery; to testify that our hope and full confidence is in God’s power and grace in Jesus Christ and not in ourselves; to testify that all the perfect righteousness that God requires, He provides for all who believe in Christ alone apart from works; to testify that He is God, and God alone, and we are His servants who must depend upon Him alone!

…And this we are to do weak in ourselves, but confident in Christ, knowing that when we’re weak we are incredibly strong!

Let us serve Him. Ask yourself in the next situation that causes you anxiety and fear:

“Who has made man’s mouth?” Then go and give Him your best confidence and trust in Jesus as He reveals His glory and goodness to you because HE IS WITH YOU!


In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

“Why Is It That You Ask My Name?” – The Questions God Asks Us

Word of Encouragement- Week Ending March 3rd, 2012

Series: The Questions God Asks Us

“Why Is It that You Ask My Name?” – Genesis 32:29

ESV Genesis 32:29-30: Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (meaning “face of God”), saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.


Jacob was a sinner who was chosen by God to be a recipient of His love and promises through the Gospel. Jacob was a man that reveals to us that even the dearest of God’s people have lots of struggles in their lives; struggles with self, with others, and struggles also with God. At a difficult and challenging time of Jacob’s life, he prayed to God and asked Him to show grace and mercy to him in his time of need; and God answered his prayer (Gen. 32:9-12)! This prayer revealed that Jacob is growing in grace and spiritual knowledge in his life. Be encouraged: God continues the work that He begins in us!

While alone one night apparently thinking through his situation in solitude a “man” appears to Jacob, who only progressively is revealed as the Living God Himself (Gen. 32:24ff). Jacob wrestles with this “man” throughout the night and was permanently marked by this conflict (Gen. 32:25-32).

Jacob’s life with God is revealed in his struggle: a trust in God, but mixed with apprehension; dependence upon God, yet mixed with his own independence; boldness before God, yet often arrogance too; righteousness from God, yet mixed with sin. These are typical descriptions of all who are called by God and given grace to live (Romans 7:14ff). Isn’t Jacob a bit like you and me?!

And by His grace and power, God changes Jacob’s name to “Israel” because He was a man who wrestled with God and prevailed (Gen. 32:28). We learn here that Jacob (and all of God’s people) will always have success through humility and prayer, not through our own power or ingenuity; we are all needy before God. Jacob names the place “Peniel” because he knows he had seen God’s holy face, and yet he lived to tell about it (Gen. 32:30). Jacob has been humbled before God who is stronger, and is now more completely His strong tower and Savior.

Lots of naming going on in this passage in Genesis that we should recognize in the larger context: Jacob’s name is changed; Jacob names the place; God asks Jacob’s name; Jacob asks God’s name. And this is where we must stop and ponder. God has willingly revealed Himself to Jacob. God has revealed Himself to Jacob in many uncertain situations, particularly has He revealed Himself as a good and covenant-keeping God of promise. But especially God has revealed Himself in His loving acts toward Jacob.

God asked Jacob his name to humble him and to remind him that he is the “supplanter” or “deceiver”. God sovereignly puts Jacob “in His place” (but mercifully!). Jacob will no longer be identified by flesh, but by the Spirit and will be known from now on as “Israel” or “one who prevails”; this is real spiritual transformation by God’s grace and power.

It is one thing for Jacob to answer God’s question to humbly admit the guilt of who his name reveals that he is. To ask Jacob for his name is God’s prerogative; for us to ask for God’s name, that is another matter completely. I think what we should notice is that Jacob desires to attempt to control God by asking His Name and to lead in the revelation relationship between them. At this point, God is revealing Himself graciously to Jacob in His acts of mercy, but it seems because of Jacob’s remaining pride and control, He is not noticing the revelation of God as He should.

God chooses to come close to His people in redemptive-history, but He does not reveal everything about Himself. Even when God does reveal Himself in His names and attributes it is progressively throughout Scripture. There is still a mystery to God that only He knows, and is unwilling to fully reveal to us. And when God does choose to reveal Himself, it is in His own good and perfect timing. God reveals Himself to His people clearly by His grace, but not completely. God chooses to “keep His holy distance” and not to be controlled by sinful man.

To know a name, and to know it intimately, was a way of having possession or ownership of someone or something in the ancient world; it could be a revelation of authority, or of controlling another. It was right for Adam and Eve to be given by God as His vice-regents in creation the authority to name the animals. God has a right to change our names (and this is a blessing of His showing His authority over us, and the blessing of the New Creation, Isaiah 62:2; Rev. 2:17; 3:12). But for us to know the intimate details of God’s Name, His holy character in entirety, His fullness of glory and deity, is not for us to ask on our terms. This grace of revelation is a mystery that is God’s alone to reveal- -and in His good time, if at all.

There is a similar incident of God’s people asking for God’s name in Manoah, Samson’s father in Judges 13:17-18. And God asks the same question he does here to Jacob: “Why do you ask my name?”: “And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”

Both of these biblical passages seem to teach that on the one hand God will reveal Himself on His own terms and in His own time (God does indeed teach us that He is ‘Jehovah Jireh’; ‘Jehovah Tsidkenu’; ‘El Olam’; ‘I Am that Am’, etc. and we can truly know Him through His names and attributes). These Scriptures also seem to reveal that we are to reflect on our encounters with God- –particularly God’s gracious acts toward us.

Both Jacob and Manoah are encouraged by God to ponder what they already know about the character of God through His acts of promise, power and grace. Our encounters with God should bring humility before Him as we receive the revelation He chooses to make know to us about Himself.

These incidents seem to be a quiet invitation into humbly mediating upon God’s acts and the gracious and merciful character of God that is revealed clearly to us in His acts for us!

These incidents foreshadow the incarnation. In the Old Covenant, God veils His name sometimes, and denies a full revelation of Himself to Jacob (and Manoah). Later, when God would enflesh Himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her very human substance, God veils the full revelation of Himself, that is His glory (Phil. 2:6-8). Yet He reveals His name as JESUS, the Savior of sinners, which is everything we truly need to know about God!  God’s full glory and full disclosure of His face are kept until later (and even then as creatures we cannot know God as God knows Himself, as He is in Himself!). 

God’s name is “Wonderful”; His Name is “JESUS” the name above every name; His full God-ness and glory are veiled and not fully revealed, but what do we behold?

We behold God coming near to us in Jesus Christ, revealing Himself in the fullness of the times in His Almighty power and grace in His mighty acts of power and grace to sinners. We see the face of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:17-18); we don’t behold His glory as the “naked deity” (or “God in Himself” or “God in His essence”) but as the God who makes Himself and His Name known to us in Jesus Christ.

God reveals all that we need to know about Him- -He has given His people a Savior- -there is salvation from sin! Matthew (1:21) teaches us: [The Virgin Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

God reveals Himself in the flesh (John 1:14), and this God wants us to ponder his character revealed through Jesus’ acts for us: What has God done for us? How are we to be saved? What is our hope for the future? These questions are answered sufficiently in Jesus Christ and we can encounter Jesus every day through his Word and by His Holy Spirit. The LORD redeems us from the slavery of sin and death so that we can truly know Him as He has revealed Himself in JESUS. Isn’t God wonderful?

For every question of God that you may have, for every time you feel your questions go unanswered and you seek to delve into the mysteries of God’s revelation He has not fully revealed to you, stop yourself, and go to Jesus Christ. There you will find the answer to God’s mystery (Eph. 3:9-10), the very embodiment of God’s mystery and plan for the ages (Eph. 1:9ff), salvation from sin, and every thought of God’s love that He has been pleased to reveal to you in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ!

There are some things in our lives that God will not reveal to us. We may be tempted to control God because we want to stay in control and lead in our relationship with Him. But we must understand, that God alone is the Sovereign King, let Him alone reveal Himself, and let God speak, and let us listen.

Like Jacob, let our encounters with God by His Spirit through His Word transform us into humble, receptive, children who know that we will prevail through God’s power and persevering prayer. Let us leave our old identities behind, and let us find our new names in Jesus!

And let that draw us into the worship of God through the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – ESV Acts 4:12

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – ESV Philippians 2:9-11

God reveals Himself sufficiently and fully to us in Jesus Christ. Let us go to Christ to find all the answers we need for our lives and for growing in godly, Christ-likeness.


In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

“Is Anything Too Hard for the LORD?” – The Questions God Asks Us

Word of Encouragement- Week Ending Feb. 25th, 2012

Series: The Questions God Asks Us

“Is Anything Too Hard for the LORD?” – Genesis 18:14

ESV Genesis 18:14 “Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”


Beloved in Christ, this is your question today: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”

Sometimes you think there is something too hard in your life that even God cannot help you with. You believe, but sometimes you are inconsistent with what you say you believe. You believe in a sovereign God who rules over the world. You believe in the Almighty God who is maker of heaven and earth. You believe that God was made flesh and lived and died for you. You believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. You believe that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Yet your worry, anxiety and fears betray what you’re hiding, and they reveal a heart that wants to believe, more than actually does believe. As a Christian, you know the truths of God are infallibly true and wonderfully revealed to you in Scripture, but you often live inconsistently with these truths, and you’re easily troubled. But again, let God ask you: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”

Abraham and Sarah waited a very long time to hold in their arms the baby that had been long promised to them by God. For twenty-five long years, they waited on the promise of God to be realized in their lives. There were times of strong faith, and also times of failure during their wait. In Genesis 18, God manifested Himself to Abraham and Sarah to assure them that His promises would come to past “next year” (18:10) —and Sarah laughs in unbelief, and then tried to deny that she had indeed laughed:

“So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” …. But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:12, 15).”

Isn’t she a bit like you and me?! Sarah couldn’t see how God could take her state of practical death in that she was too old to have babies, and grant her new life. Sarah could not conceive in her mind how she could ever conceive a child through God’s life-giving power. What God had promised was just a bit beyond her grasp of faith.

God knew also that she had laughed, and He was not angry with her and take away His gracious promises to her as it were. Rather, it was as if God was confronting Sarah with her laughter of unbelief so that she might see her sins, and might behold in Him the One who could do all things!

This is our God, dear congregation of Jesus! God reveals Himself and keeps His promises to us in spite of our lack of faith, and our silly, limited unbelief. God is always going to be faithful to His people even when His people are unfaithful to Him (2 Tim. 2:13). This in itself is a reason to ask yourself: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” God can do all things; even forgive our sins because of His mercy.

