Joy to the World

Written by: Tim Wood

A young boy once complained to his father that most of the hymns they sang in church were boring to him. He believed church hymns were too far behind the times, contained meaningless words and tiresome tunes. His father challenged his son’s complaints by saying, "If you think you can write better hymns, then why don’t you?" The boy went to his room and wrote his first hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." The year was 1690, and that teenager was Isaac Watts. He would become one of the most popular and prolific hymn writers in church history. Isaac Watts has been credited with writing over 700 hymns. Perhaps his most famous is “Joy to the World.”
"Joy to the World," was Isaac Watts’ attempt to put Scripture to music. The hymn is based on Psalm 98, especially verses 4-9.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together
9 before the Lord, for he comes
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity. (ESV)

“Joy to the World” may be one of the most popular Christmas hymns we sing during this season. However, Watts intended this hymn to be a celebration of Christ’s second coming more than His first. The first stanza says, “The Lord is come” not the Lord has come. Watts was not describing a past event (the birth of Jesus), but a future event (the return of Jesus).  Isaac Watts believed the main point to Psalm 98 was a celebration of Christ’s Second Advent. It speaks of Jesus’ final coming to earth when he writes “the Savior reigns” and “He rules the world with truth and grace.” Watts longed for that glorious final day when the “nations (will) prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.”

Even though Watts may not have ever envisioned his song being sung at Christmas time, I think it is a wonderful tribute to his work. Indeed, the first advent of Jesus stands as a historical guarantee that His Second Advent is just around the corner.  The birth of Jesus and the return of Jesus are “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

 

The Joy of Christmas is Immanuel

Written by: Tim Wood

And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” (Matthew 1:21-23).

The angel told Joseph that Jesus would be “God with us.”  That’s the joy of Christmas.  Michael Card wrote, The implications of the name 'Immanuel' are both comforting and unsettling. Comforting, because He has come to share the danger as well as the drudgery of our everyday lives. He desires to weep with us and to wipe away our tears. And what seems most bizarre, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, longs to share in and to be the source of the laughter and the joy we all too rarely know."

David wrote in Psalm 21:1, “O Lord the king rejoices in your strength. How great is the joy in the victories you give.”  And then in verse 6 he writes, “Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.”  How true!  The presence of God in our life brings joy, strength and victory.   Most of us turn to God in moments of sorrow, struggle, fear and doubt. And we should. But as we look to the Lord, we should know that real joy comes from Him. His presence is joy. “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11).  The joy of the Lord is inner joy. It’s soul joy. It’s settled joy. Our world sometimes crashes in around us, but the presence of the Lord is real joy.

God is with us every day, all the time, in every circumstance. The Son of God longs to be the source of laughter and joy in your life. Let Him.  The joy of Christmas is God is with me.

 

An Overflow of Thanksgiving

Written by: Tim Wood

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.                                              (Colossians 2:7 NLT)

We’re entering one of the best weeks of the year; Thanksgiving week! I think it’s the best because there are no gifts to exchange, no parking places to find, and no websites to scour trying to find that perfect gift. Thanksgiving is about getting together and eating. Who doesn’t like that? Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a holiday in the U.S. since 1863. But it wasn’t Abraham Lincoln who thought it up. God proclaimed thanksgiving thousands of years ago. He instructed his people to give thanks for an entire week (Deuteronomy 16). They were to thank him for his provision and protection. God knows what we should discover – thanksgiving is good for our soul. It’s healthy for our hearts. It renews our mind. It reinvigorates our emotions.  Our focus verse says that we should overflow with thankfulness.

OVERFLOW. What a descriptive word. When I see that word I think of a river spilling water over its banks. Overflow means that thankfulness just comes out of us. You can’t have an overflow without a flow. An overflow of thankfulness assumes that thankfulness is already the standard operating procedure of my life.

Colossians 2:7 shows us three ways to live so that thankfulness becomes part of us and flow out of us. First, let the roots of your life grow down into Christ.  Second, allow your life to built on Christ. Third, trust the truth of Christ over everything else.  These are all passive participles; meaning they have already been accomplished because you have received Christ as Lord. You have been planted in Christ so that your life becomes like a deeply rooted tree. It holds. Even in the fiercest storm your life is held together by being deeply planted in Christ.  You have been built up in Christ. You’re getting stronger in him. You are producing fruit for his glory. And you have been taught in the truth. The truth of Christ not only sets you free, it makes you stronger. The result of all this is your life overflows with thanks.Our lives overflow with thankfulness when the flow of our life is Christ and his grace and truth. Is that the testimony of your life?

