In the Fullness of Time

Several years ago I was invited to speak at a community Thanksgiving service in Bucyrus, Ohio. My pastor friend John Cory asked me to preach at the service, scheduled for the Sunday before Thanksgiving. As a young pastor, I was excited for the opportunity and wanted to make the most of it. Unfortunately……I botched the date. Somehow I thought the event was scheduled for the Sunday after Thanksgiving instead of the Sunday before Thanksgiving…..oops!

I will never forget the night of the actual service. My wife and I were out that evening and when we came home I noticed there was a message on our answering machine. The message (from John) went something like this. “Uh Dan……where are you? The service is supposed to start in 5 minutes! If you can’t make it, please call me so we can figure something else out.” You can just imagine how I was feeling after hearing that message. I was horrified and I desperately wanted to go back and rectify the situation! By now, however, that was not possible as the service was already over. I had the time right, the location right, I knew what I was going to speak on, but here’s the kicker – I was a week late when it came to the date.

Now, in the whole scheme of things, this mistake was not a huge deal. I felt terrible about it at the time, but I was able to get a hold of John that night and I apologized profusely. He was very gracious and said that one of the other pastors in town came up with a message on the fly and everything turned out just fine. The only reason I share this story is to illustrate the fact that sometimes our timing is off. Even people, like me, who pride themselves on being prompt, reliable, and on-time have those moments where we are late and even no-show. In stark contrast to that, our Lord is always on time. In fact, His timing is perfect!

Recall what the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 4:4-5. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” What this verse tells us is that at the perfect moment in history, God sent Jesus into the world. After centuries of waiting for the promised Messiah, God’s set time had arrived. I remember hearing one teacher say concerning this verse (Gal. 4:4), “the moment was pregnant with anticipation.” God’s due date had arrived, the long wait was finally over and now Jesus, the One who would “save His people from their sins,” would be born of the virgin.

You probably remember that last year something extremely rare occurred – a solar eclipse. Around the time of the eclipse, I remember watching footage of a news clip from the last solar eclipse in North America. It dated all the way back to February, 1979 and it happened to mention that the next one would not be until August 21, 2017. I was struck by the precision of it all. God has made this universe to operate in an extremely ordered and regular fashion. The next solar eclipse visible from North America will be April 8, 2024. This goes to show how everything happens exactly according to the plan of God.

This Christmas season as we celebrate the first Advent of Christ, remember that we serve  a God who is never early, never late, but only ever right on time. Scripture also tells us there will be a second Advent when Jesus will return in glory (Acts 1:11). Yet again, this will happen in “the fullness of time,” and according to the sovereign plan of God. May we rejoice and celebrate the wonder of His coming this Christmas season.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Celebrating the New Birth


August is a big month for our family when it comes to birthdays. Our 3 oldest were born in August and it also happens to be Steph’s birthday. The kids are already telling us what they want even though we still have another 6 months before our big birthday month comes around again.

I got to thinking…..why are birthdays such a big deal? Most people and most cultures all over the world tend to recognize and celebrate the day of our birth – but why? I think it is because we recognize that life is special and that each year (even each day) is a gift – something we can be thankful for. As Christians we know that God is the giver of life and that remarkably, He numbers our days (Psalm 139:16).


If you are like most people in terms of recognizing and celebrating birthdays, that’s awesome! Keep it up. But I also want to remind you that if you are a Christian, that means you have another birthday that is infinitely more important. The Bible says that believers have been “born again to a living hope!” (1 Peter 1:3). Perhaps you don’t know the exact day of your salvation, but if you are truly in Christ, then you, my friend, have reason to celebrate! I live and minister in Pennsylvania and as most of you are aware the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl last Sunday night. People here in Pennsylvania got pretty excited about it. People in Philly got really excited about it! To be sure, it was a great game, but in the whole scheme of things, it’s not that important. 50 years from now few people will remember or care that the Eagles won the Super bowl. In contrast to that, the new birth is truly worth celebrating. Consider the following verses:


“my soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his salvation.” Psalm 35:9

“This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

“I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:18

“do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

“Just so, I (Jesus) tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents that over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7


Salvation, as you can see, is a big deal. One day these mortal bodies of ours will die and be no more. There will be no more birthday parties, no more birthday cakes, and no more opening birthday gifts. But if you have been “born again” (see John 3:3) that means you have been forgiven of your sins, justified before God, granted eternal life, and been given the indwelling Holy Spirit. More than that, you have fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ – you are a friend of God! If you want a reason to celebrate…..then celebrate the new life you have in Christ. Praise God for sending us a Savior and praise God for the miracle of salvation!


