Author Archives: Joel Jupp

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6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

- Isaiah 9:6

As the lyrics of the Hallelujah Chorus, we hear these words almost every Christmas. The music of Handel’s song easily gets stuck in our heads, but I wonder if the words do the same. These words are too incredible to pass by.

Hours could be spent on each of these ideas. But for today, think about the fact that “the government shall be upon His shoulders.” Jesus’ birth signified that God had a better plan. As much as the Israelites desired a king, every kingdom failed. But God promised to send a Savior who would rule with power and grace. Even the responsibility of government would rest upon Him.

So in a world where so many things are going wrong, we all need to be reminded of who is in control. Whether we are Republican or Democrat, our hope should not rest in a politician to solve our problems. In fact, as followers of Jesus Christ, we should be gracious to public officials because they will never get it completely right. As hard as they try, Christ is the only one who can effectively lead our world towards peace and reconciliation.

This Christmas, try to reach out to someone with the good news of the gospel. If you know a public official, tell them how much you appreciate them. And rather than complaining about our government, remember that we are looking for a better, more peaceful kingdom that is yet to come.

Prayer: Jesus, we believe that you are the hope that we need. Whatever our need, help us to trust in You for our peace. You alone are our Savior.

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2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

– Isaiah 53:2-3

As most of us can admit, it is easy to miss the true meaning of Christmas! If we are honest, all of us can think back to years that didn’t have as much significance as we hoped. Whether we didn’t receive that present on top of our list, whether we have mourned the loss of a love one, or whether the time just passed too quickly… we have all missed the point from time to time.

Of course, we are not the only ones to miss the Christ in Christmas. From the very beginning of Jesus’ life, people did not see anything attractive or popular about Him. Scripture tells us that in addition to being born in a filthy manger, Jesus did not draw a lot of attention in terms of his physical appearance.

Unlike the movies that we see on TV, Jesus wouldn’t have been cast for any movies. In fact, the Bible tells us in John 1:10-11 that Jesus was despised and rejected by those around Him. Rather than seeking out His face, they hid from Christ and did not see any value in Him. In today’s terms, He was far from being a movie star.

This can be convicting because all of us are guilty about forgetting about Jesus. Many of us pay more attention to the movie stars and the latest Hollywood gossip than we do to Jesus Christ. But it is never late to change.

Christ calls us to notice Him, to recognize who He truly is, and to bring others with us to the manger. If we all do that, this Christmas will not be another empty holiday.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for neglecting You. Like our friends and neighbors, we have lost sight of who you truly are. All of us have gone astray and looked to the idols of our greed, pride, and lust. Have mercy on us for not esteeming You as we should, and help us to to draw others to You, so that today, we will all recognize Your majesty as we should. Though born in a manger, You are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

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20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).

- Matthew 1:20-23

These are some of the most amazing verses in the Bible. In a few short sentences, we learn some amazing things about God’s love for the world:

* Through the power of Almighty God, a virgin will give birth to a son.
* This miraculous child will save his people from their sins.
* God will dwell with humanity through the birth of a child.

This is shocking because no other God has the power to cause a virgin birth. No other God has made the “first move” to save people from their sin. And no other God has loved humanity like our God.

In response to Jesus’ birth, we should be inspired to worship. We haven’t created our own salvation or found a way to stop sinning, so Christmas should remind us about how small we really are. All we can do is receive the amazing grace that God offers to us through Jesus Christ. God alone deserves the glory! None of our efforts can contribute anything more to what God has already done through Christ.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for making us Your people and for saving us from our sins. We are amazed that You came to rescue us. Even your name reminds us of your forgiveness. We can never fully express our gratitude for what You have done for us, and we ask that You will continue to save us from the evil that surrounds us.

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2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you,
one whose origins are from the distant past.
3 The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies
until the woman in labor gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
will return from exile to their own land.
4 And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
Then his people will live there undisturbed,
for he will be highly honored around the world.
5 And he will be the source of peace.

- Micah 5:2-5

Like many of us today, the Israelites felt overwhelmed and disappointed. Other nations had stolen their land and their possessions. They felt like God had let them down.

But the Bible tells us that God never abandons His people. He is always there, and He always comes through.

Jesus’ birth was the prime example of God’s protection. When the Israelites were bummed out, God sent His Son to save the world. Acting a shepherd, Jesus now guides His followers into truth and protects them from the enemy’s attacks.

So when life seems turbulent, never forget that God has provided us with a Good Shepherd. Jesus brings peace, not only to us, but to people around the entire world. With Christ guiding us, we are safe and secure.

Prayer: God, thank you for sending your Son to be our leader and protector. Whenever we face violence and disturbance in life, we know that You are strong enough to protect us. Forgive us for worrying about our troubles, and today, may Jesus Christ be our source of security and peace.

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“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
- Isaiah 7:14

Despite all of the problems that humanity faces on earth, God has promised to deliver His people. This promise was originally given to the Israelites, but He also promises to deliver us today. A loving God would never allow His people to be defeated.

Because life can seem hopeless at times, God also promised a visible sign of His deliverance, so that no one would miss it. The sign was simple, yet unmistakable: a young woman would give birth to a unique child that would bring God’s presence near closer to us. This prophecy was ultimately fulfilled when Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, the son of God.

