This Sunday at church, I am starting a new series for Easter called The Gospel Among Other Stories. You can read more about the series on our church website. Basically, we will be discussing the different stories that we believe, the narratives that shape our lives – telling us who we are, what is important, and where life is headed. Some philosophers call these stories “worldviews,” ways of seeing and making sense of the world around us. In his book on basic worldviews, James Sire gives a set of questions that are answered in every worldview:
1- What is ultimate reality?
2- What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
3- What is a human being?
4- What happens to a person at death?
5- Why is it possible to know anything at all?
6- How do we know what is right and wrong?
7- What is the meaning of human history?
Every person lives their life according to a set of answers to these questions. Many people have not reflected on the core story they believe, but it still shapes our lives. Or to say it another way, everyone believes something. The question during this series is simple – where does your story lead?
Here’s the last devotional of the 1P3 Project – 25 days of reasons we believe. Merry Christmas!
You can download all 25 days of the devotional here.
Reason #25 (December 25th) – Real Personal Life-Change
Key Texts: Galatians 2:19-21, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, John 5:24
I have been crucified with Christ 20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18 Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
24 “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.
Teaching: At the end of the day, the Christian gospel is not simply a collection of abstract truth-claims. It is a personal message from a Personal God. The Bible teaches us that God knows each one of us by name, and that He loves us – enough to send His own Son to die for us. Those who have believed the gospel of grace have experienced Christianity in a way that moves beyond the conviction of the mind to the conviction of the heart. We don’t just know that Christianity is true because of the historical facts that support it. We know it is true because God has changed our lives from the inside out. We are not who we used to be. He has changed our desires and our goals in life. He has changed what we love and what we hate. He has changed how we treat others and how we see ourselves. The moment we believe in Jesus and decide to follow Him for life, everything changes. And this may be the greatest proof we have that Jesus is alive today. He is still changing lives.
On this Christmas day, have everyone in the family who has trusted Christ as Savior share two things. First, tell the story of your conversion. How did they come to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior? Second, share the significance of your conversion to your life today. What has changed in you personally since you starting walking with Jesus?
Christmas is tomorrow! Here’s reason 24 we believe that tomorrow matters…
Reason #24 (December 24th) – The Movement of Jesus Continues
Key Text: Acts 9:31, Acts 11:19-21, Acts 13:48-49
31 So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers
19 Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified the message of the Lord, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 So the message of the Lord spread through the whole region.
Teaching: The start of a movement by itself doesn’t tell us that the message of that movement is true. However, we should take notice when a movement with such startling claims as the Christian faith (that a man who was born in first-century Palestine is the divine Messiah of Israel who died for sin and rose again) continues to grow and spread around the world. The Christian faith is unique among world religions for several reasons (including the content of its message), but one of the most informative is that Christianity is trans-cultural. People from every nation, language, and ethnic group can become Christians without losing their cultural identity. As the gospel spread in the first century, it has continued to spread today. Over 2 billion people on the earth now claim to believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God and that He is alive today. And the movement continues to spread. The growth of this small religious sect into the most dominant religion in the world today should give us great confidence in the truthfulness of its message.
As a family, get online and donate money to an organization that sends out missionaries to spread the gospel. Whether it be $5.00 or $500.00, let your child know that your money will be used to continue to spread the gospel to all peoples. If you already support a missionary, consider sending them a Christmas gift and having your child/children draw a picture for them.
Here are a couple of options:
Here’s reason #23 we believe in Jesus-
Reason #23 (December 23rd) – The Humble Service of Jesus
Key Text: Philippians 2:3-11, Matthew 20:25-28
3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. 7 Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. 9 For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth— 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”
Teaching: We expect kings and queens to lord their position over those they rule. They live in exquisite accommodations and eat the best food that money can buy. They have servants who tend to their every need and militaries that go to war at their command. They demand the love and adoration of their subjects and use their position for their own gain. But Jesus, who the Bible claims to be the King of all kings, came not clothed in power, but clothed in humility. He came to serve others, not be served, and trained his followers to be servants to the least in society. The birth, life, and death of Jesus were all marked by humility, and He used his power and strength to help, not use, others. Another reason we believe in this King – unique not only in what He did, but how He did it.
SERVE someone, somewhere! Opportunities include the Round Rock Serving Center, your neighbors, younger siblings, etc…and be creative! Think about the person you are serving – do something that would bless them, even if it requires sacrifice on your part. While you are serving, talk about the model that Jesus gave us in serving.
We’re getting close! Here’s reason #22 we believe…
Reason #22 (December 22nd) – The Fulfilled Prophecies of Jesus
Key Text: Luke 24:25-27, Matthew 21:1-5
25 He said to them, “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
1 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, 2 telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: 5 Tell Daughter Zion, “Look, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” (Zechariah 9:9)
Teaching: One of the strongest defenses for the Christian faith is the number of prophecies that are fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Everything from the place of his birth to the details of his life to the circumstances and events of His death to the reality of His resurrection were spoken about clearly by prophets who lived hundreds of years before His birth. How else do we explain the multitude of fulfilled prophecies in the life of Jesus other than the face that God is real and foretold the coming of His Son? One of the most startling prophetic passages in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53, which gives specific details about the life of Jesus over 700 years before His birth. The Gospel writers and the early apostles were convinced that fulfilled prophecy was one of the best arguments in favor of Jesus as Messiah.
Have each family member make a prediction about something that will happen in 2013. Put it in a jar and plan to revisit next Advent to see how many of the predictions came true. Talk about how hard it is to predict one year ahead and how amazing that prophesies made 700 years before came true – even for the smallest details like how the Messiah would come riding into Jerusalem on a donkey!