“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7


10 Facts About Jesus From John 1:1-18

As we move into the Christmas season, it is critically important to remember what Christmas is all about. Many people would acknowledge that this season is about celebrating the birth of Christ, but how many of those same people truly know the Christ of Christmas? The prologue to John’s gospel is an excellent place to start when it comes to understanding who Jesus is and what He came to do. What follows is an outline of a message I preached at a local community event this past Sunday.

  1. Jesus is eternal

“In the beginning was the Word…He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2)

  1. Jesus was (and is) the Creator

“All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3, cf: John 1:9, Col. 1:16)

  1. Jesus was (and is) God

“and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 cf: John 10:30 and Titus 2:13)

  1. Jesus is the life giver

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4 cf: John 14:6)

  1. John the Baptist bore witness concerning Jesus

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.” (John 1:6-7)

  1. Jesus was rejected by the Jews and by the world

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11)

  1. You can become a child of God by believing in Jesus’ name

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

  1. Jesus became a man

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 cf: John 1:9)

  1. Jesus came into the world to give and to bear witness to the truth

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17 cf: John 18:37)

10.  Jesus reveals the Father to us

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18 cf: John 10:30, 14:9, 17:26)

The Not So Hidden Treasure That Is Christ



A couple weeks ago, our family vacationed at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and of course, we had a great time. One morning, Steph and I up were up early doing devotions and enjoying a spectacular sunrise when we saw a funny sight. A guy with a metal detector was walking very slowly and was clearly searching for treasure on the beach. If you are a beach-goer, you will know that seeing that kind of thing on the beach is not out of the ordinary. It’s pretty common actually, but what struck me was that he was headed in the direction of the rising sun. Now, anytime you can see a sunrise, it is amazing (see Psalm 19:4b-6). We often take it for granted, but it is even more amazing when you see it rising over the ocean, like we did that morning. We had a most remarkable backdrop, but it was almost as if he missed it. He was searching for little gadgets and trinkets that might be worth something, but missed something truly priceless.


Now, if you are one of those people who like to use your metal detector to find hidden treasure, don’t hear me the wrong way. Don’t give up your hobby. Keep enjoying what you do and maybe you will strike it rich some day….lol. There is obviously nothing wrong with what that guy on the beach was doing. It is just a hobby that he (along with thousands of other people) does and enjoys. But for me this served as an illustration pertaining to our value system. We all have values. There are things that we value greatly while there are other things we don’t value at all. You have heard the saying, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” I’ve said to people before, “why would you spent that much money on that thing?” I’ve had other people say the same to me. In the study of economics, this is called “The Subjective Theory of Value.” That is a fancy title but it has to do with a rather simple concept – values are subjective and not objective. In other words, one person places more value on certain things than another person and vice versa.


As Christians, however, we recognize that there values that are beyond the category of subjective. As we study the Scriptures, we come to see that we must align our value system with God’s value system. We must love the things He loves and hate the things He hates. We must treasure what He treasures and forsake what He forsakes. The apostle Paul wrote, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10). What this tells us is that not everything is subjective. There is an objective value system that is beyond question. It’s not about – I like this and you like that. No, it is more like – God values this and therefore, that trumps our subjective opinions. Just like that, we have moved from a subjective value system to an objective value system and that transition happens through Holy Scripture. God’s word shows us what is truly valuable, excellent, praiseworthy, lovely, commendable, etc (see Philippians 4:8).


