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Now matter how many times you refer to Jesus as the “reason for the season,” you’ve probably noticed how difficult it is to actually reflect on his coming during Christmas. Unless you’re intentional, it usually doesn’t happen. That’s one reason we’re recommending an Advent guide for you and your family by Scott James titled The Expected One.
In this devotional guide Scott leads us through Old Testament prophecies and expectations leading up to Christ’s first coming. Discussion questions as well as foundational biblical themes are woven throughout these lessons to make this resource perfectly suited for families with children, though it will apply to everyone. LifeWay is making this resource available in the following formats: Android App ($0.99), iPhone App (Free until Thanksgiving; then $0.99), Ebook with LifeWay Reader ($1.99), Apple iBooks ($1.99).
Scott James is an elder at The Church at Brook Hills, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about this timely resource:
A lot of Christians have heard of Advent, but what exactly is it?
Scott: Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming,” and it refers to the weeks leading up to Christmas when we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of Jesus. Various traditions (e.g. wreaths, candles, Jesse Trees, etc…) have been established to help us focus on Christ during this season and, depending on how you use them, these can be very beneficial. The Expected One devotional is not tied to any particular Advent tradition, but it simply uses the weeks leading up to December 25th as a time to call families and friends together to glory in our great Savior.
How do you hope that people will use this resource?
Scott: My hope is that this devotional will be a user-friendly resource for a broad range of people. As a family worship resource, I think that parents who already have an established worship time in their home will find that it fits seamlessly into their routine. Parents not familiar with the practice of family worship (or those just struggling to actually pull it off) can use it as an easily accessible starting point. As a father leading worship in my own home, my biggest struggle is biting off more than I can chew—or more precisely, more than my kids can chew. With that in mind, I purposefully wrote these devotionals in a simple and straightforward fashion. Concise but impactful.
Although the primary audience is intended to be families with young children, the themes and discussion questions in this devotional are edifying for older audiences as well. Each day has a final, open-ended question that is specifically included to engage the adult mind as much as the kids’. I believe that teenagers and adults will benefit from it just as much as young families.
How might these Advent readings help us better understand not only the Christmas narrative, but the entire Bible?
Scott: That really is the goal of the whole devotional—to celebrate the nativity story within the larger context of the story of redemption. Even for those of us seeking to “keep Christ in Christmas,” it is far too easy to focus on the manger scene to the exclusion of all else. By compartmentalizing the amazing truth of the Incarnation, we actually diminish its brilliance. The nativity is best celebrated when it is found in the shadow of the Cross. These devotions use Old Testament Scriptures to highlight the multi-faceted promises that God gave His people concerning the person and work of His Son Jesus. By tracing out the bigger redemptive picture, my hope is that our hearts will be all the more prepared to find deep satisfaction in Jesus during Advent.
Posted on November 13th, 2013 by Jonathan
From the Multiply blog: E-laine lives in the Philippines and has requested we pray for them in the tragic wake of Typhoon Haiyan. She specifically asked that we pray for Gracetoration Christian Fellowship in Coron, Palawan, Philippines, a church that has used Multiply as a tool in their disciple-making. Recently, we were able to ask her some questions to better guide our prayers.
How are you connected with Gracetoration Christian Fellowship in the Philippines?
The Pastor of this church, Pastor Paul Dignadice is a dear friend of our family. He used to pastor our church in Metro Manila, but the Lord touched his heart to go back to his homeland, which is Coron, Palawan. He organized a group called “Jesus’ Young Followers” – discipling young men and women who will give glory to God and will make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples. I have volunteered as a Youth Leader under Pastor Paul’s leadership for 5 years but I am based here in Metro Manila.
Jesus’ Young Followers Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jesus-Young-Followers/192509407536603. We post updates on this page too.
How can the church here assist you? Include some specific prayer requests.
a. Pastor Paul’s house and other workers’ houses has been hit really bad by the storm – pray for provisions as they rebuild; pray for comfort, Strength (spiritual, emotional, physical), wisdom, and more love for the Lord as they continue to become living testimonies of Jesus’ love.
b. The church lost its roofing, walls, windows… pray for them as the church rebuilds.
c. The members of this church are taking care of others before themselves-their needs-their houses. Pray that the Lord will continue to comfort them, give them strength as they go around trying to help others.
d. They need provisions to do these things. please pray for provisions as they try to help others with food, clothing, shelter and provisions for their own needs.
e. Names of Pastors/workers there: they need prayers as they lead the congregation in sharing Jesus to those who lost their homes, businesses, and other possessions.
i. Pastor Paul Dignadice and family: (Pastor Paul’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.dignadice?fref=ts)
ii. Pastor Boy Garcia and family: https://www.facebook.com/bhoy.kitgarcia?fref=ts
iii. Pastor Romy Cruz and family: https://www.facebook.com/raski13?fref=ts
You mentioned taking this opportunity to share Jesus’ love with others. How is Gracetoration Christian Fellowship doing this?
a. They opened the doors of their church to those who totally lost their homes. The church is being used as a “half-way” house right now.
b. They are going around and distributing food to those who do not have any.
