December 31 - Revelation, Names of Jesus, pt. 1

Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31 – Revelation. Names of Jesus

We learn quite a bit about Jesus in the first chapter of Revelation. The first thing we will look at are the names that are used to describe Him. Remember I told you about how the Revelation is filled with references. We’ll see a lot of that today.

In Revelation 1:5, Jesus is called the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of earth. Following this He is designated by His work. “He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.” (Revelation 1:5b-6)

Let’s see where these ideas first came about. You see, these were very familiar to the first century Christians. When they heard the words being read aloud in their churches, they recognized the references.

The faithful witness.

John 8:13-14, “The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.”

John 18:37, Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listes to me.”

Firstborn from the dead.

Psalm 89:27, I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.

Colossians 1:18, And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Ruler of the Kings of Earth.

What did Satan promise Jesus if he would bow down and worship him? In Matthew 4:8, we read, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’”

In Revelation, we find this passage fulfilled. Satan can entice us with his version of our desires. God’s fulfillment is beyond any imagination.

The next portion of this verse is what Jesus did. His work encompasses the entirety of our life.

Jesus loves us (present)
Jesus freed us from our sin by his blood (past)
Jesus made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father (future)

Jesus accomplished everything for us – from our past through the present and into our future.

December 30 - Revelation. God.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December 30 – Revelation. God.

In Revelation 1:8, God is identified in three separate phrases. First, He says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Next, He is the One “who is, and who was, and who is to come.” Finally, He is “the Almighty.”

Let’s start with the Alpha and the Omega. In the Greek language, these are the first and last letters of the alphabet. For me, the is immense. Between these two – the beginning and the end - lie all of the necessary letters to create words. The Word of God (Jesus Christ) is what God spoke when He brought creation into existence.

John 1:1 says that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” God is the first and last letter of all things that are words. The Word that spoke us into existence. The Alpha and Omega is more than just the beginning and end of time. The spoken Word, encompassed by the Alpha and the Omega is creation itself.

When God says that He is the One “who is, who was and who is to come,” this is a repetition from Revelation 1:4. Do you remember the basic parts of your English language lessons? I’ll never forget “is, are, was, were, am, be, been.” In French, the first thing I learned was the verb ‘to be.’

In Exodus 3:14, God identifies Himself as “I Am.” Jews still can not name Him. He is too great. Jehovah or Yahweh. We’ve added vowels to a word that is made only of consonants (YHWH). God is greater than any word can contain.

Sometimes I think we’ve gotten too comfortable with God. The Israelites couldn’t contain Him. He traveled with them as a pillar of fire or cloud. When He came to them, they had to take precautions before approaching Him or they would be destroyed.

Jesus acts as a bridge to give us immediate access to God, but we reduce Him to the beginnings of curse words or see Him as a doddering old man who can no longer wield His staff of authority over the world. Are we in awe as we come into His presence?

God told Moses that none could see Him and live. We still can’t see Him, but when Jesus died and the curtain to the Holy of Holies was split, we were finally allowed to present ourselve before Him. We come before Him with awe.

God’s identification as “The Almighty” is an Old Testament title. We see Abram face down before El-Shaddai in Genesis 17:1-8. El = God, Shaddai = Almighty. The root word ‘shad’ translates as ‘breast.’ A mother’s breast is all-sufficient for her child’s nourishment. God is all-sufficient for His people. God Almighty is all-sufficient for His creation.

God is the Alpha and Omega, who, through the Word, spoke Creation into existence.

God is the one who is, who was and who is to come. He is timeless, before creation, He is present now and will be here long after we cease to exist on earth.

God is the Almighty. He is our all-sufficient provider.

December 29 - Revelation. John.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 29 – Revelation: John

Revelation 1:1-2

John identifies himself in the first two verses as the one who received this revelation, but over the centuries, scholars have called the identity of John into question. Is it the man that we met in Mark 3:17 – one of the Sons of Thunder? Is this the one who calls himself the disciple that Jesus loved (John 13:23) and is it the same man that wrote the most beautiful words of love to his congregation in his letters? (1 John, 2 John, 3 John)

I believe so.

Two of the earliest church historians, Justin Martyr and Iraneus believed that John the Disciple wrote this book. Justin Martyr lived in Ephesus during the first part of the 2nd century. Ephesus is where John lived out the last part of his life. He was a bishop of the church there and just a few years after his death, Justin Martyr would have been a boy in that same church. Iraneus had known Polycarp and history tells us that Polycarp worked with John in his later years.

These two strong sources give credence to the fact that John was the same man that received the Revelation of Jesus Christ. However, some scholars believe that the writing style between the Revelation and John’s Gospel are quite different. While that may be true, it is also true that the Revelation is a very different literary style from the Gospel and John’s three letters are yet another style.

One of the greatest similarities between John’s Gospel and the Revelation, though, is in the name that is used to describe Jesus – Lamb of God.

In John 1:29, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and says, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”

No other Gospel uses this description of Jesus. Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 5:7 2 when he refers to Christ as the Passover Lamb. The lamb’s blood, painted on the doorsills of the Israelites homes protected them from the death of their first-born during the final plague that hit Egypt, just before the Exodus. Jesus was the sacrifice that continually protects us all and saves us from eternal death.

In the Revelation, we find several references to the Lamb of God. Revelation 5:6, 5:12, 7:14, 14:4, 15:3, 17:14, 19:9, 21:23, 21:27. It is important that as we approach the end of the world, we recognize that a great sacrifice was made on our behalf. Because of that great sacrifice, Jesus is worthy to open the seals on the scroll because He was slain … and with his blood, he purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. He made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9-10)

Whether or not you believe that John the Disciple is the same John who received the Revelation does not change the impact of this book. I will, however, move forward in this study confident of my belief that it is the same man.

December 28 - Revelation

Monday, December 28, 2009

I'm going to start a few days early on the January blog study because we're going to begin looking at the final book of the Bible, the Revelation to John.

I have spent innumerable hours poring over commentaries and studies about the Revelation which led to a rather large Bible study that I created in 2006-2007. I plan to take this month to go over that study, re-write much of it, edit like crazy and then finish the thing at some point.

While I'm doing that, it seems like a good idea to share what is happening with you. The greatest thing I learned while studying and researching this book was that all of the symbolism and imagery used was very familiar to the early Christians. If we knew our Bible as intimately as they did, it would be just as familiar to us. The Revelation draws on passages from Genesis to Jude. Jesus speaks to us from both the Old and New Testament. He stands among the churches as a lampstand - shedding light on God's Word.

The Revelation is not "The Revelation of John." It is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw - that is the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Revelation 1:1-2)

God gave Jesus this revelation, which was sent by an angel to John. This book reveals Jesus Christ to us from the first chapter, where we will find an intimate portrait of Christ to the last chapter, where we hear Jesus say, “Behold, I am coming soon.”

