Dec 31, 2013

A Prayer for New Year’s Eve 2013

Scotty Smith
The Gospel Coalition


     Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human handsPs. 115:1-4
"Dear Heavenly Father, it’s the last day of 2013, and I’m feeling a degree of redemptive conflicted-ness, as both laughter and lament dance around my heart. It’s a good tension—one created by, not in spite of, the presence of your grace.

Looking back over the past twelve months, I can easily say with the psalmist, “Be praised, adored and worshiped, O God, for your steadfast love and great faithfulness!” Abba, Father, you loved us all year long, with a relentless, non-wavering, fully engaged affection—irrespective of anything we did or didn’t do.

You loved me as much as you love your Son, Jesus, for you’ve hidden my life in his. Thank you for the fresh mercies that arrived with each new day—when I was aware of them and when I wasn’t. You remained faithful to everything you’ve promised us in Jesus. You did everything that pleases you, and what pleases you is always for my good and your glory. That makes me very glad.

But Father, it’s because of your love for us in Jesus that I can also own my sadness. I lament the times, this past year, when the gospel wasn’t functionally enough for me; when your love didn’t seem “better than life”; when grace didn’t seem sufficient. That’s when I took my thirst and hunger, disappointments and longings to my voiceless, sightless, senseless, powerless idols. I grieve my foolishness.

But here’s where the gladness trumps the sadness: I won’t always be a man “in two minds” with a divided heart beating in my breast. Father, you will complete the good gospel work you’ve begun in us. One Day I’ll no longer even be tempted to worship, love or serve, anything or anyone but you. Hasten that glad and glorious Day.

On the eve of 2014, prepare each of us, your children, for twelve new months of groaning and growing in grace. In the New Year, may Jesus be more beautiful and precious to us than ever; your love more compelling and your grace more transforming; your presence more real and your kingdom more treasured; your name more exalted and your glory more sought. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name."

Scotty Smith, a native of Graham, North Carolina, is a graduate of the University of North Carolina (BA in religion); Westminster Theological Seminary (MAR) and Covenant Theological Seminary (DMin). After planting and pastoring Christ Community Church, Franklin, Tennessee, for 26 years, Scotty has most recently assumed a position on the pastoral staff of West End Community Church, as teacher in residence. He also serves as adjunct faculty for Covenant Seminary, Westminster (Philadelphia), Redeemer Seminary (Dallas), RTS in Orlando, and most recently, Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

Dec 28, 2013

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014

Justin Taylor|11:21 am CT

esvdrb"Do you want to read the whole Bible?
The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.

(For those who like details, there’s a webpage devoted to how long it takes to read each book of the Bible. And if you want a simple handout that has every Bible book with a place to put a check next to every chapter, go here.)

Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.
But the point is not merely to read the whole thing to say you’ve done it or to check it off a list. The Bible itself never commands that we read the Bible through in a year. What is commends is knowing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and meditating or storing or ruminating upon God’s self-disclosure to us in written form (Deut. 6:7; 32:46; Ps. 119:11, 15, 23, 93, 99; 143:5).
As Joel Beeke writes:
As oil lubricates an engine, so meditation facilitates the diligent use of means of grace (reading of Scripture, hearing sermons, prayer, and all other ordinances of Christ), deepens the marks of grace (repentance, faith, humility), and strengthens one’s relationships to others (love to God, to fellow Christians, to one’s neighbors at large).
Thomas Watson put it like this: “A Christian without meditation is like a solider without arms, or a workman without tools. Without meditation the truths of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory is slippery, and without meditation all is lost.”

So reading the Bible cover to cover is a great way to facilitate meditation upon the whole counsel of God.
But a simple resolution to do this is often an insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan.

One option is to get a Bible that has a plan as part of its design. For example, Crossway offers the ESV Daily Reading Bible (based on the popular M’Cheyne reading plan—read through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice) or the One-Year Bible in the ESV (whole Bible once in 364 readings). [For multiple bindings of the ESV Daily Reading Bible, go here.]

Stephen Witmer explains the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.

The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email, but is now also available as a free app) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.

Jason DeRouchie, the editor of the new and highly recommended What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible, offers his KINGDOM Bible Reading Plan, which has the following distinctives:
  • Proportionate weight is given to the Old and New Testaments in view of their relative length, the Old receiving three readings per day and the New getting one reading per day.
  • The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44—Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day.
  • In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once; the second reading of Psalms (highlighted in gray) supplements the readings through the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy).
  • Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions.
  • The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).
Trent Hunter’s “The Bible-Eater Plan” is an innovative new approach that has you reading whole chapters, along with quarterly attention to specific books. The plan especially highlights OT chapters that are crucial to the storyline of Scripture and redemptive fulfillment in Christ.