I know they have more stories to tell… but im just asking for prayers for them as they face this difficult time.
c. Electricity has not been restored for the town– pray that they will get it back soon.
- – - – -
As you pray for E-laine, Pastor Paul, and his team, also pray about potentially giving financially to the relief effort and the enormous material need it’s attempting to meet. We recommend giving to Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse, and Baptist Global Response… all ministries that specialize in disaster relief and long-term development, and all ministries that are currently on the ground in the Philippines.
Posted on November 11th, 2013 by David Burnette
How sweet and aweful is the place
With Christ within the doors
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast
Each of us cry with thankful tongues
“Lord, why was I a guest?”
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice
And enter while there’s room
When thousands make a wretched choice
And rather starve than come?”
’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in
Else we had still refused to taste
And perished in our sin
Pity the nations, O our God
Constrain the earth to come
Send Thy victorious Word abroad
And bring the strangers home
We long to see Thy churches full
That all the chosen race
May with one voice and heart and soul
Sing Thy redeeming grace
– Isaac Watts, “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place”
Posted on October 31st, 2013 by David Burnette
Who better to quote on Reformation Day than the quotable Martin Luther?
Below are seven quotes from Luther, beginning with a description of the German Reformer taken from an eyewitness to his famous trial (the Diet of Worms):
“Martin is of middle height, emaciated from care and study, so that you can almost count his bones through his skin. He is in the vigor of manhood and has a clear, penetrating voice. He is learned and has the Scripture at his fingers’ ends. He knows Greek and Hebrew sufficiently to judge of the interpretations. A perfect forest of words and ideas stands at his command. He is affable and friendly, in no sense dour or arrogant. He is equal to anything. In company he is vivacious, jocose, always cheerful and gay no matter how hard his adversaries press him.” (Bainton, 99)
1. Luther’s reply at the Diet of Worms:
“Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simply reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of peoples and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” (Bainton, 180)
2. Luther on the exchange of our sin with Christ’s righteousness:
“Who then can fully appreciate what this royal marriage means? Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, “If I have sinner, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his…” (Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian,” 287)
3. Luther on how the Reformation came about:
“I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept…the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.” (George, 53)
4. Luther on the paradox of sinners being declared righteous:
“We are in truth and totally sinners, with regard to ourselves and our first birth. Contrariwise, in so far as Christ has been given for us, we are holy and just totally. Hence from different aspects we are said to be just and sinners at the same time.” (George, 71)
5. Luther on the battle for the truth of the gospel:
“Our warfare is not with flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places, against the world rulers of this darkness. Let us then stand firm and heed the trumpet of the Lord. Satan is fighting, not against us, but against Christ in us. We fight the battles of the Lord. Be strong therefore. If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Bainton, 140)
6. Luther on those who identified with him and followed his teachings:
“The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching ins not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone…How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?” (George, 53)
7. Luther on looking to Christ for our righteousness:
This is wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves. I am justified and acceptable to God, although there are in me sin, unrighteousness, and horror of death. Yet I must look elsewhere and see no sin. This is wonderful, not to see what I see, not to feel what I feel.” (Bainton, 228)
The quotes above are taken from:
Roland Bainton, Here I Stand:A Life of Martin Luther
Timothy George, The Theology of the Reformers
Luther’s “The Freedom of a Christian” in Three Treatises.
Posted on October 15th, 2013 by David Burnette
David Platt & Francis Chan from Asia with an invitation to be a part of the Multiply live stream on November 8th:
You can register for the Multiply livestream here.
Posted on October 8th, 2013 by Jonathan
Truth is sometimes found in unexpected places… like on TBS’s Conan from comedian Louis C.K. This combination would seem to more naturally lend itself to inappropriate comments or over-the-top jokes. And in a recent interview there, those certainly were not wanting. But in the midst of the comedy, C.K. offered a serious warning against the dangers of technology, specifically smart phones.
The thing is, you need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away – the ability to just sit there like this. That’s being a person, right?
