The story of Easter is a true love story. The Bible boldly declares, For God so loved the world . . . (John 3:16). The story of redemption is a story of love lived out in real time through the lives of real people.
One of our stated goals in Vision 2020 . . . is the development of Biblical Literacy throughout our congregation. We will focus on the grand story of redemption during the Easter Season. We will encourage and facilitate encounters with the Scripture that will assist our people in a deeper understanding of The Big Story of the Bible.
The Easter Story actually begins in the very beginning. God exists in eternity in absolute fullness and with inexpressible glory. He simply is. He is self-existent and exists independently of His creation. However, he chose to create the universe. It was a purposeful choice and creation is an expression of His will.
In fact, the Biblical account points to the intimacy of God’s creative activity by describing it all as a response to His Word. He spoke everything into existence. In other words, all of creation exists by the very breath of God.
So, our Easter Journey begins with our Creator God speaking everything into existence. God will place His image within human beings who receive His breath of life. These humans have a unique role to play in God’s original design. They are invited to bear His image, reflect His glory, and co-rule with Him. What could possibly go wrong?
Genesis 3 recounts the ugly reality of human rebellion and the consequences that ensued. God’s response to humanity’s sinfulness was judgment laced with righteous love. Separation, shame, and death were all introduced in this tragic episode in human history. Yet, God continued to pour out His love in humanity and offered hope in the face of judgement.
God continued to speak. He would call Abram to leave his home and travel to a far country that would ultimately be known as the Promised Land. His voice would be heard by Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah—and a host of others through the years.
Finally, God would speak most clearly on an angelic night in Bethlehem many years later when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Once again, this imagery speaks to the intimacy of God’s relationship with His people. His Son was the ultimate answer to the human dilemma. Jesus Christ lived, died, was resurrected from the dead and then ascended to the Father.
God was not done. Anything but.
He breathed on His people once again when He sent His Spirit to empower them to live out His purposes on earth. He has invited His people to join Him in His grand endeavor to redeem His creation and restore His glory. The Church has the highest calling and the noblest task. Through Christ, we can be united with our Creator in His grand plan.
He will ultimately accomplish His will. Creation will ultimately succumb to the voice of its Master. The day will come when His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
How would you describe it all?
It’s a love story. It is The Love Story!
The 40 Days of Easter will be given to the story of God’s redemptive love for His creation. Each Sunday, we will explore one aspect of this grand plan of God that has been lived out on a human stage with human characters in real time.
I will assign Daily Bible Readings to supplement and complement the messages preached the Sunday prior. There will be a sense of momentum and crescendo as we progress through the story. We will be providing a 40-Day Devotional Guide for our people to encourage them in this journey.
Holy Week in Downtown
Enrichment – The Easter Journey is mostly a journey of Enrichment. This stands to reason since it is the core story of redemption for the people of God. The sermons, Daily Bible Readings, and Devotional Guide will all be aimed at believers primarily. Holy Week in Downtown will be mostly an exercise in the Enrichment side of ministry.
We will host a Mid-Day Service each day during Holy Week. We will invite our church members and the Downtown Community to eat lunch (brown bag) each day in the Fellowship Hall. We will have a Worship Service in the Sanctuary following the lunch. On Maundy Thursday as we welcome our church family and Mt. Olive Baptist Church to join together for lunch and worship.
Good Friday – In addition to our luncheon on Good Friday, we will have an evening worship service on Good Friday.
Engagement – This year, we will be investing in an Engagement piece as well. We are going to give specific attention to students at UT-Arlington in our ministry of Engagement. We will be involving the entire church in this endeavor. We will host a special Easter Egg Hunt on the campus of UTA on Wednesday of Holy Week. We will be inviting UTA students in particular to our church on Wednesday evening for a time of fun, fellowship, and food. There will be prizes to be claimed, food to be shared, games to be played—just a fun night for students. We will also be sharing the message of Christ with them.
We will begin on Ash Wednesday and conclude on Easter Sunday. Each week will have a different focus as we progress through the story. There will be 40 days of readings and devotionals. Holy Week will include mid-day worship services each day with a special service on the evening of Good Friday. Let’s pray that God will use this season to deepen the spiritual life of our congregation and contribute to the spiritual transformation of our church.