The entirety of scripture points to Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God – He was there as the Word when God spoke creation into existence. He was there as the word spoken in silence to Elijah. He was there as the words were written on the wall for King Hezekiah. Everything in the Bible points to the moment when Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We will find that moment in the Revelation.

Tomorrow, though, we start by looking at the man who received this revelation and wrote it down exactly as he experienced it.

December 27 - Epiphany

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 27 - Epiphany

Matthew 2:1-12

I'm going to veer off course just a little bit today because on January 6th when we experience the Feast of Epiphany, I hope to be well into the Revelation and won't want to interrupt myself.

The word 'epiphany' means a manifestation or appearance and this feast celebrates Jesus' appearance to the Gentiles. It constantly amazes me that God took such great care to not only bring His Son to the Israelites, God's chosen people, but to the entire world. The Israelites were set apart to be a light to the world, to bring the world into relationship with God. I think that's something that we forget as we look at religious history. They weren't simply chosen to be the only ones to have favor in God's sight, but to act as intermediaries so that the entire world would be blessed.

Genesis 12:2-3 is the promise that God made to Abram when he was called out of the land of Ur. It ends by saying "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

So, I guess I shouldn't be so astounded at God's actions surrounding Jesus' birth. When the Magi came to find the king of the Jews, they came to worship Him. They brought extravagant gifts and traveled for many miles. They dealt with a jealous King Herod and left without returning to him. These men came as Gentiles to a small Jewish community from far away to see what it was that God had brought to earth. Matthew 2:10 says that they were overjoyed.

They had no reason to be there, the Jews didn't impact their lives and Jesus would never reign as king in their land. But, God had a plan that was in motion. Gentiles as well as Jews would fall on their knees to worship the king.

God opened the door for everyone on earth to receive eternal life. It was never limited to the Israelites, but their failure to embrace their mission stopped many peoples from knowing about God's desire for a relationship with His creation. How could God bring His entire creation home without drawing everyone from the ends of the earth to Himself?

With the arrival of Jesus on earth as an infant, the final part of the plan was set in motion. The Magi came, bringing gifts and acting as our representatives at the manger.

We can do nothing but express our gratitude as we praise God who ensured that from the very beginning, we would have a place in His home and would be welcome in to the throne room.

December 26 - Rejoice!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26 - Rejoice!

Zechariah 9:9-17

The beginning of this passage triggers the aria from Handel's Messiah and it's been barreling through my mind for a few evenings as I processed on this post. It was one of those challenging pieces for me to sing in college because I could never get my voice to do the runs. My voice is just not that flexible. Anyway ...

Have you ever thought about the prophets of the Old Testament and the things that were going on inside their minds as they heard from the Lord? I can hardly imagine. Sometimes they were receiving prophecies of doom and gloom and other times they heard the Lord speaking words of great joy to them. Thoughout all of it, though, they knew that the Lord was telling them to speak to the people of Israel (or Judah) in order to restore the relationship between God and his people.

How difficult it must have been, though, to prophecy the coming of a Messiah and then to know that He wasn't going to arrive during their lifetime. All they knew was that God had promised a Messiah and they had to bring those words of condemnation or hope.

Zechariah saw the king coming to Zion/Jerusalem. He saw a gentle king, riding in on a donkey instead of a grand war steed. This king would remove all hint of war. The chariots and war-horses would be gone, the battle bows (weapons) would be broken. He would bring peace to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:10)

We know that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey just prior to His crucifixion. He was fulfilling this prophecy. He proclaimed peace to the nations, but that part of the prophecy has yet to be fulfilled.

This brings us to the next section. One of the common images of Jesus' return is that He will arrive in the clouds ... in the heavens preceded by a loud trumpet blast. (Zechariah 9:14)

People will be drunken and unaware of His coming. Yet, He will come. He will gather His people and bring peace and prosperity to them with His arrival.

Rejoice! Though peace has yet to be attained, the Lord God Almighty will return bringing salvation to His people. Rejoice!

December 25 - King

Friday, December 25, 2009

December 25 - King

Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Isaiah's words brought comfort to the people of Israel. His words thrill my heart!

These words are part of a call made by Isaiah to the people of Israel. The last sentence of this passage is the response of the people when he offers them hope. They are waiting for this hope to be fulfilled and cry out with all of their heart, "May the zeal of the Lord accomplish this!"

As they looked to the future, all they saw was slavery and exile. But, far into the future there would be hope for their nation as the Lord God would send a Messiah, a Savior. He would come as a child, but would be given the throne to rule over the world. His reign would be marked by peace, justice and righteousness and it would last forever.

We know that Jesus came as an infant into the world. We know that He grew to be a man and we know that He was crucified and died, He rose from the dead and will come again to reign. These are words from the creeds of faith that have been spoken for centuries.

The celebration of Jesus' birth not only reminds us of the life that He lived while on earth, but reminds us to look forward to the day of His return.

The Israelites looked for a king that would unite their kingdom and lead them again as David did. That time has not yet come, but we look for it as we look to the future.

The angels announced that the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ had been born (Luke 2:11). Simeon saw Him in the temple courts as an infant and recognized the salvation of the people of Israel and a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Israel. (Luke 2:30-32).

We know Him as the Lamb of God who was slain and is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise. (Revelation 5:12)

He has come to earth as a child. He will return to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

December 24 - Perfect Peace

Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 24 - Perfect Peace

Isaiah 11:1-9

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)

Jesus, directly descended from King David, the son of Jesse was the Messiah that the Israelites had been waiting for. Isaiah saw Him as the future King of all of the nations.

In this passage, we see that the Spirit of the Lord rested upon him - the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge. (Isaiah 11:2-3)

Matthew 3:16 says, "At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"

Jesus fulfilled much of this prophecy in Isaiah when He came to earth over 2000 years ago. He brought judgment and justice, taught righteousness and faithfulness. (Isaiah 11:3b-5)

When the angels announced His birth to the shepherds in Luke 2:12-14, they brought tidings of peace. But, the reality of that peace was not to be found in the world, it was to be found inside each person as they came to know Jesus personally.

It won't be until He returns again that the world will know peace.

This is what we wait for as we prepare for His coming.

"The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the yong child put his hand into the viper's nest." (Isaiah 11:6-8)

Perfect peace. There will no longer be prey and predator, but everything that seems to work in opposition will become unified and cohesive.

When Jesus brings about the New Jerusalem, the New Earth ... Isaiah's prophecy will be fulfilled. "They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:9)

Perfect peace. A peace that only the Son of God can bring to us. As we celebrate His birth and look forward to His return, we know that it is only through Him that we can find this perfect peace.

December 23 - Warning

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 23 - Warning

1 John 2:18-29

Before John received the Revelation of Jesus, he was busy as the Bishop at Ephesus. He cared for the people with great love and tenderness. The amazing man, who was know with his brother, James as the Sons of Thunder had been transformed by God's grace into the man who spoke of great love.

