What God is Saying:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Advent Devotion (Merry Christmas) - He is coming again!

Jesus said: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in Godbelieve also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6

Today, around the world, Christians celebrate Jesus’ first coming to earth as a time of hope and joy and peace. Our world today does not contain much hope, joy or peace. Hope is gone, joy is fleeting, and peace cannot be sustained. 

But Christmas did not end in a manger, it did not end on the cross, and it did not end at the door of the empty tomb. Christmas will be completed the day Jesus returns to this earth to fulfill all the rest of the prophecies of the Bible. 

God’s plan was never to just send the Messiah (Savior) as a baby. His plan was not even to just have the Savior die and rise again. His plan included all those things – but the final victory is to provide a complete eternal life for each one who responds to God’s love-gift, believing and accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. 

The day is coming when the just and righteous judgment of all sin will be completed, and then all effects and consequences of all believers’ sin will be finally and forever buried in the “blood of the Lamb of God.”

Jesus said He came to display Truth to us (John 18:37). He tells us that Truth sets us free (John 8:31-38). He says Truth purifies us (1 Peter 1:22). He gives us Truth as part of our armor against evil (Ephesians 6:14). He says Truth should be the way we live our lives here on this earth (2 Corinthians 4:2).

May we anticipate with hope and joy the return of our Lord Jesus Christ for He is coming again!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Advent Devotion (Day 28) - No Condemnation

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved.
John 3:17

What a beautiful statement! The God of the universe, speaking through one of Jesus' closest disciples,  John, wanted to make sure that all of humanity understood His heart.

John wrote this within 60 years of Jesus' return to Heaven. Some of his first readers might have even witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. With memories of such violence against God Himself, these readers, and those who would follow, may have wondered what God thought of the people He created after what they did to His Son.

In this statement, God reassures them that His purpose in sending Jesus remains...Salvation! Jesus revealed the heart of God the Father in sending God the Son...to bring salvation - rescue, hope, healing -to the world through Him.

Paul goes on to repeat this truth in Romans 8:1-2 when he says "Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death."

For those who believe in Jesus as their Savior...there is no condemnation...no eternal punishment for our sins. We don't have to fear death and what comes beyond because we have been saved from the penalty for our sins. We are free in Christ!

Paul reiterates this truth again in Romans 8:34 when he asks, "Who is there to condemn us? For Christ Jesus who died, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God --and He is interceding for us."

So not only are we not condemned for eternity, we have an intercessor who, even now, speaks up on our behalf...the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Advent Devotion (Day 27) - God's Gift of Salvation

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

When Jesus first came to this earth He was born into a certain family, a Jewish family, and into a certain line of inheritance...King David's line. But what He brought to the earth was not limited to just this family, this line, this race. Salvation was for everyone! Every family, every line, every race, every nation.

Throughout the centuries, the enemy has tried to convince people that Christianity is a "western" religion, or just for some countries or only for the poor, only for the foreigners. But Jesus made it clear that His message, His truth, His gift of salvation was for all people. He told His disciples right before He returned to Heaven to "go into ALL the world and preach the good news to everyone."

We give gifts at Christmas because it is supposed to remind us of that first and greatest of gifts given by God Himself to our world...salvation and reconciliation through Jesus. It cannot be earned. It can only be accepted. And it cannot be bought. It is free to all who believe.

And how is this gift received?

Admit you are a sinner
Believe that Jesus is God in the flesh and that He died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead, conquering death
Confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life

And what is the result of accepting this gift of salvation...eternal life in Heaven where there will be no more pain or sorrow, no more tears or regrets, no more guilt or shame. It is beyond our wildest imagination! "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him."  1 Corinthians 2:9

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Advent Devotion (Day 26) - Grace and Truth

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
– John 1:14

The Creator of the universe entered history as a man. God’s Word had created all that exists – God spoke, and everything came into being (Genesis 1) – and now that Word took on human flesh. He did not come as a full-grown man to command everyone to obey Him or to destroy all those who would not. He came as a little baby, helpless and weak, as every other human baby has been.

And He came to us! We tried countless times to make it to God but we never would be able to. Instead, He left everything to search us out...to come to mere human beings to show us, firsthand, His love.

Jesus left Heaven, where He had been an intimate part of God for all eternity. Think of your own words – you defend them, you treasure them when you write them down, they are important to you because they express to others who you are. In the same way, God’s Word was a treasured part of Himself – but He sent His Word to express and explain to people of earth who He is and how much He loves and cares for us. 

Our words can never become alive, but God’s Word is living and active and powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and His name is Jesus. He chose to be limited to time and space for a while, just as we are limited. And being limited to time and space meant He would also be able to die. From the moment He was born, the shadow of the cross would be part of His earthly life.