Ash Wednesday (February 26) – Easter Sunday (April 12)
A Love Story
Everything Starts with God!
February 26 – February 29, 2020
Theologians have always struggled with the limitations of language with respect to God. They refer to “Theology Proper” --- which is the theological discussion of the Doctrine of God. Language is limited. Theologians learned to reach beyond the actual Scripture itself to find words that could somehow communicate and reflect the deep truths about God. Both Latin and Greek were employed in Ancient Christianity in the attempt to provide true reflection on the very Person of God.
You are probably familiar with the theological terms: Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence. These are all English terms that originated in theological Latin. These terms were used to describe the all-encompassing attributes of God.
Another Latin term used in the attempt to describe God is immensitas – this word literally means “without measure” (or, sine mensura). Theologians have used this word to communicate a unique quality about God. He exists independently of creation. He is not confined by His relationship to space. He cannot be defined by space or measure.
In other words, God is.
This is where our story begins. It begins with God. He is eternal and eternally existent. He is immeasurably present. He existed before anything else existed. Nothing was initiated unless He chose to do so. He is incomparable. He is unlike anyone or anything else.
Our God is the only true God. His presence is the only explanation for existence. His Divine Essence is simply beyond comprehension and absolutely immeasurable.
He is God! Hallelujah!
February 26, 2020: Everything Starts with God!
The Easter Story starts at the very beginning. The Bible opens with God. He is eternal. He is. He always has been. He will always be. In fact, He told Moses His Name ---- I AM WHO I AM. He is eternally self-existent and exists independently of all creation. He is the Eternal Initiator of all that is.
Daily Bible Readings
This week, our journey begins. It is an ancient path. For centuries, followers of Jesus have spent 40 Days in reflection of the story of Easter. This year, our path will be one that winds its way across the pages of history into eternity. The full scope of God’s grand story will be on display for us as we walk together through A Love Story.
Ash Wednesday: John 1:1-18
February 27: Psalm 48
February 28: Isaiah 40
February 29: Isaiah 46
A Purposeful Creator
March 1 - 7, 2020
In the eternal past, God decided to create all that is. He chose to speak creation into existence. It is His creation. The universe bears His signature. All of creation is an expression of His Divine Will. It is filled with purpose because of His design.
Scientists give time and attention to the questions, What? and How?Theologians are answering a different question --- Why? Why does everything exist? Why is reality . . . real? Our answer? God.
God has chosen to bring the universe into existence. Consequently, the universe is teeming with purposefulness. God put everything in place for a reason. Certainly, this is true for humanity. God gave special attention to the human race. He has created humans in His image. He has crowned us with His glory. He has invited humans into a deep and meaningful relationship with Him.
Creation is etched upon His eternal canvas. Human beings are His masterpiece!
March 1, 2020: A Purposeful Creator
Today’s sermon will celebrate the incredible handiwork of God on display in His creation. We will highlight His crowning achievement-----namely, the creation of human beings. We are created in His image with the unique ability to reflect His glory. This is an expression of His love for us! Remember, this is a Love Story! God designed us with the ability to live in a love relationship with Him and to engage in a purposeful life for Him.
Sermon Text: Genesis 1:26-2:3
Daily Bible Readings
In the beginning, God ----- created! Our God is a creating God. He brought everything into existence. This week we will celebrate the majestic handiwork of God on display in creation, in history, and in us!
March 2: Psalm 19
March 3: Job 38
March 4: Isaiah 43:1-13
March 5: Psalm 33
March 6: Psalm 8
March 7: Isaiah 45
The Force of Evil
March 8 - 14, 2020
God invited humanity to participate with Him in an unprecedented and incomparable manner in Genesis 1-2. Human beings were invited to bear God’s image in His world. We were blessed with an opportunity to be fruitful, multiply, and exercise dominion over creation.
Humanity was invited to have a personal, love relationship with the Creator. He only spoke directly to humans in the creation narrative. This indicates the intimacy God desires in our relationship with Him. It also indicates the potential for this relationship. God’s love is on display as He singles out human beings from the rest of creation to play such a significant role.
God decided in His sovereignty to test the loyalty and allegiance of humans. He placed a tree in the Garden of Eden that bore forbidden fruit. He gave specific instructions to Adam that he must not eat this fruit. God allowed the serpent to be the testing agent in the story and he came forth to tempt Adam and Eve.