Whatever your worries, anxieties, and fears are revealing is wrong deep within your heart, you can go to God, with a mere seed of faith, and find a great and powerful Christ ready to forgive, ready to pardon, ready to receive and ready to give to you above and beyond what you could ever ask or imagine!

What are your worries today? What is it in your life that is too difficult for you? What threatens to overwhelm you in your fears? What is too great– too hard– too difficult for you?!”

But you say: “You don’t understand my situation.” You don’t understand that I have made this problem for myself, and I must get myself out.” “There is no way that you would ever understand the problems at my workplace…in my marriage…with my children…the change that never seems to come with myself!?”

Think on Christ. Jesus loves you, and he has lived and died for you. God permanently took upon Himself a human nature from the substance of the Virgin Mary, to unite God and man together forever in Him. In Christ, God did the unbelievable. The Incarnation is the “enfleshing” of God Almighty with the goal of securing your redemption! When God sent His Son into the world, it was with you and your hard situations in mind! God who is Spirit united Himself to a body; God who is infinite united Himself to finitude; God who is everywhere present, became local in Jesus; God who is all-knowing, became limited and learning. And all for us!

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Think about the Incarnation and how in Christ God reveals what is in our estimation the “impossible”. Remember: “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). When the Angel Gabriel came to the Virgin Mary in the fullness of the times and told her that Jesus, the Son of God, would be born to her, she didn’t laugh- – but believed. This is how we too come to understand and believe.

We may not fully understand our situation (and many times will not!); we may doubt a bit in the power and grace of God toward us (this is a reality of weak faith in this life); but we are to bow before God in humility with the little faith we have in a great Christ, and say with Mary:

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

We are to simply seek to believe God’s Word to us. What is too hard for you today? This thing you are concerned about is never impossible with God. Believe. Think of the change that God has wrought in your heart by the power of the Spirit. Have you always believed? No! How did you come to believe in Christ in the first place? Was this not a mighty “impossible” display of God’s power in taking a hardened sinner far from God, and making your heart loving and teachable, and full of desire to follow Jesus?

Is this not a hard thing, too? Go back to your conversion, think on how the power of the Spirit came upon you to transfer you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s son; how you were raised, like Lazarus, from the spiritual dead, and seated with Christ in the heavenly places; how you were dead in trespasses and sins, enslaved to sin and the devil, and you were raised to new life in Jesus! (Col. 1:13-14; Eph. 2:1-8; Col. 3:14). Truly, I ask you, when you think of the work that has begun in you, “Is there anything too hard for the LORD?”

Think of the work yet to be done because God is committed to you. He who began a good work will complete it in you! (Phil. 1:6). God is committed to changing us. Ask Him for more faith. Don’t keep your doubts from him, but rather confess them. If you laugh at what you find to be unbelievable at the moment, learn from Sarah, and don’t cover it up and lie to God. God knows our hearts, and He kindly deals with us not according to our sins, but he pities us knowing that we are but dust (Psalm 103:11-15). Like a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on us.

Confess your worries and anxieties and fears to God. Tell him how you are struggling. Go to God in Jesus Christ who wears your nature before the face of God to represent you as your Great and Faithful High Priest, and ask Him for more faith to trust and believe all that He has promised to you.

Then laugh. Laugh with a deep joy, and hearty, belly-like, robust laugh (a real guffaw!), that God is good. Laugh with all your heart knowing that Jesus is for you, and not against you. And if God be for you, who or what could possibly be against you, or harm you?! (Psalm 27:1ff; Romans 8:30ff). Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, so go and flourish in your faith, knowing that nothing can harm you (Romans 8:35-39). In Christ, you’re more than a conqueror over everything that God allows to come into your life!

The hardest, most difficult, trying, exasperating, soul-crushing, and painfully unbearable work that could have been imagined, or done by you or anyone else, has been done for you in the death of Jesus Christ.

What was impossible for us has been done for us. Our sins against God were a constant and permanent reminder that we owed God for every sin in our words, thoughts and our deeds. We owed God not only an infinite payment for the sinful condition and our actual sins, but also we owed him a perfect lifetime of righteous living according to His commands, for His glory alone.

We could never repay such a debt. But God did the impossible; God did what was hard for us. God sent His Beloved Son Jesus to perfectly keep His commands and earn all righteousness before Him for us. God sent Jesus, His Beloved Son to die and provide an infinitely valuable sacrifice for our infinite sin-debt against a Holy and Just God for us. God was satisfied with Jesus’ hard work on our behalf; Jesus was raised and vindicated as a permanent and eternal memorial that all who believe in Him have been forgiven. And this, very hard thing, by grace, because of God’s love, has been done, for us.




God is good and faithful.

Look to Jesus who loves you!

“Is there anything too hard for the LORD?”

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

“Why Are You Angry?” – The Questions God Asks Us

Word of Encouragement- Week Ending Feb. 18th, 2012

Series: The Questions God Asks Us

“Why Are You Angry…?”- Genesis 4:6

ESV Genesis 4:6-10: The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.

Cain’s heart was not right before God. Both Cain and Abel came to bring offerings of worship to God Almighty (Gen. 4:1-5). Both were outwardly worshipping God and bringing the substance of their labors to the LORD for worship and dedication. But Cain’s heart was far from God, even though his lips and actions may have honored Him.

Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God because his heart was right before God. This reminds all of us of the importance of daily seeking to live before God with tender hearts that are devoted to our loving Savior. We must never come to God in our own name, but always in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and with a heart resting in His completed work alone.

“For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”- 1 Samuel 16:7

Cain’s sacrifice was a mere show and God knew his heart, and God rejected his offering: “…For Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Gen. 4:5). This made Cain very angry. So God asked Cain: “Why are you angry?”

God asks him the question about his anger to lovingly and patiently bring him to see his sin and to repentance. God warns Cain of the danger of his sin, and sin’s desire to possess and enslave him (Gen. 4:7).

Why was Cain angry? On the surface it was because his brother’s sacrifice was acceptable and his was rejected. Deeper in Cain’s heart, he was angry for selfish reasons. The anger that was manifesting and coming forth from Cain’s heart was that he didn’t truly love God as he should. Cain thought God owed him something; Cain came in his own name, based on his own merits, or what he thought he deserved from God.

Cain thought selfishly that his works for God were good enough and that God was indebted to accept him. God warns Cain of sin’s ability to enslave and seek to master those who would reject God’s grace, relying on their own works and efforts before God. We too must always keep in mind that we deserve nothing before God because of our sinfulness. God is good and faithful, and does amazingly gracious things for us, yet we are undeserving. We must keep this in our minds, let we too, become angry and ungrateful, thinking that somehow must accept us.  All of us are accepted only on the basis of the completed work of Jesus Christ.

But Cain does not listen to God’s gracious and merciful warning. What we see here is a man who is seeking to please God for himself. Cain is seeking to self-justify, rather than trust in the riches of God’s grace by asking God for mercy and receiving God’s justification through faith alone in His promises to us. Our only hope is that God justifies the ungodly based on what God has done for us in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:23-26); we must repent of our efforts at justifying ourselves before God, it will only lead to more anger at God and others.

Let our will be God’s will; let our hearts be honest before God. Our anger often is an indicator that we somehow think we deserve grace from God. When we’re angry, let us find out if we are perhaps only serving self rather than serving God. Our anger reveals something about our hearts before God. Do we truly believe that we are received by God’s grace alone, or do we think that God owes us something, and so we get angry when we estimate that we have gotten less than we think we deserve?

Honestly, what do we truly deserve before God? When we think of the numerous times we have been angry with God and others from our hearts, the many times we have self-righteously and self-centeredly lived for God only for what we could get from God, let us be reminded of His rich love and grace to us in Jesus Christ.

How patient and kind, how gentle and meek God is toward us. How He loves those who will recognize what they truly deserve for their sins, and find grace in God’s promise to forgive and heal and to accept that is found in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rather than repent, Cain struck in angry murder against his brother Abel who was accepted by faith. If sinners cannot kill God in their anger, they will kill those who please God if they have the opportunity.

God asks us today: “Why are you angry?” Do you think you deserve something from me? Will you not be accepted if you do what is right, simply trusting and believing in God’s promises revealed in Jesus Christ alone? Will you not be accepted if you simply believe that all the righteousness that God requires of you He also provides for you in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ?

Anger is potential murder against God and those whom God loves. It was the anger of the Pharisees and teachers of Israel that put Jesus to death. Yet through this sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, all repentant sinners (including the angriest, and those farthest right now in their hearts before God) can be brought near to God and be accepted by God in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6; 2:14ff) through Jesus’ precious blood that continually cries out for forgiveness rather than vengeance, and speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24.

With God, there is mercy and forgiveness, and everlasting steadfast, undeserved love because of the precious blood shed by God’s blessed Son for sinners! God poured out His righteous and just anger on His Beloved Son, so that we could be acceptable to Him.

Why are you angry? Repent, believe; repent again, believe again. When you are angry, ask yourself what you truly deserve, and then see what God graciously has given you by His grace in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ!

He lived for you; go live for Him! He died for you; go lose your life so you can truly find it! He was raised and vindicated for you; go and live righteously alive in Him! He was enthroned at God’s right hand; go and be confident in Him!

Let us be careful to watch ourselves and our hearts closely, as Calvin warned us: “Anger is always our near neighbor.”

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

“Where Are You?” – The Questions God Asks Us

Word of Encouragement- Week Ending Feb. 11th, 2012

Series: The Questions God Asks Us

“Where are you?”


“But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” – ESV Genesis 3:9

“Where are you?” is the first question in the Bible. Interestingly, it is the first question that God utters to mankind. The first question in the Bible teaches us that God seeks to ask His people questions. But why?

God is omniscient and that means He knows all things. Why then would He ask us questions? Doesn’t He already know the answer?

The questions that God asks are not so much for His sake as they are for us. God wants to draw us near to Himself, and to search and know us. God delights in His children coming to Him and hearing Him as He speaks by His Spirit through His Word. He wants to speak to us, and for us to learn to listen to Him (Deut. 6:4; Prov. 2:1ff).

When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they had gone their own way. They had lived according to their own plans, and done what was right in their own eyes (Much like we often do! Gen. 3:1-7). They had willingly broken fellowship and communion with God. Rather than truly listening and learning from their wonderful Creator and LORD, they chose to do their own will.

