It is a joy to be in a worship service around Christmas time. All of the sights, sounds, and smells of the season converge when God’s people gather and sing with gusto, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come!”, or, “Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the newborn king!”
There are two opportunities in the coming days to gather for worship and sing about the Savior’s birth. This Sunday evening at 6:30pm the Children and Adult Choirs will be leading the congregation in Christmas songs. Then, on Christmas Eve at 5:00pm we will hold a candlelight service in which we will focus the person and work of Christ in typical “carols and lessons” format. Both services should be encouraging to you and your family!
The sermon text for Sunday is Psalm 32, which you can read here.
Songs that the choir will lead in the evening service can be found in a playlist here:
1. Joy to the World (Shout for Joy)
2. Hark the Herald Angels Sing (King of Heaven)
3. Prepare Him Room
4. Christmas Offering
5. This is Love (Come Thou Long Expected Jesus)
6. O Come All Ye Faithful (We Adore You).
The sermon text for this week is from Luke 17, which you can read here.
There are a number of core Christian truths that are found in the first 4 verses. Jesus uses one of his “better than” sayings (cf. Matt 5:29-30; 18:6-9; 26:24; Mark 9:42-47; 14:21) to make the important point that if a person causes a brother or sister to sin, he is no better than the rich man in the previous parable (16:19-31). “Woe” to the person through whom the temptation comes! Temptations to sin are a given, which is part of living in a fallen and broken world. True disciples of Jesus, therefore, should be supporting one another, and helping one another overcome sin. How might one support a brother or sister who is tempted to sin? Jesus gives an example in verses 3-4. If he/she sins, we should rebuke them, which is the most loving thing we can do in that situation. And if he/she exhibits true repentance, Jesus says to forgive them. How many times? Everytime. Genuine faith will manifest itself in genuine repentance.
It is hard not to think about some of Jesus’ final words on the cross when we read Luke 17:1-4. Forgiveness was on his heart even as he as dying: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Therefore, we should be like Christ, lovingly forgiving those who fall into sin or even sin against us.
Songs that we will sing this week include the following, provided in a playlist here:
1. Come Praise and Glorify
2. God of Wonders
3. Lord of Lords
4. Your Love, Oh Lord
5. Shine Into Our Night.
The Christmas season calls for believers to focus not only on what is in the past but also what is in the future. Jesus’ incarnation is certainly past—Jesus came to earth! But Christmas is also a time for patient waiting and hopeful expectation—Jesus will come again! This idea is expressed perfectly in the song, “A Day of Glory,” which reflects on the “day of promise” of which the OT prophets looked forward (i.e., the day when Jesus arrived in his first advent), and also on the “day of glory,” when God will establish his eternal kingdom on earth with Jesus at its head. Isaiah wrote about both advents: a first, inaugurated advent (advent means “coming”), and a second, end-of-time advent. In Isaiah 9:6, the prophet writes,
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And yet in Isaiah 60:1-3, he writes about a future advent:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
So in thinking about both advents, let us keep Jesus as the center and greatest treasure of this season. Let us look back on what he has done in his first coming, and look forward to what he will do when he comes again.
The sermon text this week is from Luke 16:10ff., which you can read here.
Songs we will sing this week include the following, provided in a playlist here:
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- You Are Worthy
- In the Name of God
- Abide with Me
Pastor for Worship.
In thinking on the Thanksgiving Day now behind us, I was encouraged by the following prayer from a collection of Puritan devotionals, “Valley of Vision“:
O My God, Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves thee, for my little vessel is as full as it can be, and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, for adorning it, for sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me, for preserving its strength and vigour, for providing senses to enjoy delights, for the ease and freedom of my limbs, for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support, for a full table and overflowing cup, for appetite, taste, sweetness, for social joys of relatives and friends, for ability to serve others, for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities, for a mind to care for my fellow-men, for opportunities of spreading happiness around, for loved ones in the joys of heaven, for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures. Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.
What a beautifully written prayer! I hope that it ministers to your heart as it did to mine over the last few days. Songs we will sing this week include the following, provided in a playlist here:
1. O Come All Ye Faithful
3. Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
4. Our Great God
5. How Sweet and Aweful is the Place
Pastor of Worship.