Unfortunately, this original couple chose to disobey God and go their own way. They chose to put their desires above the wisdom and instructions of God. In fact, they chose to de-throne God and place themselves on the throne of their own lives.
Through this act of disobedience, evil was unleashed on the world. Separation, shame, blame, and death were all introduced to God’s creation through humanity’s disobedience. Evil has proven to be quite a force as the pages of human history have been written since that fateful day. All of humanity has been affected. In fact, creation itself has been damaged and the image of God has been marred in every human.
March 8, 2020: The Force of Evil
Paradise Lost– John Milton chose that title for his take on Genesis 3. What a sad title. What a sad page in our Bibles. Indeed, paradise was lost. Human beings fell from the lofty place given to them by God. God’s image was marred. Every human has been affected by this failure. The force of evil has been felt ever since.
Sermon Text: Genesis 3:1-24
Daily Bible Readings
Our Bible readings this week will focus on the effects of sin on humanity. The story is recounted in Genesis and the effects are felt throughout the rest of Scripture and human history. God’s judgment fell and things would never be the same.
March 9: Genesis 3:1-24
March 10: Psalm 14
March 11: Genesis 11:1-9
March 12: Psalm 51
March 13: Romans 1:18-32
March 14: Romans 5:12-21
A Plan Forged in Love
March 15 - 21, 2020
So, how did God respond to humanity’s rebellion? Certainly, God judged the sinfulness of Adam and Eve. He cast them from the Garden of Eden (hence Milton’s Paradise Lost). However, God was not content to let humanity be.
God responded in love. On the one hand, His judgment affected all of creation. On the other hand, He initiated a grand plan of redemption. His redemptive activity would affect all of creation as well. As the pages of the Bible unfold, God reveals Himself to be a God of rescue, redemption, and restoration.
God’s grand plan of redemption will involve the initiation of covenants between God and His people. He reveals Himself to be a covenant-making God. These covenants provide context and definition for His love relationship with His people.
Once again, God will speak. He will call Abram to leave his home and forge a life of faith with his Creator. God will speak to Moses and call him to serve as the voice of redemption for the captive Israelites in Egypt. God’s redemptive love will be on display as He delivers Israel from bondage and guides them into the Promised Land. His Word will provide the Law to guide Israel in living a life in His presence.
God’s voice will be heard through the prophets as God chides His people to live like they belong to Him. And, God will speak to Jeremiah and promise a new day with a new covenant to guide a new people.
It is all God’s plan. And----it is a plan forged in love!
March 15, 2020: A Plan Forged in Love
God’s Word is powerful. Genesis 12 opens with God speaking to Abram. His Word to Abram included: a command, an invitation, and a message of promise. It was a hope-filled message from God. His answer to humanity’s rebellion was to unveil a grand plan of redemption forged in love.
Sermon Text: Genesis 12:1-9
Daily Bible Readings
God’s plan of redemption is woven throughout both the Old and New Testaments. He is a God of love. He is a God of hope. He pointed His people to a new day. Humanity needs Him. He will not abandon humanity at the point of its greatest need. He responded with grace and love.
March 16: Exodus 19:1-8; 1 Peter 2:9-10
March 17: Exodus 23:20-24:18
March 18: Psalm 78:1-39
March 19: Psalm 78:40-72
March 20: Jeremiah 31:31-34
March 21: Isaiah 8:19-9:7
March 22 – 28, 2020
God’s plan of redemption was written on the pages of the Old Testament. It was lived out in real time in the lives of His people, Israel. God’s call to Abram included a promise from God to bless all the peoples on earth through him! Wow! What a promise!
Abram obeyed God and became known as Abraham (father of many) and lived into the promises of God. God blessed him and his offspring. Abraham’s descendants became the people of God. God chose them to shepherd His promise to bless the whole world through them.
Over time, this promise became more definitive and pointed. God planned to send a special person, the Promised One, to initiate a new era. This Messiah would fulfill the promises of God and would establish a New Covenant and usher in the New Age.
God’s people began to look for the Messiah. His birth would be special. His life would be full. He would rescue God’s people from bondage and instituted God’s Kingdom on earth.
