9 December 2021, 12:00 am
We came together for our Sunday morning church service with joy and anticipation. Although we were spatially distanced because of the coronavirus pandemic, we welcomed the opportunity to celebrate Gavin and Tijana’s wedding. Our technologically gifted Iranian friends broadcast the service to friends and family spread out geographically—including in Spain, Poland, and Serbia. This creative approach helped us overcome the constraints as we rejoiced in the covenant of marriage. God’s Spirit united us and gave us joy.
That Sunday morning with our wonderfully multinational congregation was a small taste of the glory to come when people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” will stand before God in heaven (Revelation 7:9). The beloved disciple John glimpsed this “great multitude” in a vision he recounts in the book of Revelation. There those gathered will worship God together along with the angels and elders, all giving praise: “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever” (v. 12).
The union and marriage of Jesus and His international bride in the “wedding supper of the Lamb” (19:9) will be an amazing time of worship and celebration. Our experience on that Sunday with people from many nations points to this event that one day we’ll enjoy.
While we wait in hope for that joyful event, we can embrace the practice of feasting and rejoicing among God’s people.More
8 December 2021, 12:00 am
Dewberry Baptist Church split in the 1800s over a chicken leg. Various versions of the story exist, but the account told by a current member was that two men fought over the last drumstick at a church potluck. One man said God wanted him to have it. The other replied God didn’t care, and he really wanted it. The men became so furious that one moved a couple kilometers down the road and started Dewberry Baptist Church #2. Thankfully the churches have settled their differences, and everyone concedes the reason for their split was ridiculous.
Jesus agrees. The night before His death Jesus prayed that His followers would “be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” May they “be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me” (John 17:21–23).
Paul agrees. He urges us to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3–4), and these cannot be divided.
We who weep for Christ’s body broken for our sin must not tear apart His body with our anger, gossip, and cliques. Better to let ourselves be wronged than be guilty of the scandal of church division. Give the other guy the chicken leg—and some pie too!More
7 December 2021, 12:00 am
On a hot and humid day one August, my wife gave birth to our second son. But he remained nameless as we struggled to settle on a given name. After spending many hours in ice cream shops and taking long car rides, we still couldn’t decide. He was simply “Baby Williams” for three days before finally being named Micah.
Choosing the right name can be a little frustrating. Well, unless you’re God, who came up with the perfect name for the One who would change things forever. Through the prophet Isaiah, God directed King Ahaz to ask Him “for a sign” to strengthen his faith (Isaiah 7:10–11). Though the king refused to ask for a sign, God gave him one anyway: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (v. 14). God named the child, and he would be a sign of hope to people going through despair. The name stuck and Matthew breathed new meaning into it when he wrote the narrative of Jesus’ birth (1:23). Jesus, too, would be “Immanuel.” He wouldn’t just be a representative of God, but He would be God in the flesh, coming to rescue His people from the despair of sin.
God gave us a sign. The sign is a Son. The Son’s name is Immanuel—God with us. It’s a name that reflects His presence and love. Today, He invites us to embrace Immanuel and know that He’s with us.More
6 December 2021, 12:00 am
Nicholas, who was born in the third century, had no idea that centuries after his death he would be known as Santa Claus. He was just a man who loved God and genuinely cared for people. One time he learned of a family who was in great financial distress. Nicholas decided to help. He came to their home at night and threw a bag of gold through an open window, which landed in a sock or shoe. Nicholas gave cheerfully of his own possessions and did many kind deeds.
The apostle Paul urged the believers in Corinth to be cheerful givers. He wrote to them about the great financial needs of their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem and encouraged them to give generously. Paul explained to them the benefits and blessings that come to those who give of their possessions. He reminded them that “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). As a result of their cheerful generosity, they would be “enriched in every way” (v. 11), and God would be glorified.
Father, would you help us to be cheerful givers not only in this Christmas season but all year long? Thank You for Your incredible generosity in giving us Your “indescribable gift,” Your Son Jesus (v. 15).More