Can you imagine being one of the twelve that had walked with Jesus throughout His ministry, had experienced His death and resurrection and watched as He was taken away into heaven? Many years had passed following those experiences and the disciples kept waiting for His return. Though He had made sure to be vague, He had said over and over that they were to keep watch.

Now John, Peter, Paul, James and others needed to encourage their disciples to remain steadfast - living lives that would be pleasing to Jesus.

Everyone knew that the antichrist would precede Christ's return - that it would be a sign of the final days. John writes that many antichrists have already been among them. (1 John 2:18) In fact, these antichrists had been close to the people he was writing to, but finally drifted away. They had never really been part of the community.

The assurance in this passage is awesome. "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth." (1 John 2:20-21)

The antichrist is the liar that denies the Father and the Son.

We already have the truth. John goes on to say, "See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us - even eternal life." (1 John 2:24-25)

The anointing we have received will remain in us. It will teach us, it is real as we remain in Him.

"And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming." (1 John 2:28)

Jesus is returning. John tells us that we should have confidence in the truth that we already know. The antichrist(s) will move among us, but we will always know what is truth if we remain in Christ. We have that assurance - the Jesus Christ promises us eternal life. When He returns, when He comes back we will enter into that eternal life with Him.

December 22 - Victory

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22 – Victory

1 Corinthians 15:1-58

This is one of those passages that, at first glance, doesn’t seem like it talks about Christ’s return, but Paul speaks to the Corinthians about resurrection – first Christ’s, then ours. There were several heretical teachings that were being espoused by false teachers during His time and these same teachings seem to crop up on a regular basis throughout history.

One of these is Christ did not rise from the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul makes it very clear that not only did this happen, but there were several people who were well-known throughout the region that saw the risen Christ, of whom he was the last.

He then launches into a teaching that confronts those who say that there is no resurrection of the dead. His logic is wonderful to read in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, not only is his preaching useless, but so is our faith. On top of that, we are false witnesses about God. And if God did not raise Christ from the dead, we have no hope and are to be pitied.

But, that’s not the end of the story.

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. Not only that, but he is the first fruits of those od after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For Christ must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. ( 1 Corinthians 15:20-26)

In 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, Paul addresses the question of what our bodies will look like when we enter heaven. He is very clear about the fact that these perishable bodies are not going to be following us. We will trade the perishable for the imperishable. What is weak will be raised in power. What is a natural body will be raised as a spiritual body. (1 Cor. 15:42-44)

At the last trumpet, we will be changed in the twinkly of an eye.

“The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:53-54)

We will see victory over death because Christ Jesus has destroyed it.

December 21 - Scoffers

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 21 - Scoffers

2 Peter 3:1-18

In the last days scoffers will come, saying “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

This seems to be a recurring theme in the writings of Paul and Peter. Life just seems to go on and on without the promised return of Christ.

I have to tell you that the letters of Peter are two of my favorite books in the New Testament. I love the way this man thinks. He wasn’t a scholar, he was a simple fisherman, but he got it. This was the man that Jesus chose to be the foundation for His church.

He goes on to say:

But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and with water. By water also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:5-7)

Peter knows his stuff. The scoffers brought up creation. Peter used that to teach a lesson. It was by God’s word that creation came into existence. It was by Him that water destroyed the world. It is by Him that the day of judgment will come. Never forget that the One who created the world will be the One who destroys it.

Also … don’t forget, he goes on to say, the Lord isn’t slow the way that we understand slow. The Lord chooses to take His time with this because He wants everyone to come to repentance. The Lord doesn’t pay attention to time. It doesn’t affect Him at all. He allows us the time we need to come to know Him so that everyone can be saved.

But, don’t believe for a minute that the day won’t come. It will come like a thief! The heavens will disappear, the elements destroyed and the earth laid bare. Everything will be gone.

Now … since everything is going to be destroyed, what kind of people should we be? Peter asks that question of us and then goes on to answer it.

Live holy and godly lives. Look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. His promise is a new earth, a new heaven, the home of righteousness. Live a life that is worthy of this promise!

Our Lord’s patience means salvation. And with those words, Peter acknowledges Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians. As you study these passages, know that these two men have faced off in public, but they honored each other in their teaching of the things of God.

Peter’s final words: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen!” (2 Peter 3:18)

December 20 - Response, part 2

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20 – Response, part 2

Be holy. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) Our holiness does not come from our own activity. We are failures. We sin, we make poor decisions, we live terrible lives no matter how hard we try to be good. We simply can’t do it on our own. We do not make ourselves holy. God does that. We have to give ourselves up to Him.

Be obedient. “…to keep this commandment without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 6:14) Our obedience to God, to whatever it is that He asks of us is commanded. It is not a suggestion. We are asked to do many things and as we wait for Christ to return, God calls us to unconditional obedience.

Be joyful. “while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13). Are you excited about His return or do you dread that day? So many authors and preachers bring doom and gloom to the return of Christ by focusing on the terrors that will come to earth. We have to be so careful not to buy into that. While they teach from scripture, they are teaching false information to us. We are not to be terrified, we are to look forward to that day. Jesus Christ is returning! He is coming back to bring salvation! The time of struggle will be over, our lives wil be transformed and we will stand in the throne room of the Almighty God. Be joyful!

Be constant. “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:28) I can only imagine that the early disciples who expected Christ to come back to them during their lifetimes, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem, were crushed when they began dying and realized that Christ’s timing was not in accordance with their expectations. Generations and generations have come and gone, each one expecting and hoping for Christ’s return.

I had an older evangelist friend who was a close friend to God. He told me one day that he knew Christ would return before He went to heaven. It was a very difficuilt day for me when I found that he had died. Christ hadn’t returned, what Tommy KNEW to be true was true only for him. It wasn’t true for me. But that didn’t mean that I gave up waiting and expecting Christ to come back. All that it meant was that I continued to pray for Christ’s return.

Today, the watchwords are: Be holy, be obedient, be joyous, be constant. Look forward to the Advent of Christ’s return.

December 19 - Response, part 1

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December 19 – Response, part 1

The Scriptures offer great confidence that Jesus will return. So, what is our response supposed to be to this?

There are a few things that we are told to do. I don’t know about you, but I like a clear sign guiding me every once in awhile. God doesn’t seem to tell me clearly what to do with my life, but when it comes to what to do in preparation for Christ’s return, He is very clear.

Be ready. “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:44)

Be good stewards. “So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’” We all know that we are to be good stewards of the things that God has given us, but I didn’t know until reading this that He intends for us to do this while He is away. It is our way of preparing for His return.

Wait patiently. I could say an awful lot about this – patience is not one of my virtues, but I’m fairly certain that it is something we all struggle with. I believe, though, that God asks us to constantly learn patience, especially as we await His return. “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” (1 Corinthians 1:7) At the same time, we are to eagerly wait. Look forward to that day! I would bet that most of us consider the return of Christ to be something that might happen in our lifetime, but more than likely we will never see it. We live our lives that way. What would it look like if we were eagerly expectant?