Unfortunately, many of God’s people were too limited in their thinking. They viewed the Messiah through military and political lenses. God’s plan of redemption was too large in scope and too universal in its application to be limited by such thinking. The Messiah was to be for all people! God’s Kingdom on earth was not to be measured by political gain. The Messiah was to come with an eternal perspective. He was going to set everything right! He was going to forgive sin, restore God’s image, reflect God’s glory, and redeem all of God’s creation!
The arrival of Jesus Christ marks the fulfillment of prophecy and the launching of a new era in the great cosmic drama. The Messiah had come. God’s plan was fully on display. God loved humanity so much that He sent His own Son to this planet to redeem humanity Personally!
Jesus lived a perfect life on earth. He fully bore the Image of God that had been marred in the Garden of Eden. He demonstrated how to reflect the glory of God in a human life. He established the Kingdom of God on earth. He both showed us and taught us how to live as Kingdom citizens on planet earth. He forged a path of love for all of humanity. He made it possible for us to live as God intended in the first place. He is the Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of God!
March 22, 2020: Jesus Christ!
John’s Gospel opens with a transcendent passage that expresses the miracle of the Incarnation in incomparable fashion. John uses word imagery that spoke both to Greeks and Hebrews alike with His use of the Divine Logos (Word). He places the Word of God in eternity with the phrase “in the beginning.” He also boldly proclaims a trinitarian truth that the “Word was God.” He also sets the Incarnation in its proper theological context in verse 14 with the phrase, “the Word became flesh.” Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God in the flesh!
Sermon Text: John 1:1-18
Daily Bible Readings
This week, we will celebrate the miracle of the Incarnation. We are unworthy to ascend to heaven, so God brought heaven down to us! Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer, the Promised One, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, the Word of God, and the God-Man.
March 23: Matthew 1:18-2:12
March 24: Luke 2:22-40
March 25: John 1:1-18
March 26: John 8:48-59
March 27: Colossians 1:15-23
March 28: Hebrews 1
He is Risen!
March 29 – April 4, 28, 2020
The story of Jesus Christ is a true love story. The story is a part of the larger Grand Story of Redemption. God responded to the sinfulness of humanity with both judgment and hope. His promise of redemption was to be shepherded by Israel. A significant portion of the promise was directly linked to the anticipated arrival of the Messiah.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. His birth was characterized by Messianic fulfillment. He indeed was the Promised One, the Messiah. He lived a sinless life as a human being. Jesus was tempted in all points as are we. He survived the attacks of Satan and thwarted his temptations on every level.
Jesus also provided instruction and inspiration for all of His followers. His teachings were unparalleled in human history. No one had ever taught with such authority. No one had ever offered such insight into the Heavenly Father as did Jesus. He fulfilled both the Law and the Prophets (remember the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah). He established the Kingdom of God on earth. He taught His followers about life in the Kingdom.
Jesus also is the Lamb of God. He freely offered His life on the cross to atone for the sins of the world. God’s judgment for sin fell squarely upon His shoulders. His sacrifice was accepted by God as the sins of humanity were placed in Him. He personally knew no sin, yet He became sin on our behalf.
The entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament pointed to a greater fulfillment. Jesus fulfilled the demands of God and became the once-and-for-all sacrifice for all time. His death is the atoning death required for sins to be forgiven. Praise His Name!
Jesus also died. He experienced the full ramifications of sinfulness. God had warned Adam that death would enter the world if he rebelled. Indeed. Death not only entered the world, but it claimed the life of our Savior.
However, . . . death did not win! Jesus was placed in a borrowed tomb in Jerusalem. Joseph of Arimathea was gracious enough to claim the body of our Lord. He received a proper Jewish burial. The Disciples were deeply grieved and began to appropriately mourn.
However, . . . death did not win! Early on Sunday morning after Jesus’ death on Friday, a group of Jesus followers arrived at the tomb only to discover the stone had been removed! The body of Jesus was not to be found. In fact, the angel declared, “Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is not here; he has risen!”
Later, Jesus appeared to His Disciples and to many others. Indeed, He was alive! And, He was not simply raised from the dead, He was resurrected from the dead to never die again! Over the course of 40 days, Jesus appeared to many. He continued to teach about the Kingdom of God.
Finally, Jesus ascended to the Father. His atoning work was done. He rose from the dead and ascended to the Father in victory. The good news of the Gospel is true. Salvation has been secured. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Hallelujah!