For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” It takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:
Sundays: Poetry
Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)
There are a number of Reading Plans for ESV Editions. Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:
  • web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
  • RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
  • podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
  • iCal (download an iCalendar file)
  • mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
  • print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Reading PlanFormat
Through the Bible chronologically (from Back to the Bible)
Daily Light on the Daily Path
Daily Light on the Daily Path – the ESV version of Samuel Bagster’s classic
Daily Office Lectionary
Daily Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels
Daily Reading Bible
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms
ESV Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
Every Day in the Word
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs
Literary Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels
Daily Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament
Outreach New Testament
Daily New Testament. Read through the New Testament in 6 months
Through the Bible in a Year
Daily Old Testament and New Testament
You can also access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:
  • Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
  • Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
  • Start iTunes.
  • Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
  • Paste the URL into the box.
  • Click OK.
For those looking for some books to have on hand as “helps” as you read through the Bible, here are a few suggestions:
As you read through the Bible, here’s a chart you may want to to print out and have on hand. It’s from Goldsworthy’s book According to Plan. It simplified, of course, but it can be helpful in locating where you’re at in the biblical storyline and seeing the history of Israel “at a glance.”
Goldsworthy’s outline is below. You can also download this as a PDF (posted with permission).
Screen shot 2009-12-23 at 10.34.55 PM
Taken from According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy. Copyright(c) Graeme Goldsworthy 1991. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515 ( and Inter-Varsity Press, Norton Street, Nottingham NG7 3HR England (

Creation by WordGenesis 1 and 2
The FallGenesis 3
First Revelation of RedemptionGenesis 4-11
Abraham Our FatherGenesis 12-50
Exodus: Our Pattern of RedemptionExodus 1-15
New Life: Gift and TaskExodus 16-40; Leviticus
The Temptation in the WildernessNumbers; Deuteronomy
Into the Good LandJoshua; Judges; Ruth
God’s Rule in God’s Land1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
The Fading Shadow1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
There Is a New CreationJeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The Second ExodusEzra; Nehemiah; Haggai
The New Creation for UsMatthew; Mark; Luke; John
The New Creation in Us InitiatedActs
The New Creation in Us NowNew Testament Epistles
The New Creation ConsummatedThe New Testament

Below are Goldsworthy’s summaries of each section.

Creation by Word
Genesis 1 and 2
In the beginning God created everything that exists. He made Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden. God spoke to them and gave them certain tasks in the world. For food he allowed them the fruit of all the trees in the garden except one. He warned them that they would die if they ate of that one tree.

The Fall
Genesis 3
The snake persuaded Eve to disobey God and to eat the forbidden fruit. She gave some to Adam and he ate also. Then God spoke to them in judgment, and sent them out of the garden into a world that came under the same judgment.

First Revelation of Redemption
Genesis 4-11
Outside Eden, Cain and Abel were born to Adam and eve. Cain murdered Abel and Eve bore another son, Seth. Eventually the human race became so wicked that God determined to destroy every living thing with a flood. Noah and his family were saved by building a great boat at God’s command. The human race began again with Noah and his three sons with their families. Sometime after the flood a still unified human race attempted a godless act to assert its power in the building of a high tower. God thwarted these plans by scattering the people and confusing their language.

Abraham Our Father
Genesis 12-50
Sometime in the early second millennium BC God called Abraham out of Mesopotamia to Canaan. He promised to give this land to Abraham’s descendants and to bless them as his people. Abraham went, and many years later he had a son, Isaac. Isaac in rum had two sons, Esau and Jacob. The promises of God were established with Jacob and his descendants. He had twelve sons, and in time they all went to live in Egypt because of famine in Canaan.

Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption
Exodus 1-15
In time the descendants of Jacob living in Egypt multiplied to become a very large number of people. The Egyptians no longer regarded them with friendliness and made them slaves. God appointed Moses to be the one who would lead Israel out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. When the moment came for Moses to demand the freedom of his people, the Pharaoh refused to let them go. Though Moses worked ten miracle-plagues which brought hardship, destruction, and death to the Egyptians. Finally, Pharaoh let Israel go, but then pursued them and trapped them at the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds). The God opened a way in the sea for Israel to cross on dry land, but closed the water over the Egyptian army, destroying it.