You have to check… you know, underneath everything in your life, there’s that thing, that “empty” – forever empty. You know what I’m talking about? The knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone. You know, it’s down there. Sometimes when things clear away, you’re in your car, and you go, “Oh no, here it comes, that ‘I’m alone.’” Like, it starts to visit on you, just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad just by being in it. And so you’re driving, and you go, “Oh…” that’s why we text and drive. I look around, and pretty much 100% of people driving are texting. And they’re killing. Everybody’s murdering each other with their cars. But people risk ruining their own life and taking a life because they don’t want to be alone for a second.
A minute or two later, C.K. offered his simple, human solution to this profoundly human problem: let the sadness come. He exhorted people not to fill the void of loneliness with constant, superficial, smart phone chatter, but to feel the weight of the real emotion within, albeit sad. According to C.K., worthwhile feelings of happiness follow this sad catharsis.
The Christian solution to this profoundly human problem is, in one way, similar: don’t take the Novocain of the smart phone (or social media, T.V., and the like) as a remedy for sadness or loneliness. This kind of shallow distraction is dangerously blinding, and as time passes and habits are formed, it becomes scarily subconscious and natural. It is, to us, the easy way out. But this is not reality. In fact, reality – relational, spiritual, eternal reality – tells us quite clearly that this kind of narcissistic entertainment is no way out at all. Yes, narcissistic, because we are, after all, watching YouTube on our iPhones. It is this self-obsession that deceives us into thinking that if we depict ourselves in a favorable-enough light to get a couple dozen “likes,” a few flattering comments, and maybe an occasional retweet, we’re good. And if we aren’t soothed through Facebook or Twitter, then we satisfy our deepest hunger for solid food with the cotton candy of web-surfing time-wasters – an endless succession that is endlessly void of true substance. So put down the smart phone. It will not fill the emptiness and only blinds us to what is real, however bleak it may feel.
But here, the Christian solution to the problem of emptiness and loneliness diverges from C.K.’s, entirely different. While man’s deepest hunger is not satisfied by the self-gratification and self-glorification that is sought through smart phones, no matter how smart they get, neither is it satisfied by a wave of happy feelings, just as fleeting as the good cry that preceded it; the emptiness lingers after the emotions subside. Lasting satisfaction escapes.
Instead of finding the solution within, the Christian finds it without… in the God of the universe who loved his sad and lonely creation enough to cure their depression and reconcile them to himself. Though we run from God to Apple products and viral internet phenomena and emotional ecstasy, he runs to us in the incarnation. Sidestepping our shallow, human, and misguided wants, he gives us what we need – himself. Immanuel, God with us. In contrast to the temporal gratification that we seek with our smart phones, Jesus is the bread of life and spring of living water in whom we “shall not hunger” and in whom we “shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35). To stop looking at self and to start looking at Jesus is to never be empty or alone again. Beautifully, he seeks and saves the lost, and more beautifully still, he continues on in pursuit of his “found,” knocking at the doors of their hearts and jarring them awake from the onsetting numbness of the world, that he might dine with them and provide the only and ultimate remedy for their sickness… communion with their Creator.
Posted on October 7th, 2013 by David Burnette
Have you ever stopped to consider how many of your waking hours are spent doing work required by your employer? For many people, this is a majority of the workweek. It would only make sense, then, that God would have something to say about that work, particularly since all of life is to be lived for His glory (1 Cor 10:31).
In Colossians 3:22-24 the apostle Paul gives instructions to “bondservants” on how they are to go about their work. While bondservants in the 1st century were in a different situation than most employees in the 21st century (at least in our culture), Paul’s instructions in this passage do give us some helpful principles to apply to our own work and the way in which we go about it. Here are the apostle’s words:
“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:22-24)
Based on these instructions, we can glean at least 3 principles for our workweek:
1. We work ultimately for the Lord, and not for men.
While Paul’s purpose is to address how we view our “earthly masters,” he makes it clear that our ultimate concern is not with our actual employer but with the Lord. We work not as “people-pleasers,” but as those who fear the Lord. Christians should be known as reliable and diligent employees who honor their employers, but ultimately our work is motivated by knowing who God is and what His will is for us. So regardless of whether your supervisor is watching, God is. And regardless of whether anyone appreciates your integrity at work, God does. This means that even a harsh and intimidating boss doesn’t need to be feared, because that person doesn’t ultimately determine your future. “You are serving the Lord Christ” (3:24).