In the gospels, there are a couple of short parables that illustrate what I am saying. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46). In the ancient world, there weren’t banks like we have today. Often people would gather up their treasures and valuables, dig a hole, and leave them there for safekeeping. Eventually, they would go the way of the world and die, with no one knowing where the buried treasure lay. Fast forward a few decades or even centuries later, and perhaps someone would be working in the field, planting their crops when….you guessed it….they stumble upon the buried treasure. That is the basic idea with the first parable and the second is related.


Friend, if you knew the secret of hidden treasure what would you do to acquire it? What lengths would you go in order to lay claim to that treasure? I want you to know that the greatest treasure in all the world is the Lord Jesus Christ. To find Him is to find life itself (John 14:6). What is so amazing is that Jesus has not hid himself from us (Romans 10:6-13) but has revealed himself in a most remarkable way. He has made Himself available to all who would call upon His name.


Getting back to my opening illustration, the sun serves as a pointer to the Son – the Son of Righteousness. How sad to think that there are scores of people who are searching for treasure in this world when the greatest treasure is right there in front of them – the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).


We live in a world with a very skewed value system. We value and treasure the things of the world (what the Bible calls transient and passing away), while laying aside that which is of infinite value, namely Christ Himself. Like the sun rising over the ocean, Christ is in no way hiding himself from us. Through His spoken Word and through the created world, God has revealed Himself most clearly and unmistakably. The question is, do we have eyes to see and hearts that are willing to receive the One who is more beautiful, more glorious, more excellent than anyone or anything? Of course, that question remains to be answered.


“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).

The Suffering Son

I can’t imagine anything harder than watching your child suffer. A couple years ago our son John got a serious case of the hives and Steph and I were forced to watch John suffer in agony for several days. There was little we could do to relieve his itch and pain, except to pray for him and let it run its course. That was a hard time for us, but God brought us through and I am sure many parents can relate to our feeling of helplessness as we watched our son suffer.

Sickness, sorrow, and death all part of living in a Genesis 3 fallen world. Life is downright hard at times. But we can take comfort in knowing that as sin and death entered into the world, the living God did not sit back and let things simply play out. No, the Triune God launched a rescue plan. Remarkably, this plan involved the Son of God suffering in an unthinkable manner on the cross. Centuries before the time of Christ, the prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uttered these words found in Isaiah 53:

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.

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;

and as for his generation, who considered

that he was cut off out of the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people?

And they made his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.


Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;


This past Easter we were reminded of the costliness of the cross. We were reminded of the immense sufferings of Christ that were required in order to purchase redemption for all God’s people. Without question, it must have been horrific for God the Father to watch the Son suffer and die on the cross. As He heard the Son cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we can only imagine how hard that must have been. What is even more remarkable, however, is that all along, this was the Father’s plan. “It was the will of the Lord to crush Him.”


Earlier on, before his arrest and trial, Jesus knew what awaited Him. In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). If there had been any possible alternative to the cross, no doubt the Father would have taken it. He would have removed “the cup” so that His precious Son would not have had to suffer in such a manner. But there was no alternative. Jesus would have to walk the Calvary road in order to complete the atonement. As 1 Peter 2:24 explains it, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Friends, we have now moved beyond the season of Easter, but may we ever keep ourselves near the cross. May we never lose sight of the love of God and the costliness of salvation and may we “live to righteousness.”


Was Christ’s Death Just an Inspiring Example?

John Stott: “the death of Jesus is more than an inspiring example. If this was all there is to it, much of what we find in the Gospels would make no sense. There are those strange sayings, for instance, in which Jesus said he would ‘give his life as a ransom for many’ and shed his blood….. ‘for the forgiveness of sins’. There is no redemption in an example. A pattern cannot secure our pardon.

Besides, why was he weighed down with such heavy and anxious apprehension as the cross approached? How shall we explain the dreadful agony in the garden, his tears and cries and bloody sweat? ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Again, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’ Was the ‘cup’ that he hesitated to drink from the symbol of death by crucifixion? Was he then afraid of pain and death? If so, his example may have been one of submission and patience, but it was hardly one of courage. Plato tells us that Socrates drank his cup of hemlock in the prison cell in Athens ‘quite readily and cheerfully.’ Was Socrates braver than Jesus? Or is it that their cups contained different poisons? And what is the meaning of the darkness, and the cry of abandonment, and the tearing from top to bottom of the Temple curtain in front of the Holy of Holies? There is no way of understanding these things if Jesus died only as an example. Indeed some of them would seem to make his example less commendable.