Last week, Pastor Caldwell began a study on Luke 15 and the “prodigal son.” He ably demonstrated that the parable is not about the lost son, per se, and that the thrust of the passage is more about both sons of the father instead of just the one. Indeed, verses 25-32 focus explicity on the “other” son who stays on with his father and works in the field. This son is jealous and has no concept of the love that his father is showing to his prodigal brother. His heart is hardened when he sees how his father reacts to the lost son. After all, he never demanded an early birthright; he stayed in the home and worked diligently! Why isn’t he getting a reward for his actions? As a result, the older son does not experience same sort of grace, mercy, and joy being given to his brother. He has no sense of forgiveness, and thus no love for the “salvation” of the lost.
It is interesting that at the end of the parable Jesus equates the son’s return with resurrection. The son was “lost but now found,” to be sure. But he was also “dead, and is alive.” This parallels our experience of salvation in Christ, which is “already,” but “not-yet” fully realized. When a person comes to the Father—confessing his sin and placing his faith solely in the finished work of Jesus—he is saved. He is justified before God because of Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit for righteous living. He is no longer under condemnation (Rom 8:1) even though he was once dead in his sins (Eph 2:1). He is made alive together with Christ, raised up to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6). All of this is what has “already” happened to those who place their faith in Jesus.
But there is a final salvation that is “not yet” realized. This is the time when Christ returns to establish his kingdom on earth, and to abolish every rule, authority, and power, and finally defeat sin for all time. Paul says that Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the “firstfruits,” and only at his second coming will “those who belong to Christ” receive their final salvation, the redemption of their bodies (1 Cor 15).
I’m looking forward to studying the remainder of Luke 15 with you. Songs that we will sing this week include the following, provided in a playlist here:
2. It is Well with My Soul
3. Before the Throne of God Above
4. Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery
Pastor for Worship.
Many methods, programs and conferences have been created to stir up the church to evangelize. While many are helpful and serve their necessary purpose, we can often complicate why and how to evangelize and overlook a simple principle that is a central theme in the scriptures—love.
In what ways does love influence our evangelistic efforts? There are two primary ways in which love will motivate us.
1. Love motivates us to seek God’s glory
One of the biggest temptations as we evangelize will be self-preservation. The thought of being verbally or physically assaulted makes most of us fearful; however, a love for God’s glory and his name will embolden us to set aside our own physical comfort with a single desire to please him (see 1 Timothy 2: 3-4). This means the supreme object of our heart is God and his approval rather than
seeking the praise and approval of men (Galatians 1:10).
2. Love motivates us to seek souls
Just as Christ was moved with compassion and wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). And just as Paul was full of anguish and wished that he be accursed from Christ so that his kinsmen would be saved (Romans 9:3), our love should also stir us up as we consider the plight of the lost. It was love that motivated God to send his Son to save us, and this same love has been poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5).
So more than just a method or 5-step process, true and biblical evangelism requires the love of Christ. Through regeneration, the Holy Spirit gives us a love that is actively pursuing the glory of God and the souls of men. My prayer is that God will give Founders Baptist Church a love that will not rest until his name is known in all of Spring, TX and a love that is willing to spend and be spent for the souls of men.
Probably one of the most memorable parables that Jesus ever told is the one in Luke 15:11-32 on the “prodigal son.” This parable continues Jesus’ theme from the previous verses about lost sinners who repent. The reason why the parable of the prodigal son is so important is that it expresses the gospel in a nutshell. It highlights the core theological issues in Jesus’ messages: repentance, God’s unconditional love, and the joyful welcome of sinners. After all, Paul says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15).
It is interesting to note that the actions of the shepherd searching for his sheep and the woman searching for the coin are nothing out of the ordinary. They do what we would expect them to do. Most of us would do the same! But the actions taken by the father in the third story are unique, marvelous, and divine. The sons in the story assume that their father’s love was conditional. But the parable shows that both sons were cherished by the father because they were sons, not because of what they did or did not do. This act expresses God’s unconditional love for all who are his “children” and call on his name for life.