The significance of God’s promise is real and tangible. Today, no matter what problem we may face, we can know that God is with us! We do not need to doubt whether God will save us from our problems, but we can look to His promise of His Son. God has entered our world, and we are no longer alone. Even when others leave us, God is with us!

Prayer: Lord, please deliver us from the evil in our lives. Only you can save us from the problems of this world, and we thank you for sending Jesus Christ, so that we know You have not forgotten us. This Christmas, no matter what may we face, we believe and confide in You for our deliverance.

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“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.”
- Isaiah 11:10

Isaiah’s prophesied to the people of God that a Savior was coming. Through an heir of Jesse, people from all nations would be saved. This was a message of great hope, and hundreds of years later, the people of God would see that the “banner for the peoples” was Jesus Christ.

By taking on human flesh, Jesus displayed to the world who God truly is. Jesus proclaimed rescue and safety for all those who come to Him, and He offered rest to the weary. For anyone that unites with Him, Christ offers spiritual peace by reconciling us to God. Jesus alone can provide the rest that we all long for.

The birth of Christ is a reminder God rules over all of creation. With foresight and divine control, God set His intent into motion hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. Sovereign over all things, God knew far beyond what any human being could predict, for only God knows what the future holds. Nothing in human history is a surprise to God.

For us today, this is incredible news. Because the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ, we can find great peace and comfort in the fact that God knows all things, and He is more than capable of taking care of us in our time of need.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for your sovereign will. Our plans shift, change, and fail, but yours remain forever. Thank you for your gift of salvation and for sending Jesus to be a banner for all the nations. This year, may Christmas be more than an American holiday, but may it be a reminder for us that you desire to save all kinds of people, from every nation. We acknowledge and believe that you alone are the world’s source of comfort and peace.

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14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

(Gen. 3:15)

Thousands of years beforehand, God planned Jesus’ birth.

God’s plan was not to make everyone wealthy or to give us political victory, but to save the world from sin. Adam and Eve fell short of God’s glory by sinning against Almighty God, just as we have all sinned. Yet in the midst of our sin, God promised that He would provide a Savior to save us from our sins.

As early as Genesis 3, God explained what his plan would be: He would provide an offspring of Eve to overcome the devil. This incredible promise, following Adam and Eve’s sin, was revealed to us in Jesus Christ. All of humanity longed for this long-awaited Savior to defeat the deceiver, and with Christ’s birth, God fulfilled His promise to save His people from their sins.

Prayer: Lord, help us to remember the true meaning of Christmas this year. With all of the hustle and bustle that surrounds us, please help us to remember your incredible promise to save the world. This Christmas, help us to look beyond ourselves and to recognize the victory that only comes through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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I think Jesus may have hacked into our bank account. Somehow, he always seems to know when my wife and I are low on cash.

Now that I am a seminary student, our cash supply is often limited, and at times, nearly nonexistent. But when we reach the bottom of the barrel, we are always provided for. This has happened over and over again. God knows all along what we need, and He is always there to help.

TV and prosperity preachers give such a bad rap to the ideas of blessing and prosperity. In the guise of fancy suits and gold rings, they spout heresy. God never, never promises us a new car or a new house. Instead, God promises that Christians will face difficulty and persecution because of the evil in this world. As Jesus said in John 15:20, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” In other words, life as a Christian is difficult.

However, because extremists twist the Bible for their own purposes, the rest of the Christian faith has shied away from talking about material and physical blessing. I am not speaking about a six figure salary, but when we have six dollars left in the bank, we need to be confident and trust that God will provide. We should not be fearful of believing that. Even when we are to blame for the situation we are in, God delights in rescuing those who repent of their ways and turn to Him for help.

No matter what day it is, God is faithful. Not only has God promised never to flood the earth again, but He takes no delight in flooding our lives with unnecessary strife. So we can truly pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” and be assured that God will provide everything that we need to get through the day.

While the bare minimum not seem like very much, it has an added blessing in that it reminds us of heaven. We can look forward to when their will no longer be tears, fear, or the pain of hunger. Luke reminds us of Jesus’ concern for the poor and needy, as he records the words of Jesus in Luke 6:20-23:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, mock you, and curse you because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold,
great is your reward in heaven…”

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In many churches, there has been a subtle change over the past decade. When we started using PowerPoint for worship, the majority of churches would use a slide for a verse, another slide for the chorus, and so on. Today, however, the trend is to use a slide for 2 to 4 lines — more like a snippet — in order to display larger font, include artwork, or show video of the band.

While this generally looks better and in a few cases is helpful, we should not accept it without question. One downside of fewer lyrical lines being displayed on a slide is that it makes it more difficult to memorize the lyrics. Rhymes are split between slides, and congregants have a more difficult time determining what is the verse, pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge. Also, it is impossible to “look ahead” to scan what lyrics are coming up.

This may seem insignificant until you consider the consequences it has upon our worship. In my own case, I have noticed that I close my eyes and raise my arms less because I need to be more concentrated on figuring out what words are coming next. As with all new media, we need to examine how such media affects the way that we worship.