New Life: Gift and Task
Exodus 16-40; Leviticus
After their release from Egypt, Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai. There God gave them his law which they were commanded to keep. At one point Moses held a covenant renewal ceremony in which the covenant arrangement was sealed in blood. However, while Moses was away on the mountain, the people persuaded Aaron to fashion a golden calf. Thus they showed their inclination to forsake the covenant and to engage in idolatry. God also commanded the building of the tabernacle and gave all the rules of sacrificial worship by which Israel might approach him.

The Temptation in the Wilderness
Numbers; Deuteronomy
After giving the law to the Israelites at Sinai, God directed them to go in and take possession of the promised land. Fearing the inhabitants of Canaan, they refused to do so, thus showing lack of confidence in the promises of God. The whole adult generation that had come out of Egypt, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, was condemned to wander and die in the desert. Israel was forbidden to dispossess its kinsfolk, the nation of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, but was given victory over other nations that opposed it. Finally, forty years after leaving Egypt, Israel arrived in the Moabite territory on the east side of the Jordan. Here Moses prepared the people for their possession of Canaan, and commissioned Joshua as their new leader.

Into the Good Land
Joshua; Judges; Ruth
Under Joshua’s leadership the Israelites crossed the Jordan and began the task of driving out the inhabitants of Canaan. After the conquest the land was divided between the tribes, each being allotted its own region. Only the tribe of Levi was without an inheritance of land because of its special priestly relationship to God. There remained pockets of Canaanites in the land and, from time to time, these threatened Israel’s hold on their new possession. From the one-man leaderships of Moses and Joshua, the nation moved into a period of relative instability during which judges exercised some measure of control over the affairs of the people.

God’s Rule in God’s Land
1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
Samuel became judge and prophet in all Israel at a time when the Philistines threatened the freedom of the nation. An earlier movement for kingship was received and the demand put to a reluctant Samuel. The first king, Saul, had a promising start to his reign but eventually showed himself unsuitable as the ruler of the covenant people. While Saul still reigned, David was anointed to succeed him. Because of Saul’s jealousy David became an outcast, but when Saul died in battle David returned and became king (about 1000 BC). Due to his success Israel became a powerful and stable nation. He established a central sanctuary at Jerusalem, and created a professional bureaucracy and permanent army. David’s son Solomon succeeded him (about 961 BC) and the prosperity of Israel continued. The building of the temple at Jerusalem was one of Solomon’s most notable achievements.

The Fading Shadow
1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
Solomon allowed political considerations and personal ambitions to sour his relationship with God, and this in turn had a bad effect on the life of Israel. Solomon’s son began an oppressive rule which led to the rebellion of the northern tribes and the division of the kingdom. Although there were some political and religious high points, both kingdoms went into decline, A new breed of prophets warned against the direction of national life, but matters went from bad to worse. In 722 BC the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the power of the Assyrian empire. Then, in 586 BC the southern kingdom of Judah was devastated by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and a large part of the population was deported to Babylon.

There Is a New Creation
Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The prophets of Israel warned of the doom that would befall the nation. When the first exiles were taken to Babylon in 597 BC, Ezekiel was among them. Both prophets ministered to the exiles. Life for the Jews (the people of Judah) in Babylon was not all bad, and in time many prospered. The books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel indicate a certain normality to the experience, while Daniel and Esther highlight some of the difficulties and suffering experienced in an alien and oppressive culture.

The Second Exodus
Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai
In 539 BC Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian empire. The following year, Cyrus the king allowed the Jews to return home and to set up a Jewish state within the Persian empire. Great difficulty was experienced in re-establishing the nation. There was local opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Many of the Jews did not return but stayed on in the land of their exile. In the latter part of the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire. The Jews entered a long and difficult period in which Greek culture and religion challenged their trust in God’s covenant promises. In 63 BC Pompey conquered Palestine and the Jews found themselves a province of the Roman empire.

The New Creation for Us
Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
The province of Judea, the homeland of the Jews, came under Roman rule in 63 BC. During the reign of Caesar Augustus, Jesus was born at Bethlehem, probably about the year 4 BC. John, known as the Baptist, prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus. This ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing began with Jesus’ baptism and lasted about three years. Growing conflict with the Jews and their religious leaders led eventually to Jesus being sentenced to death by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. He was executed by the Romans just outside Jerusalem, but rose from death two days afterward and appealed to his followers on a number of occasions. After a period with them, Jesus was taken up to heaven.