2. Our work has inherent value.
Paul exhorts us to work hard in “whatever you do.” Regardless of whether we’re teaching students, sweeping floors, or defending clients in court, we are to work “heartily.” It’s easy to think that only pastors, missionaries, or those who work with some kind of Christian ministry are doing the work that really matters, but this isn’t the Bible’s perspective. Our work has value, even when we aren’t sharing the gospel with a co-worker. Outside of work that God forbids, there are no unholy occupations. Jesus Himself worked as a carpenter (Mk 6:3).
3. We will receive an eternal inheritance.
Because our ultimate allegiance is to Christ, we don’t have to look to a promotion, a raise, or favor from our employer as our ultimate reward. We have an eternal inheritance waiting. The Lord whom we serve has secured this reward with His life, death, and resurrection. Therefore, we are free to work this week with all our might, knowing that our paycheck is not the final word. In the end, it is from Jesus that we want to hear the words, “Well done” (Lk 19:17).
Be encouraged this week, regardless of what tasks, stresses, and conflicts lie ahead. Work hard and know that your work is not pointless. You serve the Lord Christ.
Posted on September 18th, 2013 by Eric Parker
Well known missionary, David Brainerd, recounts his glorious conversion:
I was walking again in the same solitary place, where I was brought to see myself lost and helpless… Here, in a mournful melancholy state, I was attempting to pray; but found no heart to engage in that or any other duty… Then, as I was walking in a dark thick grove, unspeakable glory seemed to open to the view and apprehension of my soul. I do not mean any external brightness, for I saw no such thing… It was a new inward apprehension or view that I had of God, such as I never had before, nor anything which had the least resemblance of it.
I stood still, wondered, and admired! I knew that I never had seen before anything comparable to it for excellency and beauty… My soul rejoiced with joy unspeakable to see such a God, such a glorious Divine Being; and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied that He should be God over all for ever and ever. My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God, that I was even swallowed up in him.
Thus God, I trust, brought me to a hearty disposition to exalt him and set him on the throne, and principally and ultimately to aim at his honor and glory, as King of the universe. I continued in this state of inward joy, peace, and astonishment, till near dark, without any sensible abatement; and then began to think and examine what I had seen; and felt sweetly composed in my mind all the evening following. I felt myself in a new world, and everything about me appeared with a different aspect from what it was…
At this time, the way of salvation opened to me with such infinite wisdom, suitableness, and excellency, that I wondered I should ever think of any other way of salvation; was amazed that I had not dropped my own contrivances, and complied with this lovely, blessed, and excellent way before. If I could have been saved by my own duties, or any other way that I had formerly contrived, my whole soul would now have refused it. I wondered that all the world did not see and comply with this way of salvation, entirely by the righteousness of Christ.
Posted on September 9th, 2013 by David Burnette
In 1648 Puritan Pastor William Bridge preached 13 sermons in Stepney, London on Psalm 42:11. Based on this Psalm of comfort, Bridge seeks to encourage Christians who have, for various reasons, lost hope.
Here Bridge addresses the power of faith in our battle with discouragement:
“Faith gives a man the true prospect of things, past, present and to come, and of things as they are. All our fears and discouragements arise from this, that men do not see things as they are. If evil be stirring, they think it is greater than it is. If good be stirring, they think it is less than it is. If a man be in temptation, then he loses sight of his former experiences, and so he is much discouraged. If a man be under a desertion, he loses the sight of what is present, of what God is to him, and of what he is to God; and so he is discouraged. If a man be under an affliction, he loses the sight of the end and the issue of the affliction, and so he is disquieted. But now when faith comes, it opens a man’s eyes to see things that are invisible; it is the evidence of things not seen…
…faith is able to show a man things past, present and to come; and to show him greater matter of comfort than the matter of his troubles is; and in so doing it must needs quiet the soul.
Faith, true saving faith, sees in God and in Christ that which answers unto all our fears, wants and miseries.”
– A Lifting Up for the Down Cast, 268 (language slightly updated)
Faith gives us the right perspective in our trials and our discouragements, allowing us to see things as they truly are. It moves us beyond our feelings and our present circumstances, and it banks on the promises of God. The end result of faith is a hope-filled perspective, which is precisely what we see in the words of the Psalm that Bridge so helpfully expounded:
” Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”
– Psalm 42:11
Posted on August 16th, 2013 by Eric Parker
We recently had the privilege of sitting down with Dr. Graham Cole to talk about several important biblical doctrines as well as some contemporary issues facing the church. Dr. Cole is the Anglican Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School and the author of the following books:
We asked Dr. Cole about the areas he was written on – the Holy Spirit and the atonement, as well as the consequences of getting these doctrines right (or wrong) in our life, witness, and proclamation. We also asked him about some current cultural issues, such as homosexuality, that Christians must be prepared to think through.
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