He is full of grace and truth. What an incredible and desirable balance in a leader and one that seems impossible to obtain. People tend to fall hard on the side of truth, often seeming judgmental and uncaring or they fall hard on the side of grace, often seeming not to stand for anything and falling for everything. 

Not so with Jesus. He always modeled what was right and true. He never condoned sin and would point it out each time, encouraging the sinner to "go and sin no more." Yet, He did it with such love and mercy that sinners wanted to be around Him. They felt loved and accepted in His presence. 

This same Jesus is alive in Heaven today and His Spirit dwells in all those who believe in Him. He has set a model for us to follow as His Church strives to be both grace and truth to a hurting world. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Advent Devotion (Day 25) - Agony and Joy

"The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about Him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  Luke 2:33-35

The child's father and mother marveled: We can imagine their combination of joy and surprise to see how God had touched the hearts of others with an understanding of their Son. No matter how well you know Jesus, there is something special about seeing someone else come to know Him.

The falling and rising of many in Israel: This would be shown in the way that Peter repented, but Judas despaired and committed suicide; in that one thief blasphemed Jesus, the other believed in Him and joined Him in Heaven that day. Jesus is like a magnet that is attractive to some, but others are repelled from Him.

A sign which will be spoken against: Sign is literally “a target that people shoot at.” Jesus would be the target of great evil. Even today we can see this, all over the world, as Christians are often the target of those who hate Christ.

A sword will pierce through your own soul too: It was important for Mary to know that mothering the Messiah would not be all sweetness and light. It was both a great privilege and a great burden.
Possibly no other human agonized as much over Jesus’ rejection and suffering as His mother did. This was not only because of the natural love of a mother, but also because His rejection was her rejection. Wonderfully, His vindication was hers as well.   David Guzik

As God works out his salvation of sinners, he leads us along unexpected paths that result in unexpected and sometimes agonizing pain. When it does, we can remember Mary. The darkest moment of her life, the sword that stabbed deepest into her soul, was the moment that God used most to bring salvation and joy to the world — and to her!

That’s how he works with us too. When the sword pierces, all it feels like is terrible pain. But later we discover that our deepest wounding often becomes the channel through which the most profound grace flows.  Jon Bloom

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Advent Devotion (Day 24) - Waiting Expectantly

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as You have promised,
You may now dismiss Your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
which You have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”  Luke 2:25-32

Simeon...a man named in this story of Christmas, had been paying attention to God’s promises. Like the wise men, he knew the Scriptures and he was waiting for the "consolation of Israel." Simeon may have known that there were rumors regarding the coming of the Messiah. The news of John the Baptist’s birth and its meaning was widely publicized (Luke 1:65), and the shepherds who heard the angelic announcement may have kept temple flocks. They may have reported what happened among the people of the temple.

Yet it was not rumors, but the Holy Spirit who led him into the temple on that day. Simeon was a man who knew how to be led by the Holy Spirit, both in hearing God’s promise to him and being prompted to go to the temple at the right time. (David Guzik)

Simeon was already an old man, but as we read in our verse above, he had received a promise from God that he would not die until he had seen the promised Messiah. Can you imagine receiving such a promise from God?

Another person was there as well...Anna, the prophetess. "There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem." Luke 2:36-38

To be able to recognize Him, Simeon and Anna must have been looking for Him, expecting Him to come. Jesus has made another promise to those of us living today – the promise that He will return and take us to Himself (John 14:1-6). May we, like Simeon and Anna, expect Jesus' return and wait for Him with joy and peace in our hearts.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Advent Devotion (Day 23) - King, Priest and Savior

Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

After the wise men had bowed down before Jesus and worshipped Him, they gave to God the best that they had. They may have wondered what good are gold, frankincense and myrrh to a baby, but they gave it anyway. They gave God what they had and trusted that God would use it for good. And He did.

Scholars believe it was those gifts that enabled the young family to flee to Egypt, shortly after the wise men's visit, to escape the murderous wrath of Herod. Jesus and his parents lived there for a period of time before returning to Nazareth, thus fulfilling yet another prophecy which said, "out of Egypt I have called My Son", Hosea 11:1.

Those gifts take on further meaning as they were given to honor the roles that Jesus would fulfill during His time on earth and in Heaven:

Gold for the King of Kings
Frankincense (which was used as part of the mixture of incense burnt before God at the Temple) for the High Priest that He is as He intercedes before the throne of God on our behalf
Myrrh (which was used as an embalming oil) to remind us of the powerful price He would pay for our sins on the cross as our Savior

May we be like those wise men. May we seek Jesus with all our hearts, look for God in the situations that do not meet our expectations and give Him all that we are, all that we have. That is how we will see God.