The New Creation in Us Initiated
After Jesus had ascended, his disciples waited in Jerusalem. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began the task of proclaiming Jesus. As the missionary implications of the gospel became clearer to the first Christians, the local proclamation was extended to world evangelization. The apostle Paul took the gospel to Asia Minor and Greece, establishing many churches as he went. Eventually a church flourished at the heart of the empire of Rome.

The New Creation in Us Now
New Testament Epistles
As the gospel made inroads into pagan societies it encountered many philosophies and non-Christian ideas which challenged the apostolic message. The New Testament epistles shows that the kind of pressures to adopt pagan ideas that had existed for the people of God in Old Testament times were also a constant threat to the churches. The real danger to Christian teaching was not so much in direct attacks upon it, but rather in the subtle distortion of Christian ideas. Among the troublemakers were the Judaizers who added Jewish law-keeping to the gospel. The Gnostics also undermined the gospel with elements of Greek philosophy and religion.

The New Creation Consummated
The New Testament
God is Lord over history and therefore, when he so desires, he can cause the events of the future to be recorded. All section of the New Testament contain references to things which have not yet happened, the most significant being the return of Christ and the consummation of the kingdom of God. No clues to the actual chronology are given, but it is certain that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. The old creation will be undone and the new creation will take its place."

Dec 27, 2013

A Bible Reading Plan for Readers

A Bible Reading Plan for Readers avatar

"With the new year approaching, prepare yourself for the onslaught of Bible reading advice. "Slow down." "Savor the Scripture." "Whatever your plan, stick to it for the whole year."
Such advice sounds good for those who prefer Peter Jackson to J. R. R. Tolkien or who would choose a locally anaesthetized lobotomy over any sort of reading assignment. Non-readers show courageous faith when they commit to regular patterns of Bible reading at predictable intervals, and I laud their desire to draw closer to the Lord.
But what about those of us who enjoy reading? Why limit ourselves to a few chapters (or a few verses) 10 minutes a day?

Perhaps you were one of the geniuses who devoured Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows within two weeks of its publication. Maybe a Kindle deal puts a spring in your step. You always have one or more books going, and you have to set boundaries so blogs don't take over your life.

You, like the non-readers mentioned above, love the Bible as God's Word. And you think following Jesus is more than a passing fad. You love to read, and the Bible is a book.
Here's my advice: Read the Bible.

Go for It

Just go for it. Read all of it. Read the Bible like you would watch the Olympics. Delightfully. Astoundingly. In large doses over a few weeks. As though your hope of world peace depends on it. With an eye to the spectacular drama.

I dare you to read the entire Bible this year, and to read it as fast as you can.
I've done it for three years now, and I plan to keep doing it. My practice has been to drop all recreational reading (fiction, non-fiction, magazines) on January 1, at which point I read nothing but the Bible until I've finished it. My goal is to finish more quickly than I finished the previous year, or by all means to beat the first day of spring. (After that point, I don't set the Bible aside but reinstitute a more measured pace and reintroduce other books into my literary diet.)

For each year's sprint, I've read a different translation. I've used a different reading sequence (chronological, historical, canonical). I use a mobile-compatible app—I like YouVersion—so I can read anywhere at any time and be able to pick up where I left off.

To be clear, the kind of reading I suggest is not mindless but voluminous, and for a season. The Bible expects us to read meditatively (Pss. 1:2, 119:97, etc.), and while meditation may involve a small chunk of text read at a slow pace, it doesn't have to. Just as we can meditate on nibbles, so we can meditate on gobbles.

For example, upon reading Deuteronomy in one or two sittings I'm floored by the absolute necessity but innate impossibility of worshiping Yahweh as the only true God. This theme saturates the entire book, and for months after reading it I'm driven to meditate on both my need for a new heart and also my hope of glory, Christ in me (Col. 1:27).

Happier with Him

I don't perform this annual romp through Scripture to make God any happier with me; I do it because it makes me happier with him. It does this in a number of ways.

1. It helps me grasp the overall story of the Bible. Though the Bible contains 66 books written by numerous human authors, it's also one book with one divine author. The story begins well, declines quickly, and builds tension through the Old Testament. It climaxes in Jesus and resolves with much hope. Consuming the whole Bible in a short period of time keeps the big picture prominent.