Be charitable. “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) It is difficult for us to not judge others. We base our own identity on the failings and successes of others. God begs us to allow Him to do this. When we quit making those judgments, it will allow us to be in relationships that we couldn’t be a part of because of our own judgmental attitudes.

I will finish this post tomorrow. As we walk through today, though, think about these four things: Be ready, be a good steward, wait with eagerness and patience, do not be judgmental.

December 18 - Stand Firm!

Friday, December 18, 2009

December 18 – Stand firm!

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

If you have your Bible close to you, read the first couple of verses. You can also hover over the verse above if you are reading this on the blog, or click through to the link if you are reading this in email.

There was teaching going around at that time that the day of the Lord had already come! What do you know about that? We deal with the same false teaching today. As I spent time studying the Revelation, this was one of the many disagreements between scholars as they approached the timeline for the Second Coming of Christ. Paul is quick to set this teaching aside.

His letter is written to give the church in Thessalonica confidence in what they knew to be truth. Don’t let anyone deceive you with false teaching, don’t be unsettled or alarmed.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that there will be signs preceding the coming of the Lord. A man of lawlessness will arrive on the scene. He will set himself up in God’s temple, he will oppose God and His teaching, He will exalt himself over the things of God, requiring worship of himself over God. We are introduced to the antichrist, a figure whom we will see more of when as we read through the Revelation.

Now, as you read through the next portion of this passage, Paul goes on to say that the man of lawlessness is being held back until the proper time of his revealing. His power is already at work. We see this power every day, things drawing us away from the worship of God, setting activities, material things, other people, our lives above God. Though his power is growing, the man of lawlessness will be revealed when it is time.

Then, Paul says, the Lord Jesus will overthrow him and we will see Him coming in splendor.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, Paul gets a little more specific about the signs of the lawless one, works of Satan will be seen in counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. Evil will deceive those who are perishing – those who are already far from God.

While this portion is frightening and maybe a little disheartening, Paul finishes the passage with encouraging words. Stand firm!

We have been called to be saved through the sanctification of the Spirit. Stand firm.

He finishes with, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

The day of the Lord is coming. Stand firm!

December 17 - Encouragement

Thursday, December 17, 2009

December 17 – Encouragement

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

Paul has plenty to say about the return of the Lord and much of it is sprinkled throughout his letters, but in his letters to those living in Thessalonica, he gave some specific direction.

His teaching on death versus sleep in the first part of this passage is debated, misunderstood, debated again and generally glossed over. Which is exactly what I’m going to do. We don’t know enough about what death looks like from the other side, whether they are sleeping until Christ returns or are active … it makes no difference to this story today.

What Paul does say is that those who have died before us will precede us into heaven. But, then in 1 Thess. 4:16, Paul begins telling us what it is going to look like when the Lord comes back. He will come with a loud command – his voice like an archangel (who are known messengers) and the trumpet call of God! We will be caught up in the clouds with those who are sleep if we are still alive and meet the Lord there.

Take a moment to ponder those images! When the Lord rides in on the clouds to gather His people, we will be caught up and will meet Him midway.

The other night, I was chatting with my nephew, who desperately wants to ride a spaceship. If there isn’t one readily available by the time he can afford to do this, he says he wants to design and build one. I told him that I’ve always been ready for a spaceship to show up in my backyard. All they have to do is beckon me, and I’m there.

This ride will be better than any spaceship – from this point on, we will be with the Lord. We will be with the Lord forever! I don’t know about you, but the word forever is overused these days. We say we will love someone forever, but that word means eternity … beyond the time that we can possibly know. The promise that we will be with the Lord forever is the only promise that is guaranteed.

In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul repeats Jesus by saying that this day will come like a thief in the night. Just about the time we are comfortable in our lives, destruction will come. His assurance, though, that those of us who are followers of Christ will not be surprised reminds us that we have nothing to fear. Darkness can’t consume us.

Paul’s words in 1 Thess. 5:9 continue the message of salvation, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep (alive or already dead), we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

That message is what we need to always remember. Salvation comes from the Lord to everyone. Encourage one another, build each other up, remind each other just who it is that we trust. God sent Jesus Christ to die for us so that we do not have to suffer His wrath. What an amazing gift!

December 16 - Witness

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December 16 – Witness

I closed yesterday’s blog with the question, “Who do YOU need to tell about Jesus today?” This evening, I was reminded of the importance of that question as I spoke with one of my mother’s best friends. She told me about a vision that mom had regarding the torment of those who are lost to eternal life and our responsibility for their salvation.

Mom and Sonna, along with many others, were sitting in the bleachers at a football game (probably high school – that’s where they have bleachers, right?). The field was filled with people. All of a sudden, the earth cracked open in the field and smoke and fire began billowing around these people. The realization that they were about to face death and that the death would be terrible, leading to eternal torment passed across their faces. The accusation in their voices came at mom as they cried out, “You knew and you didn’t tell us! Why didn’t you tell us?”

When John the Baptist announced the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he prepared the way for Jesus by preaching repentance to the people. He tells the people right up front who is coming, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering the wheat into his barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12)

Jesus said, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me; but you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27)

We must testify. We must share the Good News about Jesus with everyone we know. It is not enough to be busy with church work or to hide ourselves away in our church buildings. Those buildings are nothing in the Kingdom of God if they aren’t being used to draw in those who need to know Jesus. It is so easy to get caught up in the finances and the business, the programs and the craziness, the gossip and chasing one activity after another within the church. We think we are doing God’s work, when what we are doing is acting just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

He doesn’t want us in our church buildings. He wants us to bring people to him.

In the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man, the man’s friends lowered him from the roof so that he could be before Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus met the man’s needs when He saw the faith of the friends. (Luke 5:17-26)

Jesus is coming again! We are called to be His witnesses. God’s plan is to redeem everyone on earth. His desire is to gather everyone into eternal life. We are to go into all the world. Witness to the power of Jesus in your life.

December 15 - Why?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15 – Why?

What is the purpose of Jesus’ return? Why would He come back?

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually asked myself that question, but when it came up this evening as I was studying, I realized that I wasn’t probably going to like the answer.

“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:27

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-32)

“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:” (2 Timothy 4:1)

“Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken about him.” (Jude 14-15)

Jesus’ return brings judgment. That’s the bottom line. There will be a day when everyone – no matter who, no matter when they’ve lived, no matter what they’ve done – everyone will have to stand before Jesus Christ as He sits on His throne in glory and await His judgment. He will separate the people standing before Him as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, as the wheat is separated from the chaff. One group will face an eternity separated from His glory, tossed into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15) and the others will find themselves in the Holy City, surrounded by the glory of the Godhead.

Personally, I am not afraid of this day. I was thirteen years old when I lost that fear. I have every confidence in the knowledge that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and that He will face down the accuser for me on that day of judgment. The thing I dread the most is knowing the fate of those who are lost because I didn’t have the courage to speak to them about Jesus Christ.