Yet God graciously came to our first parents, and sought them out, even when they were not looking for Him! The Bible tells us that God came “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). Rather than join God for fellowship as would have been their normal practice and delight, Adam and Eve actually sought to hide from God because of the fear and shame that sin produces. Sin may cause us to hide from God, but in His mercy God seeks after His own.

Satan, sin and shame may drive us away from God, but God intends by grace to draw His dear children near to Him! (John 6:37, 44; James 4:8).

John Calvin wrote: “No one will dedicate himself to God until he be drawn by His goodness, and embrace Him with all his heart. He must therefore call us to Him before we call upon Him; we can have no access till He first invites us…allured and delighted by the goodness of God.”

What grace we behold in God coming to speak to the hearts of our first parents- -and to our hearts today!

God comes to us and asks us the question “Where are you?” so that we can see our need for Him and turn to Him and be restored from our sinfulness. God graciously promises His people that if we will turn to Him, He promises that He will have mercy on us and forgive us. God desires to restore His relationship to mankind that was broken by the fall. God desires to restore you to communion with Him right now.

Ultimately, God asks us the question of “Where are you?” so that we will be brought to see our sins and repent of them, finding grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:14-16).

Dearly beloved of God, do you allow God to ask you this question each day? Listen to His voice: “Where are you?” Where are you today? Where are you in your relationship to God? Are you walking with God, acknowledging His presence? Honestly, where are you? Are you hiding from God? Are Satan, sin and shame driving you from God?

Where is your heart? God is everywhere present, but are you acknowledging His presence and living in His strength? When He knocks on the door of your heart do you answer? (Revelation 3:20). Are you near God today? Are you trying to hide from God?

The question of “Where are you?” put to us by God in the beginning, and then spoken to us every time we seek to read and meditate upon His Word, to hear from Him and to pray, is the same question that was also in the Lord Jesus’ mouth:

Jesus was forsaken on the cross, abandoned as a cursed thing because although He had not committed any sins or transgressions Himself, the LORD had laid our iniquities upon Him.

In our place condemned He stood! This is our Beloved Savior, perfect and sinless as the Lamb of God, and as He who knew no sin because sin for us, so Jesus cries out in dereliction on the cross:

“Where are you?”

Or, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

Or, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus was made to be sin, having our sins imputed to Him, so that we would receive His righteousness by faith alone and boldly draw near to God.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – ESV 2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus reconciled us to God, and has given us access to all of our dear Heavenly Father’s questions. Let us hear Him, let us listen, and let us respond with faith and obedience because of what Christ has done for us!

Dear Beloved in Jesus Christ, God asks us ‘Where are you?’ because God desires to search us and examine our hearts by His most Holy Word and Spirit. Do not run Him! Do not run away and be driven from your only hope for joy and salvation! God wants to bring us to the end of ourselves, to show us our sins, and the habits that only bring hurt and harm to ourselves and others, so that we might repent, and find a deeper, closer relationship with our loving Lord Jesus.

Consider this question to you today: “Where are you?” Are you near to God? Draw near to God in Jesus Christ because He died for you, and He promises to draw near to you.

When you read your Bibles, and meditate thoughtfully on Scripture, let God ask you over and over: “Where are you?” And then be honest with Him…and yourself. Let his be your prayer:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” – ESV Psalm 139:23-24

Don’t try to hide from God. Draw near to God in Jesus Christ. Let God be your hiding place and home.

“You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah.” – ESV Psalm 32:7

“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” – ESV John 14:23

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

“Hear, O Israel: Hearing and Listening to God in Worship”

People of God: Remember to prepare for worship prayerfully and to be ready to worship the Living God and to hear His Word as it is read and preached to you.


Pray for your ears to be opened, your heart to be ready to receive, your mind to be fresh, our worship to be full of the Holy Spirit, and my preaching and proclamation of the Gospel to be clear! Our Larger Catechism instructs us helpfully:


WLC 160  What is required of those that hear the word preached? A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence,(1) preparation,(2) and prayer;(3) examine what they hear by the scriptures;(4) receive the truth with faith,(5) love,(6) meekness,(7) and readiness of mind,(8) as the word of God;(9) meditate,(10) and confer of it;(11) hide it in their hearts,(12) and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.(13) (1)Prov. 8:34 (2)1 Pet. 2:1,2; Luke 8:18 (3)Ps. 119:18; Eph. 6:18,19 (4)Acts 17:11 (5)Heb. 4:2 (6)2 Thess. 2:10 (7)James 1:21 (8)Acts 17:11 (9)1 Thess. 2:13 (10)Luke 9:44; Heb. 2:1 (11)Luke 24:14; Deut. 6:6,7 (12)Prov. 2:1; Ps. 119:11 (13)Luke 8:15; James 1:2


Pastor Phil Ryken says very insightfully: “Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday. However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before. It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach. In addition to helping the preaching, our prayers create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God’s Word. This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pay for.”


Are you remembering to pray for the worship and preaching every week? This is so very important. Let me remind you to pray for the worship and preaching as if you were the one to lead worship and to preach! What needs more preparation the hard ground or the farmer who sows the seed?  Listen to the wisdom of the great Charles Spurgeon:


“We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which, do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed and harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in. It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than by the preacher.”


I think it is extremely important to remember to prepare our hearts to listen. Remember that hearing in the Bible is not merely to here auditory sounds, but to “listen and to be obedient”; we are to hear “from our hearts”; see Deut. 4; Psalm 78; Proverbs 2:1-7; “Hear, O Israel” is the Shema, and it means “Hear!” (imperative with the meaning of “listen and obey); our Lord often says: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” meaning that he who has received this in one’s heart and will obey (see also the Spirit’s work in Revelation 2-3: “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches”).


To hear takes due preparation of one’s hearts, not merely one’s ears. Our hearts are the soil. The soil of our hearts must be prepared and tilled like ground to prepare for seeding. The seed is the Word of God makes its way to the heart through the ear. All of us know how we can listen and hear someone and yet not truly HEAR THEM.


Remember our Lord’s teaching in Luke 8:4-15?


And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”


And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.


ESV Jeremiah 4:3 For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.


Pastor Ken Ramey in Expository Listening (Kress Press, 2010) writes that Christians can better prepare themselves to hear God’s Word read and preached each Lord’s Day if they will seek to do this each day (here are his helpful suggestions):


  • Read and meditate upon God’s Word every day.
  • Pray often throughout the week.
  • Confess your sins daily before God.
  • Reduce your media intake.
  • Plan ahead, and schedule your week around the ministry of the Word: try to be home on Saturday nights; be careful not to watch or listen to anything that might cause lingering distractions in your mind during worship; get things ready on Saturday to avoid the inevitable Sunday morning rush; get a good night’s sleep because you’ll be doing the hard work of listening; get a good breakfast that will hold you over until lunch; as you’re getting ready and traveling as a family to worship seek to sing and pray together; arrive for worship at least 10 minutes early to get everything done (even the unexpected things), and sit down ready to receive.
  • Be consistent in worship attendance.
  • Go to worship with a humble, teachable, expectant heart (it is not the preacher who is on trial before you; you are on trial before God’s word as to whether you will hear and receive what is spoken if Biblical truth.
  • Worship with all you heart: sing enthusiastically because you believe what you’re singing; follow along in Bible when read; listen attentively to prayers when prayed and respond with hearty “amen”; during the sermon follow along in the Bible; take notes).
  • Fight off distractions
  • Listen with diligent discernment so that you can determine humbly if what you heard was biblical and presented Christ and His Gospel to you and your family.


Let’s remember to pray unceasingly for one another that we will prepare ourselves better for hearing specifically, and worship in general, and that our worship services would be more excellent to God, and more helpful and transformative to us! Let us prepare our hearts for worship, and particularly for hearing the Word of God preached, and expect great things from our Great and Faithful God! (1 Thess. 5:18; Ephesians 6:18-20; 3:20-21).


Let us pray together to seek the best worship services we have ever had in the new year! Let us pray that God would send forth His Spirit upon us in such a way that we will all declare together: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the LORD!”


Here is a devotion to consider prayerfully before worship this week by Charles Spurgeon:


“These have no root.”- Luke 8:13

“My soul, examine thyself this morning by the light of this text. Thou hast received the word with joy; thy feelings have been stirred and a lively impression has been made; but, remember, that to receive the word in the ear is one thing, and to receive Jesus into thy very soul is quite another; superficial feeling is often joined to inward hardness of heart, and a lively impression of the word is not always a lasting one. In the parable, the seed in one case fell upon ground having a rocky bottom, covered over with a thin layer of earth; when the seed began to take root, its downward growth was hindered by the hard stone and therefore it spent its strength in pushing its green shoot aloft as high as it could, but having no inward moisture derived from root nourishment, it withered away. Is this my case? Have I been making a fair show in the flesh without having a corresponding inner life? Good growth takes place upwards and downwards at the same time. Am I rooted in sincere fidelity and love to Jesus? If my heart remains unsoftened and unfertilized by grace, the good seed may germinate for a season, but it must ultimately wither, for it cannot flourish on a rocky, unbroken, unsanctified heart. Let me dread a godliness as rapid in growth and as wanting in endurance as Jonah’s gourd; let me count the cost of being a follower of Jesus, above all let me feel the energy of his Holy Spirit, and then I shall possess an abiding and enduring seed in my soul. If my mind remains as obdurate as it was by nature, the sun of trial will scorch, and my hard heart will help to cast the heat the more terribly upon the ill-covered seed, and my religion will soon die, and my despair will be terrible; therefore, O heavenly Sower, plough me first, and then cast the truth into me, and let me yield thee a bounteous harvest.”


If you would like a book on how to listen better to sermons, I will provide you one upon request at no charge. The book is entitled “Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word” by Ken Ramey (Highly recommended by John MacArthur Joel Beeke, and Jay Adams).


If you benefit from it, share it with your family. Let me know by responding to this email.


I have come to learn and to believe that if the preacher prepares himself in heart and soul before he prepares his sermon, the sermon will prepare itself; the sermon will flow forth from the heart that is devoted to Jesus by His Spirit. In the same way, if the listener to the sermon prepares himself in heart and soul before he comes to worship, the worship will prepare itself; the worship and hearing of the person will flow forth from the heart that is devoted to Jesus by His Spirit.


Love you!