March 29, 2020: He is Risen!
The Bible is clear---the wages of sin is death. There can be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Innocent sacrifice was required for atonement to be accomplished. Jesus took on the sins of the world and died. And yet, death could not hold Him in the grave. The victory of the Gospel has defeated both sin and death! We are Easter People. He is risen!
Sermon Text: John 20:24-31
Daily Bible Readings
This week, we will focus on the redeeming work of Christ. His sacrifice for our sins has made it possible for us to be forgiven and experience eternal life. God’s love is on display as His Son takes center stage in the Grand Plan of Redemption.
March 30: John 18:28-40
March 31: John 19:1-27
April 1: John 19:28-42
April 2: John 20
April 3: 1 Corinthians 15:1-34
April 4: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58
The People of God
April 5 – 11, 2020
Now that Jesus has lived the perfect life, offered the perfect sacrifice, died, been resurrected, and had been ascended—what happens next? The followers of Jesus were gazing into the sky at the Ascension and the angel proclaimed, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The implication was---there is work to be done! Get about it!
In the Old Testament, God chose to call a people to Himself. He entered into a covenant relationship with them. They were his treasured possession, a holy nation, and a kingdom of priests. They were to serve His purposes and represent Him to the rest of humanity. He also revealed to them that a day was coming when a new covenant would be struck and a new people would emerge.
Jesus became the Mediator of that new covenant. It was a covenant sealed with His own innocent blood. His ministry marked the beginning of a new day. Now, a New-Covenantal People of God was to become a reality. In fulfillment of prophecy, this covenant would be written on the hearts of His people.
Who is this? It is the Church!
The Church was established by Jesus Himself (Matthew 16:13-20). We are now His people! We are now instruments in His hand to be used in the Grand Plan of Redemption.
We are living in the New Era. The Church is the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Family of God, and the New Temple. Jesus is the Cornerstone, the Foundation, the Lord, and the Head of the Church. We draw our life from Him. He has rescued us, redeemed us, and restored His. His plan is in force and we are servants of His.
What a privilege!
PALM SUNDAY, 2020: The People of God
God’s plan has always included people. He loves people. He has placed His image in each of us. He loves to work through people. He includes us in His will. We are His servants. The Grand Plan of Redemption is still in force and the Church is now being used by God during this chapter in history.
Sermon Text: 1 Peter 2:9-10
Daily Bible Readings
Holy Week has arrived. We have already read the traditional passages of Scripture for Holy Week last week. This week, we are focused on the meaning of Holy Week for us today. We are the People of God. We understand the meaning of the events of this week. May we reflect what we know to be true in how we live as God’s people!
April 6: Ephesians 1:1-14
April 7: Ephesians 1:15-23
April 8: Ephesians 2
Maundy Thursday: Ephesians 3
Good Friday: Ephesians 4:1-16
Holy Saturday: Ephesians 4:17-5:2
The End is Near Here!
April 12 - 18
Easter Sunday has arrived. Our 40-Day Journey is complete!
We have covered the grand narrative of the Bible. It is truly A Love Story! God has poured out His love on humanity again and again. He has lavished His love on us. He has demonstrated His patience, care, compassion, grace, and mercy on human beings. We are truly blessed.
In Christ, He has launched a new era. We are now living in the Kingdom Age. As Simon Peter declared at Pentecost, we are living in the last days. The Eschaton has already begun. The Kingdom of God is on earth. God’s mission is in full swing and the Gospel has advanced across the world. Praise be to God!
EASTER SUNDAY, 2020: The End is NearHere!
God’s Kingdom was announced by Jesus. He ushered in the era of the New Covenant. The End has already begun. The new covenant is sealed with His blood. The covenant is written on our hearts. The New Day has already arrived! The Eschaton has been inaugurated --- and we live in the tension of the “now and the not-yet.”
Sermon Text: Hebrews 2:5-9
Daily Bible Readings
Our 40 Day Journey is already complete. However, this week, we will continue to read and reflect on all we have learned since we began on Ash Wednesday.
April 13: Hebrews 3
April 14: Hebrews 4:1-13
April 15: Hebrews 4:14-5:10
April 16: Hebrews 8
April 17: Hebrews 9
April 18: Hebrews 10