While judgment doesn’t frighten me for myself, it frightens me for so many people. This day is coming. Why is Jesus returning? To judge the world according to the laws set forth by God from the very beginning. The Creator of this world has dominion over everything. In His mery and grace, He has given us time to come before Him.

“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9b)

Who do YOU need to tell about Jesus today?

December 14 - Salvation

Monday, December 14, 2009

December 14 - Salvation

Hebrews 9:38

One of the things that we tend to focus on with regards to the Second Coming of Christ is that it will bring the end of the world as we know it. While this is no doubt true, Paul tells us in this verse from his letter to the Hebrews that Jesus returns bring salvation.

“so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Heb. 9:38)

I have the worst time watching any movie about Jesus’ death, I hate Good Friday. In fact, I hate Holy Week. I know what the story leads to. The day after Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday are amazing for me, but to get to the Resurrection, I have to face the crucifixion. Every year I dread that day because I know that I will deal with His suffering on the cross for my sin.

The thing of it is, though, is that Jesus already did that. He went through the pain of that and ascended into heaven. The next time He comes to earth, He will come as the ruling Messiah, the King that will conquer everything and will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that He is Lord!

He no longer has to bear our sin – He has already done that. When He returns, He brings salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

That’s going to be me! That’s going to be you. All of the preparation, everything that we do to bring us into a relationship with Him simply means that we are waiting. Like the ten virgins who waited for the bridegroom, like the servants who worked while their master was away, we wait for the return of the Messiah.

He brings salvation to each of us. Revelation 21:4 says, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Those things that fill our lives with pain and stress, even the things that bring us temporary happiness will all be gone. Salvation will be ours. Eternal life in the temple of the living God will be the reward.

Jesus won’t return to be sacrificed … He is alive. He returns to those of us who are waiting for Him!

December 13 - Immanuel

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 13 - Immanuel

Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:22-23

God With Us. Immanuel.

This verse came into my inbox the other day and rather than read it and toss it out, I let it sit for several days as I processed on how much it meant to me.

Hundreds of years had passed and one of the signs God had given to Isaiah which would signify the coming of the Messiah was that a virgin would be with child and would give birth to a son. Something that no one could imagine, a great miracle. At the time that this happened, He would represent God walking among us. God with us. Immanuel.

I like to look at life as a series of cycles or to see it as a pendulum swinging back and forth. If the stock market goes up, it will go down again. If unemployment gets out of hand, given time, it will return to a manageable state. If we grieve over losses, time will pass and our lives will move back to normal. The seasons cycle - if we hate winter, summer will be here soon. The days cycle - if we love the morning, it returns every twenty-four hours. Our lives are filled with these cycles - everything always returns.

In the beginning of time, God was present among His people. He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, He spent time with Abraham and Sarah. His presence among the people of Israel when they crossed the Red Sea and the desert was found in the flame at night and the cloud during the day. He resided in the Holy of Holies. The people knew that He was present among them.

Then, 2000 years ago, He walked among us again - as an infant, a child and then a wandering teacher. He made sure that we recognized Him as the Son of God - living as the Son of Man. God was with us again. He ripped the curtain that separated Him from man and made His presence known among us in the form of the Holy Spirit.

A day is coming when He no longer will be with us, but we will be with Him.

The virgin gave birth to a son so that we would recognize that God was with us. When that Son returns in the clouds ... we will be with God. The cycle will be complete.

December 12 - Coming

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December 12 - Coming

Luke 17:20-37

We find one other passage in Luke's gospel where Jesus speaks about the coming of the Kingdom of God. In this passage, the Pharisees had come to Him asking when the kingdom would come.

In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus listens to their question and then challenges them. The Pharisees had been trained to look for signs of the coming kingdom. One of those signs had just occurred in the previous verses when Jesus healed the ten lepers. The Pharisees actually missed it. Jesus clearly tells them that the kingdom is among them. He represented the kingdom of God and they couldn't see that reality.

Then, Jesus goes on to teach His disciples about the future coming of the Son of Man. They had hoped that His presence on earth at this point would signify the end of all things. Jesus lets them know that it will not happen in their lifetimes. He prophesies His crucifixion, His suffering and rejection. (Luke 17:25) He also assures them that this will not be a secret activity. When He returns, everyone will know it. They shouldn't (we shouldn't) listen to those that have secrets to reveal about His coming. Everyone will see flashes like lightning that light up the sky from one end to the other.

The lessons learned from the days of Noah and of Lot need to be remembered by all. When God makes a decision to do something, it will be done. When the floods came, people were eating, drinking and marrying - just living normal lives. When fire and sulfur rained down on Sodom, people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building - just living normal lives. They were all destroyed.

When Jesus returns, we will be eating and drinking, marrying, working, playing - just living normal lives. There will not be time to grab a jacket or remember our scrapbooks. Everything that we are accustomed to having will be set aside. There will be no time to go back for anything.

Noah and Lot heeded God's warning. They did what He asked them to do and were saved. Lot's wife couldn't obey ... Jesus asks us to remember her. She tried to keep hold of her life - her old life. She didn't understand that she was giving it up for a better life.

In the night - two people sleeping in the same bed - one goes, one stays. During the day - two people working together - one goes, one stays. Physical proximity doesn't matter. You are on your own when the final judgment comes. One goes - one stays. And when the judgment comes, those who stay will be carrion for the vultures.

The Kingdom of God is Coming

December 11 - Righteousness

Friday, December 11, 2009

December 11 - Righteousness

Matthew 25:31-46

Though we often look at this passage as a parable, Jesus doesn't necessarily treat it as one. The previous parables were told to teach the disciples (and us) about the responsibility that comes with knowing Him personally. Now it's time to discuss what will happen when judgment comes.

There are some exciting messages in this passage. The first is that Jesus declares Himself to be the judge of mankind. This is new information to His disciples. Traditional Jewish thinking saw God as the judge. But, now it is told to us that the Messiah will be on his throne acting as the final judge between righteous and unrighteous.

In the previous parable - the Parable of the Talents, those who used their talents were praised and given greater responsibility. Now we find out what the full weight of that responsibility is. We are to care for the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger. We are to clothe those in need, care for the sick and visit the prisoners. It occurs to me that nowhere in this discourse is there any mention of things that we tend to place great emphasis on within our churches.

Jesus has always known how difficult it is for us to reach out to the poor and needy. So many times we see ourselves as needing so much help that we can't afford to do things for others. He knows our selfishness, He recognizes the bleak lives that we live.

When the "What Would Jesus Do?" rage hit, we were all struck by the fact that Jesus was all around us, watching the things that we said and did. But what if we were to recognize that in every person whom we encounter, Jesus is there? When a coworker is making you insane, look behind the eyes to see Jesus standing there or when a driver is an idiot, Jesus is there with them. Every single person we encounter, whether they are Christians, Hindus, Wiccans, atheists, or Muslims should receive treatment that we give to Jesus.