In Christ,


Pastor Charles

Christmas Is About Jesus: Salvation from Sentimentalism and Cynicism

Word of Encouragement: Christmas Is About Jesus

“…You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)….And he called his name Jesus.” –Matthew 1:21-25

Christmas is about Jesus

Christmas is about Jesus. Well, so much for a thought-provoking, stimulating, catchy opening sentence for a Christmas devotion. You say: “I know that Christmas is about Jesus, tell me something I don’t know.” But I think this is a good way to begin this devotion, and furthermore, I think we too often forget that Christmas is about Jesus. So, once again:

Christmas is about Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus the Savior of sinners, God in the flesh who came as a child in a pitiful manger equipped for cattle not for Deity. Christmas is about Jesus who came to be born to live for His people, to die for them, to be raised from the dead for them, and to be exalted in His ascension-enthronement at God’s right hand as Eternal Lord and King on David’s Throne.

Matthew’s genealogy in chapter one of his Gospel teaches us a lot about Jesus, but we can focus on two things. The genealogy teaches us that (1) God does the impossible, and (2) that God saves sinners. Now when we speak of God doing the impossible, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible from God’s point of view (for nothing is impossible with God, Luke 1:37!), but from our limited, finite, weak point of view as sinful humans.

A longer purpose sentence in writing this devotion would be summarized this way: Matthew’s genealogy teaches us that Christ has come to show that God does the impossible, and that he gives true hope to those with misplaced hopes as well as to the hopeless.

At Christmastime, we need faith in Christ to be realists about our situation and to truly behold what God has done for us in Christ. That is why I want to continue to emphasize that Christmas is about Jesus. Oftentimes at Christmastime, we are either full of sentimentalism or bloated with cynicism concerning the hope in our lives.

Sentimentalism and Cynicism at Christmastime

What are sentimentalism and cynicism you ask (and I’m more concerned to define these terms with how people actually live and act, not by formal definitions of these two things)? Well, I would describe a person characterized by sentimentalism as one who thinks too highly of man and what man can actually achieve for good in this world.

Sentimental: Folks who tend to be characterized by sentimentalism continue to hope that good times and good change will come for the world, but this hope is a false hope that is not grounded in the truth and reality of God (and oftentimes when sentimentalists do not see their hopes fulfilled, they then idolize and worship the past, imagining that things were better “back then…alas”). Sentimental folks don’t talk a lot about sin and sinfulness, and they don’t necessarily see the world in all its troubles.

Cynical: Folks who tend to be characterized by cynicism have lost hope and no longer expect that good times and change can or will come. This hopelessness is not grounded in God’s truth and reality any more than sentimentalism. Cynicism is more of a reaction to sentimentalism; you see this reaction at generational levels today. Grandparents that were sentimentalists might produce grandsons who are cynics. Oftentimes young people tend toward more sentimentalism, and they grow into cynicism after experiencing pain and difficulties in a cold world. Cynicism often masquerades itself as self-realized maturity, whereas sentimentalism might masquerade as innocence and the goodness of man. Sentimentalism sees only the good in the world and tends the overlook the bad; cynicism sees too much of the bad without acknowledging any of the good in the world.

You can hear sentimentalism in Christmas songs all around us an on the radio and in the “air” at this time of year. Crooners croon: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Listen in for a moment:

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap- happiest season of all…”

“With the kids jingle belling?” Is there anyone at your home “jingle belling” right now? Honestly.  “It’s the hap-happiest season of all…” Is it really? For all?? Have you seen the poor and destitute? Have you peaked into the homes past the well-lit trees in the windows to behold the people full of strife and rampant dysfunction? Have you seen the people with the Rudolph antlers and the shiny nose after the Christmas party dealing with depression and loneliness and alcoholism seeking change in clinical therapy? Have you seen the little the rest of the world has in comparison to the riches we have as Americans, and how impoverished many people are who have never owned one of Disney’s “princesses” (and never will)? Sentimentalism sings “Fa-la-la-la-la” when there is sadness and misery all around us. Sentimentalism sings “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” forgetting that many cannot afford chestnuts, and are barely staying warm by a fire- -if they have one at all!

You can *hear* sentimentalism better at Christmas than cynicism, because cynics don’t necessarily sing about Christmas at Christmastime, unless they are singing about Grandma getting run over by a reindeer coming home from a Christmas visit, or the one-horse open sleigh turning over and seriously injuring Frosty the Snowman, or wanting an alien for Christmas. But because cynics don’t “do Christmas” and therefore they don’t sing much about it (although those days might be coming to an end, I’m hearing more cynicism in Christmas songs now; it is indeed a “Mad World” isn’t it?!).

Sentimentalism has false hopes of what mankind can actually achieve in thoughts of peace and unity and love at Christmas. You may recall the great Jim Reeves Christmas song from the 1950s: “A long time ago in Bethlehem…And man shall live forevermore because of Christmas day.” Now I’m not going to criticize the great Jim Reeves (and for those who know not of Jim Reeves, well you should know this wonderful singer of times past—there’s my sentimentalism for you!), but Reeves’ song teaches us that mankind will live forever just because of Christmas; this is not true; this is classical liberalism.  Sentimentalism wants feelings of what Christmas should be, but it is because of feelings more than the power of God that came down to sinners in Bethlehem’s manger.

This song Mary’s Boy Child by Jim Reeves seems to be saying that just the knowledge of Jesus being born at Christmastime will make everything all right at Christmas…and man shall live forevermore (and I don’t know what kind of person Reeves was so this is not criticism of the man, just the message). Christmas is so much more than merely a message of man trying to change himself, or being overwhelmed with “Christmas-ey” sentimental thoughts and feelings of Jesus in a manger that will make us all nice people. The message of Christmas is more than merely getting Linus to tell us what Christmas is all about, and then we change in response to the commercialism, etc., and we decide to get a small and meek Christmas tree rather than a great and shiny one, and we are all changed- –and we all do it ourselves.

No, we must be changed. We must be changed by a sovereign work of God. God was born into the world and took upon human flesh to be with us so that he would grant us the power by His grace and Holy Spirit to be transformed into new people; a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Sentimentalism will not hold out true hope for anyone; sentimentalism will just not do.  Sentimentalism too easily embraces classical liberalism: “A God without wrath brought [good] men into a kingdom without judgment, through a Christ without a cross (H. R. Niebuhr).” No. Mere sentimentalism will not do. We must be changed from the inside out; sinful man must be changed from the heart.

Now those characterized by cynicism are onto this, but they don’t have the answer either. Hopelessness is not the answer for false hopes!

Usually folks who are cynics (not in the formal philosophical, Marcus Aurelius sense) are those who are converted from sentimentalism, but they find that the “hope” that they had in the future, and in the love of human beings never appeared, and that their warm-feelings of the brotherhood of man and peace and kindness faintly faded into a memory, and this “hope” never manifested itself in their heart nor in the hearts of others. Cynics thought at one time things might get better, but they have now lost hope that good times and change will never come, and so let’s just mope knowingly. But this cynical hopelessness is not grounded in the truth and reality of God any more than sentimentalism.

Cynical folks think they know. They are always giving “knowing glances” and looks and sneers to those who are especially eat up with sentimentalism. Two people are having coffee at Starbuck’s. One is a sentimental person, and the other is a cynic (who formerly was a sentimental person). Bob the sentimentalist says: “You know, I just love Christmas, the lights, the good cheer, the ‘decking the halls with boughs of holly’, and gathering with family- -don’t you just love it?! If only it would be Christmas all through the year?” The sentimentalist will think on the bright lights and surface things of Christmastime, with false hopes that good can come and will come through people. The sentimentalist forgets the loneliness, poverty, grief, guilt, and funerals that still take place on and around December 25th!

Maria, the cynic responds: “Get a life, Bob! I don’t do Christmas. It is all fake and surface. No one really cares and after the lights are taken down off the freshly cut trees (those trees could have continued to grow by the way!), and no one cares for others, and the good cheer is all conjured up with hopes that someone will give me a present (but they just give it to me so that I will give one back to them in return; I know). At Christmas, I think of those who suffer, and those who are lonely, and when I think back to my memories of Christmas, all I can recall is a big turkey on the table surrounded by gluttonous dysfunctional family members who had too much to drink, and did not care a lick about anyone but themselves.”

Jesus Came to Save Sentimentalists, Cynics, and All Who Will Believe!

Both the sentimentalist and cynic are trying to find hope in this world of sin and misery. The sentimentalist is trying to seek hope in man’s ability to change and do good; the cynic has given up hope, but deep down would like to find hope, but would never (or rarely) admit it. Both are missing Jesus, and the important fact that Christmas is about Jesus. Both sentimentalists and cynics are imbalanced and wrong. Jesus came to save both sentimentalists and cynics. Christmas is about Jesus.

Well, there I go again! Christmas is about Jesus. When God came into the world, he came to seek and save both the sentimentalist and the cynic (and whosoever else would believe). For the sentimentalist, God must show the true sinfulness of mankind and the hopelessness apart from Jesus the Savior, no matter how much figgy pudding one might have! For the cynic, God must show that there is hope for repentant and believing mankind as they look to Jesus for hope, but hopelessness is not the only answer for those who have given up hope. Amen!

Christmas is about Jesus, and Matthew’s genealogy shows to us that whether you tend to be characterized by sentimentalism or by cynicism, you can have hope in Jesus Christ. Whether Sentimentalist, or cynic, we should understand that God became man “in our mess” with hope in our hopelessness to rescue and save all who would believe! God shows us Jesus’ rich heritage as the very realization of all of the promises of God to Abraham and David (Matthew 1:1-2); God also shows us Jesus’ heritage as one born in a dysfunctional, “messy” family (Matthew 1:3-6). In Matthew’s genealogy, God calls sinners to repent of both sentimental faith in false hopes and cynical hopelessness.

You must see Jesus Christ as your only hope; Christmas is about Jesus your only real and enduring hope. In Matthew 1, God reveals Himself to Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband, and tells him that Jesus will be a Savior from sin; Jesus will be a Savior for sinners; Jesus will be Immanuel, which means “God with us”:

ESV Matthew 1:21-23: [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus will be a Savior. Jesus will save His people from their sins. This we must emphasize. God would do the impossible but by forgiving sinners. God would not overlook sinfulness and the selfish deeds of mankind, but would indeed judge them. However, he would send Christ Jesus, His only Begotten Son to be cursed and judged in the stead, or in the place of all who would believe.