2. It reminds me the Bible is a work of literature. All year long, I get plenty of time to analyze short passages of Scripture in detail. But for this short season, I loosen my literary inhibitions and succumb to the glory of the most influential book on the market. I saturate myself in the biblical text, frolicking through it like a well-fed dolphin in open water. I learn to see the Bible more as a collection of books than a collection of chapters, and the rhetorical intent of each human author comes alive.

3. It gets me through the difficult parts more easily. Ridiculing books like Leviticus and Chronicles is pretty hip these days. But with a speedy reading plan, they go by quickly and make more sense in light of the whole. Chronicles tells humanity's epic tale from creation to Israel's restoration from exile, and it empowers a new generation to rebuild the nation and re-engage with the Lord. Leviticus shows the wilderness generation how to draw near to God and live in community. A rapid reading plan helps us not to belabor the minutiae, so the "boring" parts of the Bible aren't all that boring.

4. It heightens my anticipation for Christ. When I consume the Old Testament in large gulps, my spirits rise and fall with the fortunes of God's people. And there's more falling than rising, especially in the prophetic books, where oracle upon oracle yields darker condemnation and more violent opposition to the people's social injustice, rebellion, and idolatry. But the promise of a dawning light pushes me on. When I finally hit the transition from "lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction" (Mal. 4:6) to "the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1)—I'm not exaggerating to say my heart sings. The four Gospels blaze pure light like a God-man on a mountaintop, and I delight anew in the hottest piece of work on the planet. There's a reason it's called "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

If you like to read, you won't find a better book than the Holy Bible, the unbreakable Scriptures, the sword of the Spirit, the living and abiding Word of God. Take it for a test drive this year, and see if you don't have the time of your life."

...Peter Krol blogs at Knowable Word, a site dedicated to helping ordinary people learn to study the Bible. He also serves as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church of State College, Pennsylvania, and as a collegiate missionary with DiscipleMakers.

Dec 25, 2013

Christmas Day, 2013

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins.
(Matthew 1:21 ESV) 
 ~ Merry Christmas
from the folks at Grace Bible Church ~

Dec 24, 2013

The Violence of Christmas

Christmas Violence
Do yourself a favor before Christmas. Read the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth. Then read Genesis 1-3. Then read Revelation 12. Then throw in Romans 16:20 for good measure.
That's the whole Christmas story.

It's not simply the poetic and sweet story of a child's birth, welcomed by stars and angels. It's a violent war story. A cosmic war story. A conflict between fundamental forces of good and evil. As Mary labored in a place far from home, heaven and hell thundered and took up arms.

I think of The Fifth Element's Leeloo, who descends to Earth at the beginning of the movie, pursued by evil forces bent on the planet's destruction. She is perfect and innocent, but she's also here to fight. To spend her life redeeming a planet. Read those passages and watch the film again; it's a Christmas story.

I think of Alan Furst's spy novels, where whispers behind enemy lines invoke fury and danger. Where the small, the unsuspected, the few pave the way for the forces of good to erode and ultimately invade a land held captive by forces of evil.

And of course, I think of Die Hard, which we already knew was a Christmas movie, but think a layer deeper: a hero travels to a far-off land (McClane is a New York cop in Los Angeles) to reconcile with his estranged bride (she's changed her name) and has to rescue her from evil powers that hold her captive. Yippee-ki-yay.

Doomed by a Baby

In Genesis, a serpent slithers into a perfect world and begins lying, eroding its foundations. In Revelation, this evil one has grown into a furious dragon: his power and dominion are far more menacing. He fumes and rages and casts down stars from the sky. But he's still doomed.
And the first attack against him isn't marked by the shout of warriors, the flash of swords, or the thunder of cannons. It's marked by the cry of a baby.

The world didn't welcome him. We only offered his laboring mother a reeking stable to protect her from the weather. The Christ child was born and laid in a manger, a place where animals eat. Later, while breathing his last upon a cross, he'd quote from a psalm that describes his death like this:
Like lions they open their jaws against me,
roaring and tearing into their prey . . .
My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and feet.
(Psalm 22:13,16)
The baby took his first nap in a feeding trough, and 33 years later, his death would be likened to being torn apart by wild animals. He would also tell his followers to feast on his body and blood, a way of symbolizing and experiencing union with him; to taste and see that he's good, that he's victorious over Satan, sin, and death. Think about that symbolism: only by tearing him apart and devouring him do we participate in his redemption.