He tells us in this passage that these are the actions He expects from us. He doesn't make a distinction. The only thing we should know is that whatever we do to others, we are doing to Jesus. It doesn't matter whether or not we feel justified. Jesus is always on the receiving end of our behavior. When we care for others, we care for Him. When we refuse to help or love others, we refuse to help or love Him.

We can not show our commitment to a relationship with Jesus if we can't care for and love those around us, no matter who or what they are. This is the behavior of righteousness that Jesus calls us to. This righteousness is what He offers to us.

December 10 - Faithful

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December 10 - Faithful

Matthew 25:14-30

I grew up with these parables, but it wasn't until I was much older that I realized that they were associated with Jesus' teaching on His second coming. The Parable of the Talents has been used over and over as pastors teach about generosity, proper use of God's money, etc. But, the original intent of this is something quite different and even more fascinating.

If you look back at Matthew 25:1, you read, "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ..."

At that time simply means the time when Jesus returns.

Now, in Matthew 25:14, Jesus continues by saying "Again, it will be like ..." He is continuing the thought process regarding the time when He returns.

There are three servants (actually, slaves) that are being asked to care for something very special while their master is away on a journey. The master believes these three men to be capable of caring for his property. When he 'entrusted' his property to them, he wasn't giving it to them to keep for themselves, but to aid him in building his business while he was gone.

(I trust that you see the spiritual parallels here with Jesus as the master and us as the servants.)

Five talents was a huge amount of money. One of the commentaries I read said that it would be enough to pay 100 men for a year. So, even one talent is a significant investment.

The first two servants invested wisely and reaped great benefits, even to the point that when the master returned, he rewarded them not with money, but with more responsibility. The third servant was fearful of the master and decided to be safe and buried his portion. It was stripped from him, as was any responsibility he might ever have and given to the first servant. Notice that it wasn't given to the first servant as a monetary reward, but as another portion of the investment so that he could continue to make it grow. The first servant had done great work for the master and the master wanted to see his investment continue to grow.

Jesus has been gone from earth for a long time. We are each given incredible talents which He wants us to use to benefit the heavenly kingdom. When He returns, how will He look at our lives? Have we invested our talents wisely to ensure that there is maximum return? Do people around us know that Jesus is the Son of Man and the Son of God because of our lives? Or do we hide ourselves from the world, never bothering to stand forth and tell of our faith in Jesus?

He will return. I want to stand before Him and hear those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" With what I have been given, I want to tell the world about Him.

December 9 - Keep Watch

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December 9 - Keep Watch

Matthew 25:1-13

I spent some time processing on this parable and then began to giggle as I realized how annoyed I was with the 5 foolish virgins and then I got a little annoyed with the bridegroom! But, I had to take that back because he is Jesus. Wait, I'll show you how I got there ...

One of the wedding customs in Israel was that after a long period of betrothal, as the bridegroom prepared the home for his bride, a night would all of a sudden be set and the bride and groom would send their parties ahead and then when they arrived, the wedding would take place.

So, the bride sent her attendants ahead. When they arrived at the location, the bridegroom was late (hence, my annoyance. I am always early and no matter what I do to be just a little late, I can never seem to achieve that. So, I generally end up waiting ... and waiting).

The bridesmaids (virgins - whatever) had to wait and wait. In fact, they had to wait so long that they feel asleep.

The spiritual look at this seems to be exactly what is happening in the world right now. Isn't it amazing to realize that God foresaw the spiritual drowsiness we are feeling at this point in history? Christians have fallen asleep as we wait for the return of Christ. If I think about the animation and excitement I felt when I first became a Christian and compare that to the life I live right now, I'm a bit appalled at myself. Oh, I still love Jesus just as much - maybe more - now as I did when I was young, but I'm not nearly as apt to scream it from the rooftops. I've gotten old and tired (shhh, don't tell me I said that).

I think as a whole, we've gotten lazy and sleepy and drowsy in our attitude about Jesus. We are just at the point that those ten virgins were at. They waited so long for the bridegroom to appear that they simply fell asleep.

All of a sudden, at midnight, a cry rang out "Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!" (Matthew 25:6).

Those bridesmaids were probably in a bit of a sleep stupor, but rushed around to trim their lamps and bring light to the entire situation so that the wedding could proceed. Five of them had brought extra oil to relight their lamps, but five had not thought it would be necessary. They were excited about the wedding, didn't plan for the lateness of the bridegroom and just headed out for the party.

Those poor girls were distraught. They begged for oil from the five who had come prepared, but couldn't get any and knew they had to find a way to purchase extra oil. While they were gone, the bridegroom showed up, took the five others with him to the wedding banquet and closed the door.

When the others came to join the party, they couldn't get into the banquet hall. They had completely missed out because in their excitement to get started, they didn't have enough sense to prepare for the long haul.

When the trumpet sounds and Jesus returns in the clouds, if you are asleep, will you be prepared to join the party or will you have to go away to get provisions?

"Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." (Matthew 25:13)

December 8 - Prepared

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8 - Prepared

Matthew 24:36-51, Mark 13:32-37, Luke 17:26-36, Luke 21:34-36

All of the effort that people have put in throughout history to fix the date of the return of Christ is destroyed in one sentence. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36)

No one knows. They don't talk about it in heaven, the secret is shared with no one. No one knows. It would seem as if the signs that Jesus told us to watch for would be enough to signify when this would occur, but they don't. No one knows.

Jesus speaks of the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39, Luke 17:26-27). Good heavens, they could even see Noah building the ark, and yet they continued to be ignorant of the impending doom. He entered the ark, the flood came and there were people across the land who died because they had no idea.

The next verses in Matthew seem to be what we expect to see on earth from movies and books. Two men are working - one is taken away, two women are grinding at the mill - one is taken away. Please recognize that nowhere in this statement do we see that this happens prior to the return of Christ and the tribulation that will occur. This is not necessarily about that - these statements are about the fact that we need to be ready for His return at any moment.

When the Son of Man returns, there will be a clear distinction between those who are prepared to be a part of His kingdom and those who are not. He will not be gathering everyone on earth to heavenly glory. That's not the way this is going to work. Jesus is telling us very, very clearly that He will separate people when He returns. We need to be ready. We need to pray for our friends and family so that they are ready. We can't know when this is going to happen ... we desperately need to be prepared.

Matthew 24:45-51 tells us about the servant who cares for those in his charge. Please see yourself as the initial servant. You have many people that you care for and that count on you. If Jesus returns and finds that you have done nothing for them, that you have told no one about Him, that you don't pray for or care for those who are in your charge, you are like the wicked servant who spent time eating and drinking with drunkards rather than extending himself to care for those in the household. Weeping and gnashing of teeth at your punishment.

We must be prepared. We must also help those around us to be prepared.

December 7 - Fig Tree

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7 - Fig Tree

Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-31, Luke 21:29-33

Learn from the fig tree. It's not often we are called to allow a piece of flora be our teacher, but Jesus used an example that was close by. Imagine him standing near a fig tree, pulling a branch down so that His disciples could examine it closely. He has it in His hands as He points out the tender twigs with small buds on them. Those surrounding Him are probably looking closely at it as His fingers glide across those buds while He speaks.