God does not believe in either sentimentalism or cynicism. God disagrees with and contradicts the sentimentalist that man could change on his own or have any hope apart from Christ; the Bible teaches that man is cursed by sin and under the condemnation of God, described as being “without God and without hope in the world” (Eph. 2:12ff). God disagrees with and contradicts the cynic who thinks all is hopeless, because God graciously offers true and enduring hope for mankind, and salvation and peace with God for helpless, hopeless sinners in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ name “JESUS” means God saves. God comes into our dark and miserable state, and grants us hope in Jesus. Jesus comes to rescue us out of our sinful estate by living and dying for us.

Christmas is about Jesus. This is our hope. How so? Jesus came to live for sinners; Jesus came to die for us on the accursed cross; Jesus came to shed His blood for those who believe, and grant to us His perfect righteousness as we receive it by faith; Jesus came to be raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand. God offered Jesus to be judged in place of sinful man; God justly and righteously punished sin in Christ, but God justifies or makes right sinners who believe in Him (see this great hope in Romans 3:23-26):

ESV Romans 3:23-26: “…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is true hope. This is real and lasting hope that changes man from within. This is the hope that can turn our false hopes and blurred dreams of what man can do into realizing the power of the Holy Spirit and how He transforms us by His grace, and can give us hope and make all our dreams come true in Christ. Even as we live in a fallen world characterized by sin and misery, pain, suffering, death, poverty, and helplessness, there is hope for us in Jesus Christ. Hope to have peace with God, and great joy in the midst of whatever affliction He call us to live through.

We can embrace the tension of the reality of living in a world with great hope (as the sentimentalist sings about at Christmas), and in a world still tainted by the disease which is sin and misery (as the cynic refuses to sing about at Christmas).

True hope for both the sentimentalist and the cynic is found in Jesus Christ. Christmas is about Jesus. Christmas is not merely a warm feeling to be embraced, or rejected without thought.

Christmas is a declaration, a message, a proclamation that what man could not do, nor would want to do for himself, or for another (even at Christmas)- – God did, in our Savior Jesus Christ. This is what is so impossible- -God did in Jesus Christ all that we need so that we could receive His righteousness by faith and hope in Him alone! (Romans 8:3-4).

For the sentimentalist, I would say that you must stop painting things too rosy in this world even at Christmastime. This world is fallen, and although a good world created by God, it is infested with many sinfully selfish and greedy people who care only for themselves, and it is a world much characterized by misery and enslavement to sin and the devil. And Jesus came to cure us; Jesus came to remove the curse as far as it is found!

For the cynic, you must stop painting things too hopeless in this world especially at Christmastime. You, too, are a hypocrite and part of the problem. You sneer at the sentimentalists “knowingly” but you too have no answers, you too, have no hope. You are right that things are wrong, but you are infested with this sinful dis-ease too- -and Jesus is your only hope.

Stop hoping in something like a Christmas season that is not rooted in God’s truth and reality; stop the hopeless rant about the Christmas season that is not rooted in God’s truth and reality. Notice the sane and biblical balance between the imbalances of both sentimentalism and cynicism in Isaac Watts’ Joy to the World; there is both sorrow and love; hopelessness and hope!:

“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 rules 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, wonders, of His love.”

Matthew’s genealogy teaches us that God who does the impossible has done it- -for us! God has come to heal us of our sinful dis-ease and to show us our king. Hail, the newborn king! Hail, the Son of Righteousness! Hail, God’s Son clothed in human flesh for us. For us and for our salvation he came to give us real and true hope.

In Matthew’s genealogy we see the “cold-hard” truth of the reality of sin in the Bible. Our greatest gift from God is Jesus Christ, Savior of sinners, hope of all those who believe.  We don’t have it in us to change, or to convert ourselves; there are no “born again” Scrooges in this world, only Scrooges who continue to be greedy and nasty for self. Sure, man can change a little, perhaps for a season, but can never learn the truth and love and grace of God apart from God’s powerful work in man by Jesus Christ. Mankind by nature, including all “Ebenezer Scrooges” are those who are ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (apart from the saving and glorious work of Jesus Christ; 2 Tim. 3:7!).

What we need is the transformation power of God’s grace found in Jesus Christ, and no matter how great a “Scrooge” you may be- -you can change permanently and become a disciple of Jesus by God’s transforming power and grace found in Jesus, the Savior of sinners! No matter how grossly sinful your past has been, no matter how sinful you have been both in public and private; no matter how terrible you acted under the influence of that wine you had at Uncle Tommy’s a few years back and said things to the family you regret; no matter how many times you have miserably failed from your self-induced “new starts and resolutions” to be a “good and kind person” and found yourself to be worse; no matter how often you have tried harder and crashed. You can have great hope.

Christmas is not about you. Christmas is about Jesus.

But sadly, you may realize that you have often rejected Jesus Christ. You may have rejected the only hope of the world in Jesus either through sentimental hope in yourself, or through cynically denying yourself any hope.  You may have thought Christmas was about you and so you have seen no real change for the better.

You may just realize that the only real change that has happened to you, the only “true” conversion you have ever experienced, has been from going from a sentimentalist at Christmas to a card-carrying, dyed in the wool cynic without hope. Well, congratulations. How is that change working for you? So, you can see through everything now- -even Christmas; you can see so clearly through everything so well and so clearly, that you can now see absolutely nothing! (got that idea from C. S. Lewis!). You can hear the sentimentalism in those Frank Sinatra Christmas songs… “It’s that time of year when the world falls in love…” yet you cannot change yourself, and you have no hope of real love for yourself.

A New Beginning in a New Family Tree!

Here’s hope: Christmas is about Jesus. If you think you’re hopeless, and you come from a hopeless family line, look again at Jesus’ genealogy, his family tree. God has not only done the impossible in providing salvation, God has incarnated Himself not into the best of families, but into a typical, sinful, family tree. This was so that all sinners would have hope; even those deemed the most “hopeless” in the eyes of the world. Jesus wasn’t tainted by our sins, he was sinless, but he was incarnated, or made flesh in our messiness here in this world.  If you read through Matthew 1:1-25, you will find great hope for yourself (and I recommend that you do read it- -go ahead- -right now, read it…I’ll wait….)….

….Did you see? In Jesus’ genealogy there is Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah (Matthew 1:3-6). What’s so special about this?

Jesus’ family tree was tainted by sin (but Jesus was not- -that is our hope!). In the ancient world, genealogies normally would not include women, and they were selective. Ancient genealogies would be selective about the important and special people in the family to include and (ahem…exclude!).

Matthew’s genealogy is selective, but he is not excluding the embarrassing sinfulness of Jesus’ family tree. Scandalous activities happened with Tamar; Rahab was a prostitute; Ruth was a Moabitess (Moabites were particular enemies of God and his people); and “wife of Uriah”- -now this is embarrassing! Her name was “Bathsheba” and she is the young woman with whom David committed adultery and then proceeded to kill Uriah her husband, so that King David could selfishly keep her for himself. This was Jesus’ family tree. There were “skeletons” in the closet for Jesus’ family.

Let me say it again: Jesus’ family tree was tainted by sin, but Jesus was not! The Holy Spirit caused Mary to conceive (Matt. 1:18ff; Luke 1:31-35); the power of God through His Spirit impregnated Mary so that God would become man, but a man without sin. A man without the taint and sinful disease we carry within us. He was without sin, so that He could be a faithful Savior- -one who could truly and really save us from this lowly estate and condition and grant believers peace with God and hope in the world.

Matthew’s genealogy teaches to us that no matter how sinful we have been, no matter how dysfunctional our family from which we come, God offers to repentant sinners who believe in Jesus a new beginning in Jesus. This begins a new family tree in Jesus Christ as a new creation of God. This is not just a decided change, but a real transformation by God’s Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17).

Jesus’ family tree and history was nothing sentimental. Growing up, Jesus could not look back at His family tree and see only the good, and boast about his “great people” or reflect dishonestly upon his family’s past (although there were great and godly kings, righteous men, and heroes in his family no doubt!). Jesus had to look back and see a family tree of folks who even at their best were still sinners. Jesus could have been tempted to cynicism when looking at the family tree if he had been tainted like us because of the kind of folks who made up His family tree.

But his sinful family tree is why Christmas is about Jesus. All of our families are dysfunctional. Every single family in this world is dysfunctional (have you read Genesis 3 lately, or do you remember the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Or, have you read Genesis 16, or Genesis 38, or Psalms 32 and 51, or the Book of Judges lately?). Sentimentalism will never give enough hope to make our dysfunction go away; cynicism cannot sneer enough at the façade of many people’s dreams and hopes at Christmas, because Matthew 1 reveals them all for us to see.

Yet Matthew’s genealogy is with great hope, not tainted by either sentimentalism or cynicism. Jesus was pleased to call even the chiefest and greatest of sinners “brothers”. Here’s hope from Hebrews 2:10-14:

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things…

What great hope for all! Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers this Christmas! (Heb. 2:11b). Jesus shared in our flesh and blood and partook of the same things, that is, he came to save us out of a world of sin and misery to cause us to live life as we should, with real hope rooted and grounded in God’s truth and reality. And Jesus came to transform us so that we would be like Him.

Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus’ birth is a manifestation of God doing the impossible by living and dying for sinners. Jesus’ birth is about God coming to a sinful, dysfunctional, hopeless people, and granting hope through the extended and blessed hand of a Savior.

Jesus is the hope for both sentimentalism and cynicism.  For those sentimentalists who have yet to see yourself as you truly are, and the world as it really is at Christmastime, see the sinfully tainted family tree of Jesus, and yet the true hope found in Christ alone. See Jesus dying at the hands of weak and blind and selfish sinners. For those cynics who have lost hope at Christmastime and perhaps see yourself, and the world as it really is (at least you see the world as it really is), don’t lose hope, but see God doing the impossible through transformation, and real change that comes through knowing Jesus Christ as Lord.

Nothing should stay the same; nothing has to stay the same. In Jesus Christ, there is true hope for both the sentimentalists and cynics, and this hope is rooted and grounded in God’s truth and reality!

