December 25, 2018
ANSWERING THE IMPOSSIBLE CHRISTMAS QUESTION
“How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” the young Mary asked when the angel Gabriel told her of Christ’s birth. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Gabriel replied, having explained the the miracle of Christ’s divine conception.
God must love to prove it otherwise when we call something impossible. In Zechariah’s time, the Jewish exiles had returned to Jerusalem and were attempting to rebuild the Temple. But the small remnant was overwhelmed with the large size of the project. They felt inadequate in every way, not enough in number nor in resources. But the Lord of Hosts had a question for them to consider: “Is it impossible for Me?”
When Gabriel answered Mary’s “Christmas question,” she was satisfied, saying, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
What seems impossible in your life today? Is it impossible for God?
December 24, 2018
ADVENT MEANS COMING
O how the psalmist David cried out to the Lord! He held nothing back in his prayers. Like a child insistently crying for his mother’s attention, David made his complaint known to the Lord. He would not be content until the Lord answered.
Have you seen a child in such a state? Nothing will do but his own mother’s touch. Even though another family member tries to comfort the child, his wailing grows more persistent. This is how David prayed for the Lord to “come quickly.”
On this Christmas Eve we remember that the Lord has come. Yet, we also look for Him to come again. As the apostle John closed the Revelation of Jesus Christ, he heard the Savior say, “Surely I come quickly,” to which he replied, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
December 23, 2018
THIS IS ADVENT: CHRIST HAS COME AND IS COMING AGAIN
While exiled on the Isle of Patmos, the apostle John saw a vision of Christ’s second coming. His description of the Son of Man coming on the clouds was like what the prophet Daniel saw in his vision 600 years before Christ’s first coming (See Daniel 7:13).
What John saw is also how Jesus answered the high priest who asked whether he was the Messiah, the Son of God. To which Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). The high priest tore his clothes at Jesus’ reply and declared him guilty of blasphemy. The Jewish council rejected Jesus and sent him to Pilate to be crucified.
Yet, a day is coming when Christ will fulfill the vision of both Daniel and John. He will fulfill the answer he gave the high priest. When Christ returns, he will come as King with a “gold crown on his head” and as Judge with a “sharp sickle in his hand.” This is Advent: Christ has come and is coming again.
December 22, 2018
ADVENT MEANS COMING
Zechariah is filled with Messianic prophecies about the “coming” of the LORD. Here, Israel was called to “shout and rejoice” in anticipation of His coming. This prophecy was partially fulfilled in the incarnation. As John proclaimed, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Today, the Spirit of Christ continues to “dwell” in this world through His Body, which is the Church. Yet, we are to continue to “shout and rejoice” because Christ has come and is coming again to truly “live among” us.
The word “advent” means the arrival or coming of someone or something notable. This is Advent: Christ has come and is coming again.
December 18, 2018
Even though trials and suffering may come our way, we can depend on the “surefooted strength” of our God. After a long list of “even though” situations, Habakkuk declared his trust and dependence on God to help him not only take the next step, but to “tread upon the heights!”
Surefooted strength is power with wisdom. It gives us not only the strength to step, but leads us in the path to step. Since the next step is often steeper and more precarious, surefooted strength is also the courage to take it. For the depths are only one false step from the heights and faithful courage is required to move.
Lord, give us surefooted strength today!
December 16, 2018
BETHLEHEM, CHRIST’S PROPHESIED BIRTHPLACE
In the midst of Micah’s prophecy for Israel’s judgment, the Spirit revealed the future birthplace of the Messiah. This is the prophecy that the priests and scribes quoted to King Herod when the Magi came seeking the one born king of the Jews.
Bethlehem was also called the “Town of David,” as it was King David’s birthplace. How fitting that the “ruler of Israel,” the Son of David, would be born there too. The name Bethlehem means “house of bread” (Hebrew: “Beth” – “house,” + “lechem” – “bread”). How appropriate that the “Bread of Heaven” would be born in the “House of Bread.” This small town was also known for the quality of its sheep and because of its close proximity to Jerusalem, it became one of the main sources of passover lambs that were sold for sacrifice in the Temple. How shocking, yet how wondrous that this One “whose origins are in the distant past” would be the Lamb of God born in a Bethlehem stable.