Bible commentator Matthew Henry was robbed one day. After the incident he told his friends he was thankful for several things. First, he was grateful that he had never been robbed before. After many years of life this was the first time he had been robbed and for that he was grateful. Secondly, he said, "Though they took all my money, I am glad they did not get very much." That was something to be thankful for. Thirdly, he said, "Though they took my money, they did not take my life, and I am grateful for that." And finally, he suggested, "I am thankful that it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed." There was a man who had learned how to be "overflowing with thankfulness!"

My prayer is that the overflow of our lives would be indicative of the flow our life – thankfulness to a great God.

Responding to the tragic church shooting

Written by: Tim Wood

I don’t like writing articles like this because it means something awful happened. And it did, last Lord’s day in Sutherland, Texas. Our hearts were broken again by an act of terror. Innocent lives were taken. A church was devastated. A community rocked to its core.  We watch the news shaking our heads. We wonder, “What’s next?” We feel helpless. But we should never feel hopeless.  I’m not asking what can we do; I’m asking what should we do? And as I asked myself that question, I came away with these answers.

First, foremost and clearly, we should pray.  We should pray for the survivors who lost loved ones. Pray the God of all comfort will bring his comfort to bear on their lives. Pray for the church, the community and our nation. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Pray that the Holy Spirit intercedes with groaning to deep for words (Romans 8:26).  In times like this, words fail us.  But we believe the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when our brokenness exceeds our mental capacity to articulate words. We should pray that no one is overcome by evil but that we will overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Second, we should never get numb. We should never accept this kind of terror as the “new normal.” This has to change. We have to change it.  Time and time again we hear calls for action after tragedies like this. And these discussions fade quicker with every passing catastrophe. Complacency gets us nowhere. There’s a lot of work to do. This would include plans to help the mentally ill.  We’ve made great strides in cancer research and heart disease in our society. We need to start thinking seriously about mental illness.  Getting numb to tragedy and terror will never solve anything.

Third, we should never be dominated by fear.  I will not be afraid to go to a concert, parade, school or church! I won’t let fear be the driver of my life. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago (overcome your fears). I hope you read it.  Believe, receive and claim these verses: “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul” (Psalm 94:19). “When (not if) I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3, my parenthesis). “God has not given me a spirit of fear…but power” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Fourth, we should stay connected to our spiritual community. We need each other. We help each other. We encourage each other. Our church leaders at EVC need to hear from you. We want to take steps to make our gatherings as safe and secure as possible. We love God’s flock. We are overseers of God’s flock. In our prayers and discussions of how to make our place of worship safer, we need your voice and your involvement. One pastor who is helping out the church in Sutherland Texas said, “The church still works. We don't have a plan, but we have a community. We don't have answers but we have grace and peace. We don't understand, but we're present. Our hearts are breaking, but we have hope and we're giving it away as quick as we can.”

Last and perhaps most importantly, we should keep claiming the eternal Word of God.  Claim these “fighter verses” because they help us fight the good fight and keep the faith and finish the course. Say these verses out loud. Pray these verses with passion. Teach these verses to your children.

Psalm 46: 1-2 - God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear…

Isaiah 41:10 - Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Ephesians 6:12 - For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Matthew 16:18 – Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

I wish I could write that stuff like this will never happen again. But I can’t. But I can write that in the midst of all this bad news, Christ fills our todays and tomorrows with hope because He is THE GOOD NEWS!

The Bible is about Jesus

Written by: Tim Wood

The Bible is about Jesus

Jesus said, “The Scriptures point to me” (John 5:39 NLT). If that’s true, and I believe it is, we should be looking for Jesus in every story and in every page of the Bible. The Bible isn’t about me or what I should be doing; the Bible is about Jesus and what he has already done and continuing to do. I want to share a quote with you from Sinclair Ferguson’s book, “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.”  I whole-heatedly agree with his statement.  I want to practice seeing Jesus from all the Scriptures. I hope you will as well.

"Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us. Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God. Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant. Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible’s really not about you—it’s about him."