Christmas is about Jesus and Jesus is about God doing the impossible by becoming man. Perhaps you are a person at present inspired by all the dashing through the snow, eating chestnuts roasting by the fire, singing your fa-la-la-laaas, and living the nearly perfect picture Christmas print by Currier & Ives over at Farmer Gray’s, passing the coffee and the pumpkin pie, singing at the top of your lungs with Andy Williams that It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and thinking this year will be the best of them all.  Christmas is about Jesus. Look to him for your real hope.

Or, perhaps you have it all figured out (don’t you?!), and right now you have folded arms, eyebrow raised, perfectly placed sneer on lip thinking how you would like to see that one horse open sleigh turn over, and that those sad souls who are walking in the winter wonderland “making plans” and dreams for the future with Parson Brown, would come to realize when they later conspire by the fire, would face unafraid that the plans that they made in that miserable, hellish winter wonderland will just be the nightmare that one day ends in divorce. Perhaps you would rather rant on at your best about how Christmas should not be so commercialized?! But honestly, what have you done to lift a finger to make a difference in this miserable world? How can you change, too? Christmas is about Jesus. Look to him for your real hope.

Do you want hope that is false, misleading, and empty, not grounded in God’s truth and reality? Or do you want hopelessness leading to despondency and despair? Or, better, do you want God’s way where you look to Jesus and see one who didn’t falsely mislead you about yourself, or the world, or the past, nor did he just give up on you.

Jesus came to live, die and be resurrected and exalted for all who believe- -and this is our only hope!

Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus says sentimentalists repent! You have not seriously and realistically considered your own sins or the hopelessness and misery of this world apart from God. Jesus says to the cynics repent! You are very hypocritical, and the hopelessness that can be very real is nothing to savor, but to flee from to the hope found in Christ alone.

If you read Matthew’s genealogy, you can tell you’re a sentimentalist because of seeing the great heritage only, and not the sin. If you read Matthew’s genealogy, you can tell you’re a cynic if all you see all the sin, but not see the great heritage. Those who trust in Christ alone for hope see both; and they see both a great heritage and great sin in themselves, too, and they know that their only hope can be found in Jesus.


Christmas is about Jesus. But I’ve said that already.


Love in Christ, and Merry Christmas!


Pastor Biggs

“Being a Blessing in a Consumeristic World”

Word of Encouragement

‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’– Acts 20:35

“…And I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing…And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2-3


If you’re a believer, you are blessed! All who believe in Jesus are blessed by God with Father Abraham (Galatians 3:13-16, 26-29). We are blessed with Father Abraham because of God’s promises to him were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ! This means we are greatly blessed!

What does it mean to be blessed by God? What do we mean when we say “God bless you”? Or that “God has blessed me!” We often mean that God has given us some extra money in popular language. But God’s blessing is much more than that! What we should mean primarily when we speak of God’s blessings to us is that we are recipients of God’s grace in three particular ways: (1) Relationship; (2) Righteousness; and (3) Riches.

In Genesis, we are taught that “Father” Abraham was called out of darkness into God’s light by God’s grace and was granted precious promises that established a relationship with God, that gave a righteousness to him that he did not have, and promised great riches because of God’s love.

(1)   Relationship: God has been gracious in seeking out sinners and granting them a relationship to Him by His grace. We who were once far from God have been brought near through the blood of Jesus Christ, and this is what it means to be blessed.

(2)   Righteousness: God has been gracious in giving sinners a perfect righteousness that is received by faith alone in Christ alone. We receive Jesus’ righteousness that was earned from His perfect life lived, and we receive forgiveness of sins through the atoning death Jesus died in our place, and we are received as God’s forgiven children in Him, and this is what it means to be blessed.

(3)   Riches in Christ: God has been gracious in that he not only grants us a relationship with Himself, and a righteousness that is a perfect righteousness that forgives us our sins and equips us for heavenly life with Him for all eternity, but God also further blesses us with all of the riches that are found in our union with Jesus Christ (and there are so many!) and this is what it means to be blessed.

All good and perfect gifts come from God; all things that we enjoy in this life are blessings, but of all these blessings, the greatest of these would be a relationship with the living God, a righteousness from God that makes us acceptable in the Beloved, and all of the riches of God that are given to us because of Jesus.

We are to know that we are richly blessed, so that we will be a blessing to others. God says to Abraham: “I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing.” In Scripture we are taught that God abundantly gives so that we can give to others. We are called by God to honor others above ourselves, to seek to serve, to seek to give whatever we can of our time, talents and possessions.

Do you seek daily to be a blessing to others? Do you plan your day seeking to think prayerfully how you might bless another person, especially those of the household of faith? (Gal. 6:10). We are commanded when we meet together as God’s people to plan or consider how we might stir one another up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25). We are naturally self-centered and focused only on ourselves, so God in Christ commands us to have our eyes fixed on Jesus who gave Himself for us, so that we will seek to stir up others to love and good works.

How can you be a blessing today? Pray that you better understand just how much God has given to you in Jesus Christ. Reflect daily, and meditate day and night on the relationship you have with God because of the love and grace of Jesus. Reflect and meditate upon God’s righteousness that has been given to you, that covers all of your sins, and makes you righteous in God’s sight (use Psalm 32 to equip you to bless others). Reflect on the riches that are in Christ Jesus, and that are yours in Him.

In the Old Covenant, the blessing of God was shown more outwardly in material blessings such as prosperity in land and possessions, fertility (or fruitfulness) in producing families and clans and tribes and peoples, security in dwelling safely and securely in God’s presence, and in victory over one’s enemies in battles. Prosperity, fertility, security, and victory were shadows, or types of the eternal blessings that would come and be fully realized in Jesus.

In the New Covenant, the blessings of God are revealed and realized in spiritual blessings in Christ (but they can also be in material blessings of course; both the Old and New Covenants warn against enjoying the riches and the blessings of God such as prosperity apart from a relationship with the living God, or trusting in one’s fertility, or security, etc; read the Proverbs and prophets for abundant examples of this! In both the Old and New Covenants one could enjoy all the blessings and riches, but be far from God within one’s own heart).

In Christ, we have all of the spiritual riches in the heavenly places we are taught in Ephesians 1:3-14. This means that all believers possess eternal prosperity, fertility, security and victory in Jesus Christ (this is one of the ways you can interpret the Letter to the Ephesians and gain much wisdom from your studies).  These spiritual blessings in the heavenly places can be enjoyed now by God’s people as they walk by faith. God’s blessings in Christ are a foretaste of the blessed eternal and heavenly life of the new creation that we enjoy now by the Spirit of Jesus.

In Christ, we are prosperous in that we will inherit the New Heavens and the New Earth; all that Christ has inherited, we will inherit as “joint-heirs” with Him (we are called beloved “children” and “joint heirs”, Rom. 8:17). In Christ, we can be fruitful through obedience to God, and from the Spirit’s work in our lives through sanctifying grace (John 15:1-11); we can be fruitful in building the church by making disciples of all nations through evangelism or adoption or support of missions and church plants, etc.

In Christ, we can be secure and safe in union with Him, knowing our lives are hidden with Christ in God, and He is our rest from all of our labors (Col. 3:1-4; Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4). In Christ, we can know that all of our victories are because we are more than overcomers in Jesus, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

All of these truths of who we are in Christ Jesus should help us to realize how much we have been blessed. In fact, this is how the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesians to pray for one another (Notice how Paul desires them to know their hope, identity, inheritance and power- -all of these are Old Covenant blessed realities found in Jesus: prosperity, fertility/fruitfulness, security, and victory):

ESV Ephesians 1:15-23: For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Do you know how blessed you are in Jesus? Pray to know this better! Ask God to enlighten the eyes of your hearts so that you might know your hope in Jesus, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe! Ask God for a vision through a spirit of wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of Him to see by faith all that God has prepared for those who love Him!

“As it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”- these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”- 1 Corinthians 2:9-10


May we pray as a congregation for ourselves, but particularly for one another that we would know our prosperity, potential fruitfulness, security and victory in Jesus! You might think to meditate prayerfully to God right now by saying to God in Jesus (in your own words, from you own heart): “I am thankful that you have blessed me in Christ that I am an heir with Christ of all your good creation, of every blessing, and every good thing you will do for Jesus, you will do for me!”

You might pray: “I realize that apart from Christ I can do nothing, but I am eternally grateful in Christ that I can produce fruit that will last; I can reach out to others in your courage and strength, making Christ known in my words and actions, and see many come to know the Lord Jesus.”

You could say to God: “I am grateful that I am secure in Jesus and a conqueror over all my spiritual enemies in the heavenly places- -I am invincible in Jesus; if you be for me, who can be against me?” (Romans 8:31; Eph. 6:10-20; Matt. 28:18-20).

Are you characterized as a worldly consumer or a Kingdom producer? Be careful that a worldly, self-focused, and self-centered mindset does not hinder you from realizing these great blessings that you have in Jesus (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4)! Be careful that a worldly consumeristic mindset and culture that is set on taking and receiving does not hinder you spiritually from realizing these truths and the great blessings of God in blessing others!

You must remember that we live in a consumer-culture where almost everything that is advertised to us and is appealing to us is for instant gratification; we are often lured into living for self in our daily course. It is not hard for us to be distracted and to backslide in our hearts and minds toward self-service and consumers. Be warned!

As God’s beloved children, let us be wise and wary of being tempted to constantly buy and consume the “next best thing” or the “next version” or “upgrade” or “next download” etc. (We all have the same temptations; let’s help each other from falling into temptations and traps: 1 Cor. 10:12-13).

The worldly consumeristic mindset will focus you on yourself rather than upon others. This consumeristic mindset will indeed harm you spiritually and cause you to consume in a worldly manner that takes your focus off of heaven and of your blessed heavenly pursuits.  All that you have ever really wanted and desired can be fully found and satisfied in Christ- -He is all you need; God is your portion in Christ! One day we will live blessed forever, fully realizing for all eternity that God was all we ever needed, and we can learn this to a certain extent now by God’s grace and Spirit.

But be careful of seeking to satisfy your desires through consumerism like the world; it will make you worldly. Our Lord Jesus warned us of how we can all be so easily tempted to be devoted to purchase power and possessions and despise God. So he taught us to live to thrive by God’s grace in seeking first the Kingdom of God:

ESV Matthew 6:24, 33: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money….But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Do you despise God? If you are devoted to purchasing power and possessions you already despise God, and particularly God’s blessings to you in Christ. Why? Because you love your worldly “blessings” more than you love the blessings found in Jesus. If this is true of you, take a moment right now, to bow your head to Christ, repent and ask Him forgiveness. When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and restore us! (Amen!! 1 John 1:8-2:2).