There should be no question that Christmas is the greatest cause for joy that the world has known. Imagine if Christ hadn't come. Imagine a life where there was no eternal hope, where we were left to try to redeem ourselves.

Stop and Think

Christmas is also a time for us to stop and think. Remember the whole story of Christmas, not just the easily marketed warm-and-fuzzy side. Remember that all of it—Jesus' condescension as a baby, his birth in a filthy stable, his sleep in a manger—reminds us of the muck he found us in. The nativity, so often depicted as cute and kitsch, is actually a painful depiction of our sin and fallenness. As Jerome once put it, Jesus was born in a dungheap because that's where he knew he'd find us.
Remember, too, that the Christ-child's birth caused hell to erupt with fury. Remember that their resistance was futile.

And remember, most of all, that the violence and humiliation of Christmas happened because God loved us enough to suffer all of it on our behalf and by our side. In Christ, we never have to be alone in our sorrows, pain, and humiliation again. The one who made the world entered it as a child and experienced all of its hardships and injustices so that by God's grace, he could be our comforter in the years to come.

Which is why at advent, we proclaim:
"Comfort, comfort my people,"
says your God.
"Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over
for all her sins."
Listen! It's the voice of someone shouting,
"Clear the way through the wilderness
for the LORD!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God!
Fill in the valleys,
and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
The LORD has spoken!"

(Isaiah 40:1-5)

Mike Cosper is pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel and co-author of Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey. He writes on the gospel and the arts for The Gospel Coalition.

Dec 22, 2013

God Prepared His Son for Christmas

John 1:14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

"Tiny hands waving about uncontrollably. A shrill cry piercing the damp air of a borrowed cave. A mother’s peaceful smile. A mysterious smile on the face of her husband who helped deliver a miracle. The Word became flesh: God confined to an infant.

Growing hands pointing to ancient scrolls. An adolescent voice asking and answering questions. The teachers amazed. A mother who “treasured all these things in her heart.” The Father smiling with favor. The Word became flesh: God growing in stature.

Gentle hands touching blind eyes, deaf ears and withered limbs. Powerful hands turning water into wine, feeding multitudes with a single meal and touching life into lifeless bodies. Thankful faces without words to express their gratitude. The Word became flesh: The Father glorified through the Son.

Constricted hands, the result of spikes driven through his wrists. Arms outstretched, fastened to a wooden beam. A mother stands below feeling every painful throb as her own. The just Father turns his back on his Son. The Word became flesh: Our sins on Jesus.

Scarred hands in resurrected glory. A chariot of clouds lifting him to the Father. A joyful mother watching her son ascend. A promise from the lips of the risen Savior: Just as I go, I will return again. The Word became flesh: Resurrection assurance.

Open hands inviting every sinner. Accepting all who come to him in faith. Blind eyes see; prison doors are opened. The prince or pauper, none are turned away. Eternal life to all who believe. The Word became flesh: Sinful man in communion with the holy God!

Lord Jesus, thank you for leaving the indescribable brilliance of heaven to become man. Thank you for coming to us so that we could come to you. Amen." 

by Ron Moore, The Journey Radio Ministry

The Lord's Day, December 22, 2013

Dec 12, 2013

Name of All Names

"There are many names for Jesus.
The Bible is full of them.
He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega,  the  Ancient of Days.
He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
He is the Anointed One, the Messiah.
He is the Prophet and the Priest.
He is the Savior, the Only Wise God our Savior. He is our Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
He is the Almighty.
He is the Lord.
He is the Door of the  Sheep, the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
He is the Lamb, the Lamb Without Spot or Blemish, the Lamb Slain from before the Foundation of the World.
He is the Logos, the Light, the Light of the World, the Light of Life, the Tree of Life, the Word of Life, the Bread that Came down from Heaven, the Spring which, if a person drink of it, he will never thirst again.
He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
He is the Resurrection, the Resurrection and the Life.
He is our Rock, our Bridegroom, our Beloved.
He is our Redeemer.
He is the One who is Altogether Lovely.
He is the Head over all things which is his body, the church.
He is God with Us, Immanuel.

But above all, he is Jesus. Jesus.

We love him for that name, because his name means 'Jehovah is Salvation' and he came to save his people from their sins."

– James Montgomery Boice, The King Has Come: The Real Message of Christmas, (Christian Focus Publications: 2008), 61–62.