Just as the fig tree signifies the imminence of summer with its leaves filling out, we will recognize the return of Christ by the signs He has given us.

Matthew 24:34 offers a very difficult problem. Jesus says, "This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."

Now, my Bible (NIV) has a footnote which says that generation could be translated as 'race.' That means that the Jews will not pass away until all these things have happened. This changes everything regarding the problem. There no longer is an issue with the words Jesus' spoke and it makes much more sense. Especially as we look ahead to Matthew 24:36 when He says, "No one knows about that day or hour." If He doesn't know, how can He predict a specific timeline regarding the generation that existed at that point.

Jesus is speaking to His disciples about several things. First, He wants them to realize that the Temple will soon be coming down and that their ministry will change in ways they don't understand. He won't be there physically to walk them through those changes and He wants them to be prepared. But, He also wants them to know that the hope of His return should be very strong. Even He doesn't know when it will occur. There is every possibility that He hoped it would happen before His friends and disciples died of old age, but since only the Father knows the exact day and time, we can't be certain of anything.

Jesus next says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." He is using imagery from Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

The foundation that He has given the disciples ... His teaching, His words will remain long after the Temple is destroyed. Until He returns and gathers us to heaven, His words will be our foundation for faith and for life.

December 6 - Return

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 6 - Return

Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, Luke 21:25-28

After the distress of all of the persecution, the excitement begins. From the Old Testament, both Mark and Matthew quote Isaiah - the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give light, the stars will fall from the sky, the heavenly bodies (planets) will be shaken. Piece by piece the heavens will implode.

Old Testament apocalyptic literature is filled with these warnings. Jesus uses passages from Ezekiel 32:7 and Joel 2:10 as He speaks to His disciples. When we move to the Revelation, we will see more and more of this type of prophecy occurring, using words of Jesus and text from the Old Testament.

In Luke, we find that the sea is roaring and tossing because of the upheaval in the heavens and that men are terrified because they don't know what is coming in the world. (Luke 21:25-26) All of these things are signs that proclaim the coming of the Son of Man.

All three of the synoptic Gospels tell us that Jesus says the Son of Man will come in a cloud with power and glory. I will keep saying over and over that His return will be very clear to everyone on earth. When He arrives, everyone will see this occurring, everyone will know what is happening. Men will be terrified, even those who know what is happening. But, we will all be fully aware of the power and glory of the Son of Man.

Does it seem odd to you that everyone on earth will mourn His arrival? No. Because when Jesus shows up in the clouds, when we hear that trumpet blaring the news of His arrival, it signifies the end. There are no more chances, there is no more mercy and grace. The end has come, it will be finished.

But, for those who are His elect, the children of God, those who have a relationship with Him, the trumpet call signifies a gathering. From the ends of the earth, all will be gathered, no one will be missed.

Jesus says in Luke 21:28, "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

We are the children of God. We have been adopted into His kingdom. Though we face persecution and trouble, stand and lift up your heads. Our redemption draws near.

December 5 - False

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 5 – False

Matthew 24:23-28, Mark 13:21-23

I just finished an interesting book. It was complete fiction based on historical truth and a whole lot of supposition. But, it was fiction. Based on the Templars, it told the story of how they had managed to maintain a presence in the world today. The protagonist and the antagonist were looking for the Great Devise – proof that Jesus had only been a man, had been killed on the cross and buried. His disciples had removed his body and then because He had been reborn in their hearts, the resurrection was true in part.

Much of this comes from heresies that were around even in the times of Paul, which is why many of his letters speak so clearly about the crucifixion and resurrection.

As I read the book, I was intrigued by the story, the action, the characters and a little distressed by the main plot, but all along I realized that fiction is what it is for a reason. It was never intended to be historical truth, simply entertainment. However, I was struck by the falseness of the story and how badly I wanted the author to fix his ending. He never did and I set it down at the end of the book with sorrow, knowing that he will always question his faith and never be assured of the truth.

Jesus warns His disciples and us about false Christs and prophets who will do things and say things to deceive us. Even those who know Him personally will be deceived. I love Matthew 24:25 when He says, “See, I have told you ahead of time.” He has warned us, knowing that His warnings will go unheeded by many.

We look for the easy Christ, the quick miracle, the healing that might rescue us from our dilapidated lives. If He’s in the desert, Jesus tells us not to go ut there. If we are told that all we have to do is donate a little money and Christ will save us from whatever mess we are in, don’t pay attention to those words.

I’ll say it over and over and over again. We will absolutely know it when Christ returns. We won’t have to hear it from an evangelist or a preacher or anyone else. He will not come as an infant in a manger again, creeping up on a world that didn’t know who He was. He will come “as lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west.” (Matthew 24:17) We will be sure that it is Him and everyone will know it at the same time.

Pay no attention to the false Christs and false prophets that seem to appear around you. When Christ returns, be assured you will recognize Him.

December 4 - Abomination

Friday, December 4, 2009

December 4 – Abomination

Matthew 24:15-22, Mark 13:14-20, Luke 21:20-24

From Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11 we can gather information that Jesus wants us to know. The abomination is a ‘desolating sacrilege’ found on the altar of the temple. When this occurs, it is time to run for the hills. In Daniel, this sacrilege signifies the end. Don’t wait, don’t try to gather your things, just run. The time is at hand.

The city of Jerusalem, though fortified, would no longer offer protection – the safest place is in the cover of the hillside among the trees and brush.

Jewish law prohibited flight on the Sabbath, winter would be terribly difficult in the hills surrounding Jerusalem. The effect that all of this has on the listener is one of extreme urgency. There will be great distress for followers of Christ. Luke is explicit in telling us that they will be killed by the sword and taken prisoner.

The time of distress will be unequaled. No one had ever seen anything as awful, nor would they again.

But, throughout this passage, though the distress is horrendous, there are assurances. Jesus says that those days will be shortened because of God’s chosen people, the elect. Because of these people, much like the few in Sodom that Abraham begged God for, the time of persecution will be made shorter so that they will continue through until the final trumpet call.

This passage of scripture is a condensed version of the Revelation given to John. Which we’ll look at in January. But, we see the same recommendation to the people to flee to the hills. I am reminded of Psalm 121, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

It is because of God’s gracious love for His people that we will be spared any of the pain that comes to this earth when Christ returns.

December 3 - Persecution

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 3 – Persecuted

Matthew 24:9-14, Mark 13:9-13, Luke 21:12-19

Persecuted for Christ’s name. I have been highly offended during the last several years as I watch schools, governments, public facilities overextend themselves to offer parity to other religious expression, yet completely eliminate the possibility of Christianity having a voice.

As I read these verses, I realize that Jesus was telling us while He was still on earth that this would happen. So, why do I get upset? Why am I personally offended? I can’t change the fact that Christians will be hated and ridiculed simply because we believe in Jesus Christ. Though it is hard to swallow, it is what we are expected to live through. Any righteous indignation on our part will only make things worse.