As a congregation, let us for a moment think more deeply about how subtly, quietly and softly that we can be lured into being molded into the mindset of this present age as a consumer. There are at least two kinds of people in the world: worldly consumers and Kingdom producers (note: we all are both consumers and producers in this world, and to consume is not evil in itself, but we should think prayerfully what characterizes us).

Consumers are generally characterized as takers and receivers, while producers are givers, and seek to benefit others. Those characterized as consumers are not normally good producers. Consumers are often hindered from producing, especially producing for the Kingdom of God. Consumers very easily just keep buying and seeking to possess, not realizing that their life is passing them by and that they have been molded into the ways of the world.

Consuming can develop an attitude of immediate gratification and walking/possessing by sight (and cash!), while producing for God’s Kingdom can develop an attitude of delayed gratification and walking/possessing all things by faith (in Christ!). Those who are characterized by walking by sight and cash will not walk by faith and wait upon the LORD.

What is God’s answer to worldly consumerism? Giving. We need to be aware that giving is God’s answer to consumerism. Giving rather than receiving and consuming is God’s way of helping us to keep our heavenly focus on heaven more than the “next best thing”.  Learning to trust God with the riches we already have, and everything else we need to live well in this world, is found in giving. God teaches us to be producers more than consumers. Giving is God’s way of helping us to depend entirely on Him, to resist instant gratification, and to set our hopes on the delayed gratification of storing up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal (Matt. 6:24ff).

Consumerism at a deeper level also affects the way we worship, pray and serve. Be careful and aware of the deeper problems of consumerism. Not only will this world turn you into more of a consumer-taker than a producer-giver with the products the world advertises, but it will make you turn into more of a consumer-taker in God’s Church and Kingdom as well. Watch that you have not already been affected by this terrible threat to your good growth and production in Jesus’ church.

How do you know if you have bought into this worldly consumeristic mindset even within God’s Kingdom? One way to know is that you come to worship services thinking merely about how you might receive from God’s Word and others, but have not planned how you might serve and give of yourself. You have come to worship Christ but perhaps you are focused on yourself. You tend to only consume God’s Word, but you do not allow it to transform you into a willing servant and producer for God. In other words, you seek to be a consumer of God’s Word for mere knowledge, rather than knowledge through the Spirit that will transform you and make you productive in God’s Church. This can be an especially dangerous temptation of confessional Christians who love theology.

Another way is that you think that you think when you pray, that the prayers are for yourself only, and you approach God as if you know better than He what is good or best for you and what it is that you need. You might spend more time talking about what you need from God than about worshiping and praying to God and enjoying fellowship and His holy presence. You might seek Him for what you think you need rather than asking Him to search you and correct you and change you. You may have a list of things God needs to do for you today (not to be misunderstood, we should make our requests known to God, but let him also examine your heart and motives for asking, too!).

You might think that everyone else serves, but you don’t need to, or that you do enough. If you have been affected by the consumeristic culture you might not want to commit yourself to others, but you are willing to take from them (there are seasons where we need to be receivers of course, but this is to help us to think about what characterizes us most of the time; look at your heart).  The worldly consumer spends time thinking of self, and taking rather than receiving.

In your service, you might have forgotten that Jesus says that as our Master and Lord, he has set an example of service that all of God’s people should lovingly follow, so that all of us will be built up in our faith. Remember after Jesus washes the feet of His disciples (even of the one disciple who didn’t deserve it and would betray him?):

ESV John 13:13-17: You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” This is a very important truth to remember my beloved brethren.

If we are characterized by worldly consumerism in our lives and spending habits, then this will be what molds our minds, hearts, and actions in the church and local congregation as well. If we spend our lives seeking to consume and take, we will also spend our spiritual lives seeking to consume and take, rather than realizing the great blessings of God in Christ for those who produce and give, and seek to give more and more! Let us hear and heed the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:2:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It is interesting that the spiritual blessings found in Christ alone that we can never lose such as prosperity, fruitfulness, security and victory are also counterfeited in our culture, and even drive much of our idolatry for consumption. We are tempted to seek prosperity, fruitfulness, security and victory often apart from Christ and in the things that we can do for ourselves, or what we can buy from others. We do not naturally trust God, and we don’t always believe that we have been blessed in Jesus! But we have! Let us be careful of the idolatry of our hearts! Do not let a day go by that you don’t ask God to examine and search you as David:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”- Psalm 139:23-24

Our first step in learning that it is more blessed to give than to receive is to ponder anew and realize all of the lavish love and blessings we have in Christ! Notice in Ephesians 1 that there is a storehouse of wonderful spiritual food to fix your focus on Jesus: We have been chosen; we have been adopted; we have been redeemed by Christ’s precious blood; we have been sealed unto the day of redemption; we have hope; we have an inheritance that no mind has even conceived, that is above and beyond anything we could imagine; we have power in Christ that we have yet to tap into.

In light of the blessings you have received in Jesus, go now in the Name of the Lord Jesus and ask God how you can be a blessing to others. Ask God to make you a brother or sister in Jesus characterized by producing for God’s Kingdom. Ask God by His powerful might and Spirit to transform your consumerism into being a productive son/daughter in God’s kingdom that gives of yourself, and seeks to worship God to give back to God, and to pray to God to enjoy God, and to serve God desiring to produce disciples and build His Church.

You will be greatly rewarded and blessed for all that you do in Jesus’ Name! God is so good to us that He wants us to produce great riches in heaven that we will enjoy with Christ for all eternity!

You have been blessed with a relationship with God in Jesus Christ! You have been blessed with perfect righteousness so that you can enjoy God’s favor, Jesus’ inheritance and eternal bliss for all eternity! You have been blessed with all of the riches in Christ Jesus- -riches that you will never ever be able to fully fathom.

All this has been lavished on you. Serve others. Seek to bless someone today, particularly those in the household of faith. Give of yourself. Give of your time. Give of your talents. Give of your money and possessions to bless.

“I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing.”- Genesis 12:2-3



In Christ’s love,


Pastor Biggs

“Death and the Christian Hope”

“Death and the Christian Hope” -1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

A Sermon for the Memorial Service for John Curtis Connor (1935-2011)

Note: This is the unedited version of the homily I was privileged to preach at John Connor’s memorial service. Thanks be to God for the privilege of leading the service of such a great man!

As Christians, we mourn in the death of our loved ones, but we mourn as those who have hope. We hope because of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. We now wait upon the Lord for the return of Jesus Christ and anticipate with great eagerness our heavenly reunion.

This is what we learn in 1 Thessalonians 4. The believers at Thessalonica had written to the Apostle Paul concerning the hope of those who had died. Their main concern: Would they also share in the resurrection? Was their hope for them? They needed God’s knowledge and insight into how to mourn. The Apostle Paul wrote:

ESV 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

As Christians, we mourn, but with hope. Notice in 1 Thessalonians 4, the Apostle Paul does not teach us that grieving and mourning are wrong when our loved ones die in the Lord. He does not forbid us to weep, grieve or mourn.

Rather, Paul teaches us that we do not have to “grieve as others do who have no hope” (4:13). There is a tremendous difference between our loved ones who die trusting in the righteousness of Jesus, and those who have no hope now for all eternity. When our loved ones reject Jesus, the only hope for dying sinners, there is every reason to grieve and to mourn without hope for that person.

But as Christians who lose our loved ones who were committed to Christ and trusting in His good words and in His righteousness alone, we can mourn, but with hope.

What is hope? Hope for the Christian who is trusting in Christ and the power of Jesus’ resurrection is not mere wishful thinking, but a confident and expectant trust in God’s Word, and in the completed work of Jesus Christ for sinners. “Hope” for the Christian is focused on God alone as He keeps His promises; and we simply believe God (Romans 15:13). By God’s grace we can abound in this hope, or confident and expectant trust in God’s Word to us!

What is death? Why do we still mourn if we believe that our loved ones are safe and sound in Jesus? Death is still a horrid monster and intruder into God’s good creation. Death is the judgment of God for sinful man seeking His own way and will apart from the way and will of God. We are taught in Genesis 3 that death was the result of man’s sin against God. For death to be removed, we must have our sins removed. We must have a loving Savior to take away our sins and to reconcile us to God; we have this in Jesus (Romans 5:6-11).

Death is not merely “part of life” as some will say without thinking. Death is the opposite of life that God gave mankind at creation in His presence; it is not supposed to be here. Death could never be just a “part of life”. Death is a hideous intruder and it should cause us to be “deeply moved” when we feel death’s affects in our loss and time of mourning.

When our loved ones die, and we attend funerals, we should especially be prayerfully considering the “weight” of loss and separation that death brings to all. We have all gone over to the casket somewhat apprehensively to view the body of our loved one; at this moment, prayerfully think about death. We often say at this moment: “He/She is not here; this is so strange.” This is death.

What did our Lord Jesus think about death? When Jesus our Lord was here in his earthly ministry, even though He possessed the power of life over death; even though He was anointed with the Holy Spirit beyond measure of any man or prophet before or since, he too, mourned death. We are told in John 11 when Jesus goes to visit his dead friend Lazarus’ family after Lazarus had died, he wept (John 11:35). We are also told that Jesus was “deeply moved” in His spirit by the hideous, terrifying specter of death (usually in this passage we focus on Jesus weeping as we should, but we overlook the entire context of John 11:33-38 where Jesus is also “deeply moved” in his spirit about death).

The word used that is of Jesus being “deeply moved” is a Greek word that describes the sound of horses “snorting” as in battle. It communicates a kind of inner “snorting outrage”. Our Lord Jesus was outraged by death. Jesus came to destroy death (Hebrews. 2:14-18; 1 Cor. 15:26). Death is a great enemy of Jesus that He came to destroy. Jesus our Lord, although He was King of kings and the very Lord of Life, wept and was outraged at death. This is our proper response to death. And Jesus displays His power and our hope in Him by raising His dear friend Lazarus from the dead after four days by the Word of His power! Amen and amen!

Why would our Lord Jesus be so outraged by death? Death separates. Death separates men from God; death separates loved from ones from us; death separates our bodies from our spirits (and/or souls). As humans we were created to live in the Life-Giving power and love of our Creator. We were never meant to live apart from this Life-Giving God and lover of our souls.

