The Gospel

The Darker Side of Christmas: Joy Comes in the Mourning

When we think of the story of Jesus’s birth in the little town of Bethlehem, we envision a beautiful and peaceful scene with shepherds and wise men gathered around a manger, worshipping the young Christ. But that’s not the whole picture! Matthew reminds us that the birth of Christ was not only associated with happiness and hope but also with feelings of profound sorrow and deep despair. In the second chapter of his Gospel, he recounts a tragic event that followed the birth of Christ, which Christian tradition refers to as the Massacre of the Innocents.” In an attempt to kill the Christ-child, King Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children in Bethlehem under two-years of age.

Why does Matthew include this tragic story in his account? How does the sorrow of bereaved mothers in Bethlehem contribute to Matthew’s Gospel presentation? I address those questions in the message below. In short, we see that the tears of Bethlehem’s mothers belong to a trail of tears that reaches all the way back in redemptive history to the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. What’s more, we learn that God himself is afflicted in the afflictions of his people. Best of all, we come to realize that the tears in Bethlehem mark a climax in the sorrow of God’s people that serves as a harbinger of the Messianic hope and deliverance that would come through the very Christ-child Herod sought to destroy.

If you’d like to see how this message is developed in Matthew’s Gospel and his interpretation of Jeremiah 31, watch the video or listen to the audio below.

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Nobody’s Good Enough

It’s easy to forget sometimes, but the book of Revelation reveals. There’s a lot of mystery in the book’s details, but if we step back and focus on what’s clear, what emerges is a beautiful expression of the greatest truths any human being can be blessed to know.

I was reminded of this recently as our pastor preached through Revelation 5-7. Flowing through the awesome scenes, strange creatures, and epic moments of these chapters is a retelling of the great story of all of Scripture.

A tragic problem

Chapter 5 continues the apostle John’s vision of God on His throne. God the Father is holding a sealed scroll and John is confronted with a question from a “mighty Angel.” It’s really the great question of the ages, since the transgression in Eden and the fall of the human race. It has long had the same tragic answer.

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. (Rev 5:2–4, emphasis added)

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The Meaning of Death: A Funeral Meditation

The most prominent reality at a funeral is also at the same time the most difficult subject to discuss. That reality, of course, is the subject of death. As one man has noted, “Death is the one experience that will be shared in common by every person …. Every moment we live, the sand in the hourglass of our existence continues to flow, bringing our final end ever near.”1 And yet, despite the “commonness” of death, most people prefer not to talk about it. There seems to be a kind of natural aversion to death. If we had our choice, we’d much rather celebrate the birth of a new child or the wedding of a close friend. If we had our way, there would be no funerals, no sad and uncomfortable occasions associated with the passing of a loved one.

Yet, we cannot escape reality. Death confronts us on the front page of the newspaper. It shakes us when we have to bury a family member or friend. Finally the day comes when death knocks at our own door. Indeed, the moment you and I were born into the world, we began our lifelong journey to the grave. And so, we can’t avoid the reality of death. With this inescapable reality in view, I’d like briefly to address the meaning of death. Specifically, what is death? And why must we die?

What Is Death?

Webster’s Dictionary defines “death” simply as the cessation of life. Thus, to understand “death,” we must first understand “life.” Webster’s offers two primary definitions:

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What is the “Greatest Threat to the Gospel”?

"What this 'greatest threat' trope ignores is the clear teaching of Jesus that He will build His church and not even the gates of hell will prevail against it (Matthew 16:17-19). The gospel is never threatened because it is the Savior who ensures His kingdom will advance." - LifeWay

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