Indeed, the Christ was born in little Bethlehem, far from the wealthy cities of the world and welcomed by humble shepherds. God revealed His birthplace to Micah over 700 years before He came. Jesus fulfilled over 300 messianic prophecies, yet the majority of His own people rejected Him. What will you do with Christ this Christmas?
December 14, 2018
THE SIGN OF JONAH
God called Jonah to deliver a warning of judgment to the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. This Assyrians were hated by the Jews because they were constantly invading Israel. The Assyrians would later defeat the Northern Kingdom of Israel and carry its people off into captivity. Yet, God wanted them warned of His judgment.
This is a unique story in the Old Testament of the Word being carried to a Gentile people by one of God’s prophets, albeit unwillingly. God had declared His purpose to Abraham that “all the families of the earth” would be blessed from his seed. Here, the book of Jonah hints at this future blessing. Even the Lord Jesus referred to this little book when He said that the only sign He would give was the “sign of Jonah” (Matt. 12:39), referring to His death, burial, and resurrection after three days.
Those who have trouble believing that God could “arrange” for a fish to save a drowning man, will probably have trouble with a crucified man being resurrected from the grave. Yet, those who do believe are rescued from God’s judgment.
December 13, 2018
THE TRINITARIAN WORSHIP OF THE FOUR BEINGS
John saw four “living beings” continually praising the One seated on a heavenly throne. These four beings have been variously interpreted to represent the four evangelists: Matthew (Lion), Mark (Ox), Luke (Man), and John (Eagle). These four images also align with the emphases of each gospel. For Matthew emphasized Christ as King (Lion), Mark emphasized Christ as Servant (Ox), Luke as Son of Man (Man) and John emphasized Christ as God (Eagle).
It is also interesting to note that these four images were on the banners of the tribes of Israel’s wilderness encampment that camped according to the four points of the compass. The tribe of Judah camped to the East with the banner of a lion, Ephraim to the West with an ox, Reuben to the South with a man, and Dan to the North with the image of an eagle on their banner.
John does not comment on their identity. He only records what they continually repeated–– that God is three times holy, omnipotent and eternal. One Day, we shall join in their worship, casting our crowns before Christ’s royal throne.
December 10, 2018
THE NECESSITY OF VISIONAL UNITY
The Lord gave the prophet Amos a list of proverbial questions to ask of Israel and Judah. Each of them beg an obvious negative response. The first proverb concerned their walk with God. The Lord essentially asked, “Can you claim to have My presence when you walk so contrary to Me?” The obvious answer? “No.”
The Lord pictured Himself as one of two people, with the other representing His chosen ones. Yet, they no longer walked with Him. Although they claimed God’s presence, their walk and talk proved otherwise.
This proverb stands as an important leadership principle. Directional unity must be agreed upon, otherwise, eventual division and disunity is inevitable. It may look as if you are walking together, but after a while, your paths will diverge.
The wise recognize the necessity of visional unity. The one who would walk together with God, must constantly listen to and agree to His voice and vision. The one who would lead in God’s name, must constantly check the unity of the flock. For sheep are always prone to wander.
December 9, 2018
THE TIME FOR REPENTANCE
Writing in the 9th century BC, the prophet Joel opened his book with warnings concerning a plague of locusts. He warned that the locusts were only a small thing compared to the coming Day of the Lord. He encouraged God’s people to repent “while there is time.”
This is a recurring theme in Scripture. Repent, turning away from sin and turning toward God, before the Day of judgment comes. How much time do we have to repent? Only God knows. But the time is short. Therefore, we must turn to God, while we hear His voice. For there is a time when it will be too late.
What does repentance look like? Joel, speaking for the Lord, described both an inward and outward aspect. First, inwardly we are to give God our hearts. This is the Great Commandment. Love God with all your heart. Put God on the throne of your heart. Second, there is an outward aspect. Joel gave three outward signs of inward repentance, namely, “fasting, weeping, and mourning.” Yet, these mean nothing without heart change. But with inward repentance, these three are appropriate expressions.
Don’t ask, “How much time do we have?’ Instead, turn to God now. For “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).