Jesus says in Matthew 24:10 that many will turn away from the faith because of this, they will betray others and hate the Christians they left behind. It is difficult to watch this happen. It happens all the time whether we believe we are in the end times or not. We see in Luke 21:16-17 that even parents and relatives will betray their families and will even go so far as to put Christians to death.

But what Jesus doesn’t tell us to do is to return the hatred, bitterness and anger. All He asks us to do is to ‘stand firm.’

In Mark’s gospel we find out that our witness to Jesus Christ will be quite public as we are called to stand before governors and kings. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus goes on to say, “make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”

One of the outcomes of our witness to the Gospel of Jesus is that from persecution comes witness. The church saw its greatest growth during the periods of persecution in the centuries immediately following Jesus’ crucifixion. That’s a difficult thing for us to understand, but living a life filled with grace in the face of intense persecution will draw more to Jesus than living a life of ease.

“The gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations.” (Matthew 24:14)

God has a plan in place. We are part of that plan. We don’t know when the time will be or when Jesus will return. He has given us things to watch for – things that are the beginning of the birth pangs. We aren’t expected to know His plan, we are simply expected to stand firm in the face of persecution.

December 2 - Deception

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December 2 - Deception

Matthew 24:1-8, Mark 13:1-8, Luke 21:5-11

Do not be deceived. That is the one thing that Jesus was trying to ensure His disciples would avoid as they looked forward to the end of the world.

They had just walked from the Temple and were trying to engage Jesus in a conversation regarding the beauty of the place. Herod's Temple gleamed in the sunlight! It was a spectacular sight. Jesus saw only the time to come, when the temple itself would be destroyed. The disciples, caught up in His teaching, began to put things together. For them, the destruction of the temple would coincide with His return and the final judgment. They believed that all of this was imminent.

Matthew 24:3b, "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming (translated from the Greek word parousia), and of the end of the world?"

Jesus heard their question. He understood their concern, their excitement, their wonder. They trusted Him implicitly for their future. He also knew that He would soon be gone from them and even His knowledge of the final timeline was limited. Jesus needed to ensure that they would remain faithful even though things didn't go as they might expect.

There would be people coming along claiming that they had the answers, claiming to be the next Messiah. Do not be deceived.

You will hear all sorts of things that seem to signify the end of the world. Do not be alarmed.

In Luke 21:9b, Jesus says, "These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away."

He never lets them believe that the end will happen in their lifetime, even though the temple will be destroyed. These are just the beginning of the birth pains.

As we put this all into context, the wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, fearful events, great signs from heaven, revolutions ... all of these things are simply the beginning. The end will not come right away.

Do not allow yourself to be deceived by people who preach fear because of these occurrences.

The one thing that we must be assured of is that when Jesus returns, there will be absolutely no question. We will recognize Him, we will know what is happening. Jesus will not leave any room for doubt. Do not be deceived by those who preach fear.

December 1 - Prepare

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1 - Prepare

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:2)

"A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." (Isaiah 40:3-5)

We spend the month of December preparing for Christmas Day, gifts are purchased and wrapped, decorations are hung, plans are made for parties, cookies and goodies are baked, pageants and concerts are rehearsed and presented. Everything begins to point to the celebration of Christ's birth.

I know that each year as I feel the warm sensations of love and happiness surround me, I want to find ways to extend that into the new year, but before I know it, holidays and seasons are passing and I find myself preparing once again.

While the celebration of Jesus' birth is extremely important to me as a Christian, I think that the reminder of the Advent season to prepare our hearts for His return is so much more important. Jesus spends an incredible amount of time talking about His return.

There is a word that I want you to learn - 'parousia' (pah-roo-zia or pah-roo-shah). It is a Greek word often used for the second coming, but it means 'presence, a being present, a coming to a place - coming, arrival.' It is used in different contexts throughout the New Testament. This is the word that we mean when we say 'Advent.' It is the arrival of Christ among us.

John says, "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." (1 John 2:28)

The word 'appear' in that verse is translated from the Greek word parousia.

2 Peter 3:11b-12 says, "You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming."

In this verse, the word 'coming' is translated from the word parousia.

The New Testament writers fill their Gospels and letters with messages to us to be prepared for the Day of the Lord.

Prepare your hearts, prepare your lives. Make straight the highway of our God. Prepare ye the way of the Lord!!!

Nov. 30 God's Love

Monday, November 30, 2009

November 30 - God's Love

One of the greatest mysteries to me is that the God of the Universe, the God of all Creation, loves me. The kind of love that He brings to the relationship with mankind as a whole and each of us individually is beyond anything that I can comprehend. From the moment He created man, He loved us.

Jeremiah says "The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.'" (Jeremiah 31:3)

Throughout all of history, we find God working to bring His people into a close relationship with Him. We fought against it, we continue to fight against it - through deliberate means, through apathy ... over and over, we miss out on the one loving relationship that will never fail us.

When God saw that it was time, He sent Jesus - God's Word - to earth so that every single person would have the chance to spend eternity with Him. He doesn't want to miss out on that relationship with any of us!

"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)

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

This continues to be the single, greatest gift we could be given.

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5)

God's grace, mercy and great love for us enables us to be saved from ourselves - from the mistakes we make (whether in error or deliberately).

I love this last verse - what a great use of the word "lavish." God loves us more than we can ever absorb.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)

Nov. 29 Angels

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 29 - Angels

I don't like to spend a lot of time talking about angels because I fear that it is too easy to focus on them, not on God, who sends them to care for us. But, angels are quite mysterious to us and reveal another aspect of God. We easily accept the fact that there are angels, many people have seen them, we see the work they do while on earth, we read and hear stories about people's interactions with angels.

"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways." (Psalm 91:11)

"In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them." (Isaiah 63:9)

These angels were sent to minister to our needs. We find an angel protecting Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:13-27)

An angel shut the mouth of the lions to rescue Daniel. (Daniel 6:16-23)

In Mark 1:13, we read that angels attended Jesus when he was tempted by Satan and was in the desert for forty days.

In Luke 16:22, Jesus tells us that angels carried the beggar Lazarus to Abraham's side in heaven while the rich man went to hell and in Acts 5:19, we find an angel releasing the apostles from prison to preach the message in the temple courts.

The response to the church's prayers for Peter were answered when the night before Herod brought Him to trial, an angel appeared, woke Peter and escorted him from prison. (Acts 12:1-25)

Hebrews 1:14 says, "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"

God's tender love for us is revealed through these servants who surround us and serve us in ways we can never comprehend. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to recognize their presence around us, but most of the time we are oblivious to the fact that God has placed us in the care of His servants. It all just seems so amazing to me when I consider the reality of His presence on earth. I would be completely overwhelmed if I only saw a bit of it. I am, however, thankful that He interacts with me, even when I don't see Him.