Not only would much in the Gospels remain mysterious if Christ’s death were purely an example, but our human need would remain unsatisfied. We need more than an example; we need a Savior. An example can stir our imagination, kindle our idealism and strengthen our resolve, but it cannot remove the stains of our past sins, bring peace to our troubled conscience or restore our relationship with God.

In any case, the apostles leave us in no doubt about the matter. They repeatedly associate Christ’s coming and death with our sins:

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18).

You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins (1 John 3:5).

Here are the three great writers of the New Testament, the apostles Paul, Peter and John unanimous in linking his death with our sins.”

Quoted from pages 109-110 of John Stott’s classic Basic Christianity, (2008).

Finding the Gospel in the Story of David and Goliath

When we read a bible story such as David and Goliath, we want to think of ourselves as being like David, don’t we? We like to think of ourselves as underdogs in this big bad world who have the courage and ingenuity to defeat anyone that comes against us. In our family library, we have dozens of children’s bible books and they all seem to feature this story. After all, it is a classic and kids love it. Even our 3-year-old daughter Elizabeth was reading the story of David and Goliath to her “baby” just the other day. But most of these children’s books end up having the wrong application. Most of them end up saying – you can do anything you want if you just set your mind to it – you can beat the giants of this world. That’s the kind of message that the reader is left with and it’s the same message kids get in the public school system. The problem is, it’s a message void of the gospel.


Some time ago, it was refreshing to encounter something different as I was reading the Gospel Story Bible to our kids. The author, Marty Machowski, suggested that we are more like the Israelite soldiers than we are like David. If you remember near the beginning of the story, Goliath said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard these words, they were dismayed and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:10-11). Isn’t it true that when our enemies and the storms of life come our way, more often than not we are fearful, dismayed, and anything but courageous? It would be great if we could all say we were like David and met the enemies of life head on but that’s usually not true.


What we need to hear is that there is a Hero who has come to save and rescue us from our plight. The enemies of life (namely, sin) are far too big for us to face alone. The Bible tells us that, “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Left to ourselves, we would be like the Israelite soldiers without David – hopeless and afraid. Thankfully, however, we have not been left to ourselves.


The shepherd boy David was actually what is often called a “type” of Christ. He wasn’t “the Christ” but he was a type of the One to come. Without David’s courage and faith, eventually Saul and the Israelite army would have succumbed to Goliath and the Philistines. But in their weakness and in their time of need, God used David in an incredible way. What is interesting is that as 1 and 2 Samuel unfold, we come to see that David was weak and sinful too, and was in need of the grace of God every bit as much as we are. And no matter what the circumstance – whether it be the highest high (defeating Goliath, military victories, his coronation as King, etc.) – or the lowest low (on the run from Saul, committing adultery with Bathsheba, murdering a Uriah, taking the census, etc.) David was in desperate need for the rescuing grace of God and for the most part, he knew this (see Psalm 51).


Friends, it’s not about us being like David. It’s not about us taking on a savior mentality and thinking we can defeat the enemy of sin and the other giants in our lives. We can’t! Therefore, we must look to the One who can. We must look to Christ. True faith forces us to look away from self, and unto God. Two thousand years ago Jesus died on the cross and He paid the price for our sins. He bore the wrath of God (1 Peter 2:24) and the Scripture tells us that by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). Apart from Christ, we would just be like those Israelite soldiers – fearful, afraid, hopeless, purposeless, and weak. Maybe for some of you, that’s where you are at today and you need to humble yourself before God. But the gospel tells us that if you have Christ in your life, all of that changes. The weak become strong, the lost are found, the blind can see, the orphans are adopted, the timid become courageous, and those who are weeping shout for joy! That’s what God does for the humble at heart – for those who admit their need for Christ. You see, it’s only when we have Christ in our lives that we can be like David, courageously facing the giants of life.


“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).