All of us have been praying this week for the families of Newtown, Connecticut. Our hearts are heavy as we think about their suffering and pain. Our elders spent time this morning again asking the Lord to comfort these families and the community that has endured such unspeakable tragedy.
Besides praying, people also ask questions about God and the world around them during times like this. I am a pastor, and I ask hard questions about evil and suffering and hope during tragedies. Just the other night on national news, someone who was being interviewed asked, “where was God when all this was happening? how could He allow this to occur?”
We don’t want to give simple, trite answers to these tough questions, but we do want to attempt to bring the love and wisdom of God to these dark moments. I thought it might helpful to post a few resources that are helpful in answering your personal questions during this time…
First, I preached a sermon called Tragedy and the Trinity last summer in the wake of the Joplin tornadoes. I listened to the message again last weekend and was reminded how the Bible gives us a perspective, a person, and a promise to help us process injustice and evil. You can listen to the message on our website or read the whole message here.
Second, our school district (Round Rock ISD) sent a helpful note to parents about how to talk to our kids about the recent tragedy. My favorite idea from them was having your children sketch around their hand on a piece of paper and write down five adult names and phone numbers of those they trust and can call in a time of emergency. This reminds kids of the trustworthy adults in their lives.
My only addition to this list is to help our kids remember that God is trustworthy. There are many great passages to read with your kids, like Psalm 136 (His love endures forever!) or 1 John 4:7-19 (God is love). Remind your kids that God is our ultimate Father and that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Finally, I personally was challenged by Dr. Russell Moore’s reminder that violence against children is ultimately part of the Satan’s attack against those that God loves. I appreciated this biblical reminder of our role as Jesus-followers to protect and lift up the weakest among us, especially kids.
I hope these links and thoughts are helpful to you and your family during these dark days.
Here’s the 21st reason we believe, maybe the most important reason, the resurrection…
Reason #21 (December 21st) – The Empty Tomb of Jesus
Key Text: Matthew 28:1-7
1 After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his robe was as white as snow. 4 The guards were so shaken from fear of him that they became like dead men.
5 But the angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell His disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead. In fact, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there.’ Listen, I have told you.
Teaching: The greatest reason for belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior is the empty tomb. The Christian faith teaches that the tomb in which Jesus was laid after he died was empty on the third day after His death. From the beginning of the church to the present day, this is the most startling claim of Christianity. That Jesus, born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, was crucified and killed, yet raised to life. No one comes back to life. No one even claims to come back to life. The claim is too easy to disprove if it isn’t true. Simply produce the body and put the rumor to rest. But the claim of the apostles was never disproved, for one simple reason. The tomb was empty. Jesus was alive. The apostles believed they had seen Him and talked with Him after His resurrection, and they were on a mission to tell the world that Jesus was alive. They all gave up their own lives and died as martyrs so that the world could know that Jesus was no longer dead. This is the greatest reason we have to believe in God and the story of Jesus. He defeated death and the grave. Who is this Man if not divine?
Cook up some Resurrection Rolls with your kids! You will need crescent rolls, big marshmallows and some cinnamon/sugar/butter goodness.
Here is a link to the recipe: http://www.dltk-kids.com/recipes/resurrection_rolls.htm
We’re getting close to Christmas! Here’s reason #20, the cross…
Reason #20 (December 20th) – The Sacrificial Death of Jesus
Key Text: Mark 10:45, Romans 5:6-8, Galatians 6:14
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.
6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
14 But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.
Teaching: The central event of the Christian faith is the death of Jesus on the cross for our sins. If Jesus had not been willing to go the cross to endure our punishment, we will still be in our sins and lost forever. But Jesus, though He was innocent, was willing to lay down His life freely for sake of others. He humbled Himself to the point of death, and the most gruesome kind of death there is – death on the Roman cross. The Jewish leadership at the time made false accusations against Jesus, and the Roman leadership at the time failed to stand up to the demands of the crowd. But ultimately, it was our sin that put Jesus on the cross. And Jesus endured it all so that we might be forgiven and free. The sacrificial, selfless death of Jesus proves once for all how God feels about us. He hates our sin so much that he had to send His Son to die for us. And yet, He loves us so much that He was willing to send His son to die for us. No matter what we are going through, we never have to doubt the strong love of our Father again. He has declared His love for us forever at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Option 1: Have the kids make a gospel bracelet. You will need a piece of yarn and a yellow (heaven), black (sin), red (Jesus died), white (made clean) and green (growing in Christ) bead for each child. Talk thru the gospel with your children as you assemble your bracelets.
Option 2: Have each child make a cross ornament for the Christmas tree – out of sticks, construction paper or whatever else you have on hand.
Here’s reason #19 in our advent devotional series…
Reason #19 (December 19th) – The Miracles of Jesus
Key Texts: Matthew 4:23-24, Matthew 8:14-17
23 Jesus was going all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 Then the news about Him spread throughout Syria. So they brought to Him all those who were afflicted, those suffering from various diseases and intense pains, the demon-possessed, the epileptics, and the paralytics. And He healed them
14 When Jesus went into Peter’s house, He saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and began to serve Him. 16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick, 17 so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.
Teaching: Jesus did signs and wonders throughout His ministry. The eye-witnesses who saw Him work recorded that many people brought their sick and hurting relatives to Jesus for healing. Crowds followed Jesus wherever he went. And Jesus worked in glorious power. He delivered the oppressed and healed the sick. He restored the broken and repaired the lame. His ministry was full of amazing miracles. Why? First, because Jesus loves people and was moved with compassion when He saw their condition. But second, and more importantly, Jesus was declaring to the world that He was the Son of God. The miracles in the ministry of Jesus confirm the existence of God and the identity of Jesus.
Have you ever experienced a miracle in your life, something that you couldn’t explain simply by reason and rational argument? Explain that miraculous experience to your family. What did you learn about God from that experience?