Dec 10, 2013

Amazing Grace Ladies Breakfast

January 11, 2014
What time?
9:00 am (Or as soon as you can get there!)
Where? Little Daddy's Restaurant
On Eureka, next to Southland Mall, in Taylor
Who's Invited?
All the Ladies of Grace Bible Church
and your friends!
Come join us for some great food & fellowship
Are there any Thanksgiving, Christmas or soon, New Years' stories that you would like to share at the breakfast?
Past or present stories and memories are all welcome. 
~Please contact Marianne Ashby to let her know that you'll be coming~

Dec 8, 2013

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - Casting Crowns

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
 Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come O Rod of Jesse's stem,
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow'r to save;
Bring them in vict'ry through the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

The Lord's Day, December 8, 2013

Dec 6, 2013

Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Jesus, joy of the highest heaven,
Born as a little baby
Under a wondrous star.
Like us, crying he takes His first breath
Held by His mother, helpless...
Close to her beating heart.
Jesus, laid in a lowly manger,
Facing a world of dangers,
Come to turn me a stranger
Into a child of God.

Jesus, King of the highest heaven
Learning to take His first steps,
That He might bring us life.
Like us, knowing our smiles and sorrows,
He showed the way to follow,
A way that is true and right.
Jesus, take away every darkness,
Steady my simple footsteps
That I might in your goodness
Live as a child of God.

Dec 1, 2013

The Lord's Day, December 1, 2013

The Rosebud

It is only a tiny rosebud
A flower of God's design;
But I cannot unfold the petal
With these clumsy hands of mine.
The secret of unfolding flowers
Is not known to such as I.
GOD opens this flower so sweetly,
Then in my hands they die.

If I cannot unfold a rosebud...
This flower of God's design,
Then how can I have the wisdom
To unfold this life of mine?
So I'll trust in Him for leading
Each moment of my day.

I will look to Him for His guidance
Each step of the pilgrim way.
The pathway that lies before me
Only my Heavenly Father knows.
I'll trust Him to unfold the moments,
Just as He unfolds the rose.

-author unknown-

December 2013

Nov 29, 2013

Psalm 111

Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the LORD;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonders to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will remember His covenant forever.
He has made known to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of His hands are truth and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
They are upheld forever and ever;
They are performed in truth and uprightness.
He has sent redemption to His people;
He has ordained His covenant forever;
Holy and awesome is His name.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever.

(Psalm 111)

Nov 28, 2013

A Theology of Thanksgiving

"Tomorrow we will celebrate the distinctly American holiday of Thanksgiving. Many already know the story behind the holiday: In the fall of 1621, after enduring a harsh and deadly winter, the Pilgrims, led by their governor William Bradford, organized a celebratory feast of thanksgiving, and invited some of their Native American allies from the Wampanoag tribe to attend. Of course we also know that Squanto, an English-speaking Pawtuxet, had also taught the settlers how to catch fish, hunt, and grow corn. The settler’s first successful corn harvest was the occasion for the feast. Periodic thanksgiving celebrations were practiced throughout the colonies, and in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day be observed each November.
In 2013, Thanksgiving looks much different than it did to past generations. While many still carry on the holiday traditions of feasting and family gatherings, we’ve added new traditions in the form of the Black Friday and football. Worse yet, the simple and necessary practices of giving thanks and being thankful seems to be ever-declining in our culture. Americans simply are no longer thankful people. American Christians have followed suit.
We could theorize on the reasons why, but in this blog I’d like to take a look at what the Word says about thanksgiving, thankfulness, and giving thanks. I believe we’d do well to refocus and retrain ourselves to be a more gracious and thankful people. We need to develop a theology of thanksgiving.
The Bible is clear that God’s people should be thankful people: “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:12) is a recurring theme throughout the Psalms and both Testaments. In the New Testament, Paul exhorts the church to “give thanks in all circumstances“ (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and to always be “giving thanks… for everything” (Ephesians 5:20). In other words, Christians should be thankful always at all times, and in every situation.
Being thankful is often hard for us to do when things aren’t going our way. We’re not very thankful when we lose our job, when our spouse walks out on us, when our washing machine goes kaput, or when our insurance premiums rise. More often then not, we complain. We become frustrated and angry. We know the Bible says we should be thankful, but in our hearts we are not. We’re bitter. We’re resentful. We’re mad. We are not thankful in all things, nor do we thank God for the rain, only the sunshine.
We’re this way because we’ve been conditioned to be. Sadly, many of the most popular Christian culture authors, pastors, and celebrities preach a lifestyle of thanksgiving only when we’re on top. We don’t know how to face disappointment. The words “Thank you, O Lord” will not roll off our tongue if aren’t content, and if all our circumstances don’t meet our expectations. We need to turn away from our American idea of thanksgiving and turn to the scriptures which will help us develop a proper theology of thanksgiving. We must be thankful people because being thankful, even when it hurts, is part and parcel of our lot in Christ (Colossians 3:15-17). It’s just who and what we are as Christians.
We also need to learn how to show thanksgiving. I’m often surprise  (and disappointed) that with the proliferation of “How To Be Missional…” articles and blogs out there, few of them spend any time talking about being thankful. Sure, we can invite our lost neighbors over for dinner, take hotdogs to everyone at work, and leave big tips, but are we living gracious, thankful lives before all people? Do we tell them “thank you,” and do we show thanksgiving by our actions and our attitudes? I’m not going to tell you how to do it, you can figure it out.
This Thanksgiving let’s not be superficially thankful. Let’s be biblically thankful. Let’s not just be thankful when it’s convenient, but also when it isn’t easy. Let’s not limit our public gratitude and praise of God to our Facebook status. Let’s be thankful for all God has given us, namely a new life in Christ. Let’s let our thankfulness spill over to everyone: our family, our co-workers, or fellow church members, and to everyone we meet. Let’s get into the Word and develop a theology of thanksgiving!"
This article by: 