(1) Our sins have separated us from God. Death is the penalty and punishment or our transgressions. (2) Death takes our loved ones from us, and we are deeply moved, grieved, and saddened, because we are outraged that those we love are gone. (3) Death separates our incorporeal spirits from our bodies, and we were created by God to be embodied people who have spirits. To be human is to be both body and spirit/soul. We would never have left our bodies, and been separated from them if sin had not come into the world and cut us off from the life that is found in God alone!

But sin did come into the world. Man did sin against God, and God so loved His people that He sent Jesus to live and die for all who believe (John 3:16). God the Father sent His Beloved Son into the world to take upon human flesh. The Son lovingly and willingly came for His own to live perfectly for them, to die under the penalty of God’s judgment for their sins. Jesus in our flesh lived and died for us, so that we could live and die in Him.

Jesus came to love us so that our lives could be hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3-4). Let the Holy Spirit minister this great truth to you. Ask God to minister this truth more deeply in your heart and help you to seek the things that are above, where your life in Christ is hidden (Col. 3:1-2).

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and His love to His people, he accomplished the righteousness in His life that we could never accomplish. God demands perfect righteousness of every human being, and what God requires in His holiness, God provide for all who believe in Jesus. Christ our Savior gives this righteousness to us by faith when we believe in Him. Jesus came to die and remain under the power of death for three days, and to be raised powerfully from the death with great glory; Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection! This is the hope the Apostle Paul speaks of in 1Thessalonians 4:14:

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. – 1 Thess. 4:14

Death will not have the final word. Death is Christ’s enemy to be fully vanquished and destroyed when He returns again. God will wipe away every tear from the eyes of those who mourn, and the former things will no longer be remembered. This is our great hope in our grieving and mourning now (Revelation 21:1-7).

We can be hopeful because of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead in power and glory. Our hope is a confident and expectant trust in what the Lord Jesus has done for us in His life and death.

Death is sleeping for the believer. Another truth that we see in this passage in chapter four of Thessalonians is that Jesus’ death has turned death into sleeping. Jesus’ death for believers has made our death like going to sleep and taking a short nap. Because of the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can rest in death, and close our eyes in this world of sin and misery to awaken in the glorious presence of Jesus Christ, beholding His beautiful face. The Apostle John gives believers this hope of seeing our Resurrected Savior and Lord (1 John 3:2):

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. – 1 John 3:2

What does the Apostle Paul mean by sleeping? He uses this term “sleeping” to describe the believers’ death four times in the context of chapter four of 1 Thessalonians. The Apostle Paul does not mean that our souls sleep, or that we are unconscious in our death state (no, Scripture is clear that we are conscious in death, whether it be in God’s presence in Christ or in judgment: Luke 16:19ff; also see Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; Luke 13:28)

What Paul means in using the term “sleeping” is to show that Christ in His resurrection has transformed death; Jesus has “tamed death” from the hideous monster it could be to us, and threaten us with slavery to fear it all the days of our lives (Heb. 2:14ff). No one really looks forward to death, and we very easily fear it. But Paul is saying that in Jesus, when our hope is in Jesus alone, death is merely “sleeping”. This is a tender term to describe how we cross from this present age to behold Christ in the age to come where He is at God’s right hand.

Do you remember Jairus’ story? Jairus was a synagogue ruler whose daughter was dying. We see an example of how death has been turned into sleep from this story (Mark 5; Luke 8). Jesus goes to Jesus asking Jesus to heal his daughter. Jesus is willing but while he makes his way to Jairus’ daughters’ bedside, the beloved daughter dies. When Jesus finally arrives, Jesus finds the little girl dead. There are many mourners about the house crying out in pain and grief (as if they had no hope!).

Jesus comes into Jairus’ home with life-giving power and glory to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He tells all in Jairus’ home that the girl is only “sleeping”. Jesus takes the little girl’s hand, and calls out to her to awaken. He says very tenderly a command to the girl in Aramaic: “Talitha cumi”. This means: “Honey, get up!” as we would say to our children at the beginning of a new day (Mark 5:40ff). Jesus uses a term of endearment, like the language of “honey” or “sweet pea” that we might use for our dear daughters and sons.

Jairus’ little girl gets up immediately and beholds the face of Jesus Christ her Savior. This is a picture of how death has been turned into sleep. When we close our eyes in this present age, on this side of darkness and pain, in a world full of sin and misery, characterized by death, Jesus reaches out to our hands in death, pulls us to Himself by His strong and powerful command into life itself. We close our eyes to the darkness and sin of this world, and open our eyes to behold the light and life of Jesus’ glorious presence!

We go to sleep in death and we behold His precious face. This is why death is only “sleeping” now. Let this comfort you. Let this be your encouragement to others when they lose loved ones. Don’t try to avoid those who have lost their loved ones because you know not what to say and you feel awkward. Don’t make up some kind of sentimental theology that both you and the person grieving know deep down is not truth.

No, speak words of comfort, speak the truth in love; if the one who has died is a believer trusting in the righteousness of Christ alone. Tell them that their loved one, whom they have lost on this side, now beholds Christ’s face, and will return to be with them.

The nightmare of death is over for all who believe. As Psalm 23 teaches us “though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall not fear,” for Jesus is with us. Jesus has turned the nightmare of death into mere “sleeping”. Let us fall asleep in His arms, and find a loving and glorious Savior on the other side. Then we shall dwell in the presence of God for all eternity, and we shall forever experience the abundant life that we were created to enjoy and live on, as branches on a vine (see John 15).

As Jesus reaches out with a human hand that is from a human body that has experienced the hideous and dark powers of death, take his hand, and let Him grant you life in Him. Find your life hidden in Him as you receive Him as your only hope.

Only Jesus has the power to unite that which death has separated.

(1) Jesus has the power to reconcile you, and unite you to God, bringing you back back to Him to experience His loving grace and forgiveness. In Christ, you will never be separated from God and from His life-giving power ever again!

(2) Jesus has the power to reconcile you and unite you to your loved ones whom you have lost because of death. In Christ, you will never be separated from your loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus!

(3) Jesus has the power to reconcile our bodies and our spirits again, so that we are made who for all eternity. We will be like Him, and we will possess glorified bodies that will never grow old, suffer sicknesses of cancer and dreaded diseases, and grow tired, weak and weary!

Reach out and receive by faith the hope that is in Christ Jesus. Only Jesus can grant you this hope in death!

Otherwise, you will grieve and mourn as those without hope. But God loves to show grace, and lavish His grace and forgiveness on all who would take Christ’s extended hand. There it is. He extends it to you now. Behold the face of He who took death by the neck, has wrestled it to the ground, and taken out its sting (1 Cor. 15:56-58)! One day death will permanently be removed. This is because Jesus has lived and died for us—this is our hope in Him!

We look forward to a reunion! And what a family reunion it will be! We find out from this passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 that there will be a glorious reunion with our loved ones! Let us with great hope and confidence in God’s Word and the completed work of Jesus Christ look forward to the reunion (1 Thess. 4:15, 17-18).

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep…Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. – 1 Thess. 4:15, 17-18

The hope that the Apostle Paul teaches to us here is that our loved ones who have fallen asleep in the Lord will be raised from the dead one day just as Jesus has been raised. We who remain alive can hope in this glorious future resurrection, because it will also be a wonderful reunion. We have all attended family reunions and holiday celebrations where death has separated us from loved ones and they are not present as we wish they could be; this resurrection-reunion will be so sweet, so different from even our best family reunions here! We will be reunited together again–that is our hope! The Lord Jesus will take us up and we will be “together with him” and then “always with the Lord” (4:17).

Never to be separated again. Never to experience death and suffering again. Never to be away from the Lord and His life-giving presence again. Never any threat of sin, and temptation, and sin and misery. Never again. All of the sad things in this world of sin and misery will become “untrue” (as Tolkien says in Lord of the Rings Trilogy). Why?

Because Jesus has lived and died for us. He has done what only God could do (Rom. 8:3-4). God in Christ has given us life and life more abundantly in Jesus Christ. All we have to do is believe. Receive the Lord Jesus now. Call upon Him while He is near!

Beloved, let us remember the final admonition that we live “with Christ” whether we remain alive or have fallen asleep. Listen to how the Apostle Paul says this in 1 Thessalonians:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

“Whether we are awake or asleep” let us “live with Him” (1 Thess. 5:10). Let your life be hidden with Christ by faith, and prayerfully seek to understand more of what this means in your life now. This means to serve Jesus and to love Jesus before all other people, and before all other things. Jesus is your only hope; let Him be your portion, your life, your love!

Jesus has given His life and died for you; he has purchased you by His precious blood shed for your sins on the cross. You have died (Romans 6:1-11), and your life is now hidden “with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3-4). When Christ who is your life appears, you will appear also with him. This means that you will then truly and really begin to live.

For now, even though we are “awake” and have not yet fallen asleep, we should live as one who has died. We who are united to Christ now but learn to die to self, die to sin, die to this world, and die to the service of Satan, and to now live for Christ because our lives are hidden safe and sound “with Christ” in our union “in Christ”.

If you are a believer, you have lived a perfect life in Christ; you have died a perfect death that paid the penalty of all sins against God in Christ; you now live in resurrection glory in Christ, even in this world. Ponder this anew.

Prayerfully consider that even in your loss of loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus, how you might live as one dead to sin and alive to God. Consider yourselves as one who has died, so that you might live in Jesus, and make Him known.

Glorify Him now. Even though you grieve and mourn, and even though you are outraged and deeply moved in your spirit by the nightmare of death, know that in Christ Jesus you have hope, and the nightmare is over.

Jesus promises to you: “Fear not, I am with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you always even unto the end of the age.”

Give Jesus your life and find the hope that is beyond this life, beyond the grave, and that will continue for all eternity with the Lord!

And the next time you are seeking to comfort a brother or sister who has lost a loved one, remember that the best encouragement you can bring to those who suffer are the words of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.- 1 Thessalonians 4:18


We may think that we don’t know what to say, but for Christians, we can know what to say. And whether we are awake or asleep, let us live with Jesus. Amen.

Sleep in Jesus, dear John Connor. Thank you very much for showing to me and many others loyalty and faithfulness! “The Vicar” loves you very much and will look forward to seeing you again.


Love in Jesus,

Pastor Charles