Songs that we will sing this week are provided in a playlist here, and include the following:
- All I Have is Christ
- Your Great Name
- Speak, O Lord
Following on the heels of last week’s sermon on the “lost sheep” in Luke 15:1-7, this week’s sermon focuses on a parable about a “lost coin” (15:8-10). Note the importance Jesus places on a single sheep or a single coin using the argument from the lesser-to-the-greater to make his point. If a shepherd will go to this much effort to recover a sheep, and if a woman will go to this much effort to recover a coin, then how much more effort will God exert to find and recover a lost person. Life is infinitely valuable in Jesus’ eyes. He does nothing less than the action of God, taking the initiative in recovering the lost.
It is also interesting to juxtapose the “lost” passages in Luke 15 with the “kingdom of heaven” parables in Matthew 13. In that text, the kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of great price. The cost of a field and the worth of possession pales in comparison to the treasure or the pearl. In this way, Jesus himself is the thing (or, person) most infinitely valuable—the source of all that we need and the hope of all that we long for in this life. Therefore, seeking the kingdom of Christ is worth more than anything else we should pursue. These texts often remind me of Proverbs 2:1-5:
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
Let this be our aim as we gather again for worship! Songs that we will sing this week include the following, which you can listen to in a playlist here:
- It is Finished (Matt Papa)
- Only the Blood (The Village Church)
- Jesus, Thank You (Sovereign Grace)
- Sing to Jesus (Fernando Ortega)
- Your Love, Oh Lord (Third Day)
Pastor for Worship.
There is a tendency in worship—indeed, a temptation—for us to be very self-focused and introspective. This is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. We are called individually to examine ourselves to see whether we are of the faith (2 Cor 13:5), to confess our sins, and to come to Christ. But in the life of the church, the believer is no longer a singular member prioritizing his own life apart from the church, as if he could be extracted from the whole. Actually, Paul says that we are all members of one body (Eph 4:25), which fails to operate accordingly if its individual members are cut off, that is, if the members are not exhibiting love to one another in Christlikeness (1 Cor 12:12-27). Paul writes, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (12:27). So we are the “body” first, and “members” second.
This theological point is evident in worship services too. There are many ways that a church member can show love on Sundays (“Outdo one another in showing honor!” Rom 12:10). But there is probably no better way to show love for one another than to speak the truth about God’s character to one another in our worship. Have you ever looked closely at Isaiah 6, where the Seraphim surround the throne room of God and sing his praises? “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” (6:3b) But did you ever notice the preceding line of Isaiah 6:3, and to whom the Seraphim direct their praise? In this instance they do not proclaim to God that he is holy, although that is good and right to do (e.g. Psalm 96). In Isaiah 6, the Seraphim proclaim to one another that the Lord is holy. This is what Paul echoes in Ephesians 5:19. We are to be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” In essence, this is what our worship should look like, and it is a good way to exhibit love—saying the truths about God to one another.
Pastor Caldwell’s sermon is from Luke 15:1-7 this Sunday. I exhort you to dwell on this amazing text before the service. Some of the songs we will sing “to one another” this week include the following. You can listen to these on a playlist here:
- Our Great God
- Lord, I Need You
- Sovereign Over Us
- A Day of Glory
Pastor for Worship.
The text for this Sunday is 1 Corinthians 13:1–8, which believers know well as the standard text in the Bible about Christian love. Paul writes in verse 2, “if I have not love, I am nothing.” This is an important point, especially for times when the church is gathered! All social, racial, and ethical boundaries are obliterated within the church because we are all the same in Christ. And so the church should be characterized as a loving group of people, unified in Christ. Indeed, Jesus himself said that the world will know that we are his disciples “if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). In 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 “love” is described helpfully in positive and negative ways:
Positive—Love is: patient, kind
Negative—Love is not: envy, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, resentful, rejoicing in wrongdoing
Positive—Love does: rejoice in the truth, bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Finally, verse 8 says that love is permanent: “it never ends” unlike “prophecies,” “tongues,” or “knowledge.” These characteristics are instructive for the church, and we should practice them at every possible opportunity. Ephesians 4:15–16 echoes this point. There, Paul instructs the church to be “speaking the truth in love,” so that we might “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Songs we will sing this week include the following, provided as free a playlist here by Scott Bacher. You can also buy the tracks individually through the links below:
- Always (iTunes, Amazon)
- Christ is Risen (iTunes, Amazon)
- Oh the Deep, Deep Love (iTunes, Amazon)
- Come to Me (iTunes, Amazon)
- Shine into Our Night (iTunes, Amazon)
Pastor for Worship.