Going Deeper with the Message:

Confronting Control
by: Ben Biles

Pastor Tim started a new series on Sunday called Christmas Portraits talking about different characters from the Christmas story found in the Bible, and he specifically talked about Herod, who was king of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth. When the magi told him about the birth of the King of the Jews, Herod’s response to Jesus was one of fear and hostility. He immediately began to plot the death of this infant King because he was fearful of losing the authority and power he had amassed as king.

We see that Herod’s power and position as king only made him increasingly paranoid to remain in control. He did everything in his position to secure his position, even murdering his brothers, wives, and sons. Every time he heard there was a threat to his control, he murdered again. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone else becoming king and losing his own power.

When it comes to us, we often place ourselves as the main authority of our lives. So, when we are confronted with the truth of Jesus as King, we have to choose between submitting to his authority over our lives or choosing our own path. Though we believe in Him as Savior, we aren’t always willing to do what He commands. Consider the example of the Rich Young Ruler found in Luke 18 as he asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus gives him the answer, he isn’t willing to relinquish his wealth and follow after Jesus. The truth is, we like to remain in control of our decisions and circumstances in order to ensure our happiness and wellbeing. We don’t understand the greatness of what God is trying to do for us and through us. 

The Apostle Paul understood the authority of Jesus over his life and often referred to himself as a servant of God and the gospel. In Ephesians, he writes “I was made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of His power” (Ephesians 3:6–7). He surrendered control of his life because he knew God’s plan was so much better than anything else and God used him for great things. Rather than hanging onto control at all costs, we should follow Paul’s example and serve God and His life-changing purposes, for that is where life is found. 

Living out the Message:

Preparing for Christmas: Hope
By Ben Biles

For the Thursdays leading up to Christmas, I thought it would be a good idea to use this space in order to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. As believers, we celebrate Christmas because we remember the day that the God of all creation became a man and was born to unassuming parents as a humble infant. He was the Messiah, the King that God had promised to send to Israel centuries beforehand to usher in the kingdom of God and everlasting peace. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Israel was under the oppressive rule of Rome, and the hope of the nation resided in this Messiah who would restore Israel to its former glory. Yet, as we know, Christ didn’t come to defeat the rule of oppressive nations, but rather the oppressive rule of sin and death over the lives of all people. 

I think for us, a renewed focus in God for the Christmas season couldn’t come at a better time. When everything has gone wrong and there’s been so much suffering, pain, and despair because of the tragedy experienced in 2020, we need a restoration of our hope in God’s promises. Christmas gives us a reason to hope again, but celebrating Christmas isn’t about escaping or ignoring the pain and suffering of the year in order to feel a few weeks of peace and tranquility. Rather, the celebration of Christmas should be considered a discipline that trains us to experience longing, just as the Jews did before Jesus’ birth as they awaited their coming Messiah. In this longing, we build our hope in the knowledge that just as God came before, He will come back and restore all things. 

A renewed focus on God for this season involves a deeper commitment to daily worship, prayer, and Bible study as we turn our hearts and minds to our Savior. It’s a celebration of the fact that God sent Jesus into this world, that God himself came to earth, that He lived among us, that he walked, he talked, he breathed, he ate, he drank, but ultimately, He died for our sake. This focus transforms the season into one of worship and thanksgiving to God for sending His Son to save us from disaster. Our hope is justified for his redemption has already begun and we get to be a part of God’s continued redemptive mission for all people and nations. This week, reflect on your hope in God.