Nov 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

~This from Bill Wilkins...
"I have memories of a lot of wonderful Thanksgiving family get-togethers, but the one that really stands out in my memory is one in the early eighties.  We were celebrating Thanksgiving with our daughter LuAnn and her family at their home in Plainwell, Michigan.  Our first grandchild, Jessica, was about four years old at the time.  When we were all gathered at the table for dinner, I said let's ask for the Lord's blessing on the food.  As we bowed our heads, little Jessica spoke up and said "Grandpa, couldn't we go around the table first and each say what we're most thankful for - I'll go first".  That's when I lost it."

~From Louise Moore ...

"To me, Thanksgiving should be a way of life, and not something we celebrate one day a year. Thanksgiving should be an attitude of the heart, not something we 'do' once a year.

As many of you know, I have chronic health issues and I can say that I am at peace with them for the very first time in my life. This is the path our Lord has chosen for me, who am I to question Him about the way that He knows is best for me?  I thank God for God! I thank Him that He knows far better than I the way I should take. I thank Him for His grace and His mercy that is new every morning. Does that astound you? It does me! HIS mercy ....  New! To us!! This morning!!! And it will be new tomorrow! What a wonderful Savior, what an awesome God we have the blessed honor to serve.

I thank God for my husband Clyde, for our sons David and Shawn and their families. Jane, Wendy, Jackie, Stephanie, Sydney, Perri and Erica. I thank God for my Mom and our brothers and sisters. I thank Him so very much for our Pastor and the Elders of our church, who look out for our well being as scripture tells them to. I thank God for my church family. They are faithful to pray for us when times are hard, and they are a joy to worship with on Sundays.

My everlasting thanks go to God for electing ME to be HIS child. "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the Cross I cling..." It is All of Him and nothing I have done that makes me His. I stand of awe of His great goodness.

May your Thanksgiving truly become a way of life for you and yours. 
Happy, Blessed Thanksgiving!"

~ From Kevin Godin ...
"When asked what we are thankful for our minds often turn toward blessings we can reach out and touch or see. We are thankful for wives and husbands, for homes and jobs, for food and clothing, and for family and friends. We may even be thankful for the love others have shown to us, for our churches, and for various circumstances in our lives.

These are all appropriate things to be thankful for, the Word of God tells us to give thanks in all things. The ultimate thing we must be thankful for, however, is Jesus Christ. It is only when we realize the He is the blessing of greatest value that we can remain thankful to God when all of the other comforts of life depart. It is only when Christ is an end rather than a means and every other blessing reflects His glory that we can truly be thankful to God not just because of what He does for us, but because we have Him.
I am therefore most thankful to God for God. For who He is. I am thankful that His love for me was so great that He overcame my sinful rejection of Him and joined me to Christ through faith so I might enjoy Him forever. The greatest gift that God ever gives is Himself and I am thankful that solely because of His great love and mercy I have Him!"