Revelation

Reading thru the Bible  over the last 365 days of 2018, I’m finishing with the vision revealed to the Apostle John who was exiled on the island of Patmos because of His testimony about Jesus some time after 90AD.

What John wrote in the book of Revelation fascinates us and has caused generations of Christ followers to wonder as we wait for the end times. We’re strangely curious about Bible prophecy. The visions of the future seen and written down by John are similar to political cartons of our day that would seem strange without specific context and knowledge of particular individuals or circumstances. The intense scenes of real events yet to come encourage us to persevere today and remain faithful in the days ahead (Revelation 13:10).

Revelation isn’t primarily about prophecy, though. It’s about a person: JESUS. The book of Revelation focuses our attention of the person, power, and, future program of Jesus, the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.

To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests, to his God and Father—to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5–6

 In the same way Christmas is not just about Jesus coming as a baby in Bethlehem; it’s about Him returning as our King to judge the nations and the rebels of God.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever. Revelation 11:15

The book of Revelation isn’t just a fitting conclusion to the end of the year, but also to the end of Advent season as we anticipate the second coming of Jesus and his coming kingdom on Earth.

As we look back today over the events and activities of the past year (2018), we also look ahead with faith as we wait for our coming King.

He who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ in 2019 or until He comes back.

Christmas Clothes

Born on Christmas morning, Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a feeding trough (Luke 2:1-15).

Transfigured on the mountain, His clothes became dazzling white to reveal His heavenly glory (Luke 9:28-36).

Condemned by sinful men, He was dressed with a purple robe and mocked as the King of the Jews (Mark 15:16-20, Luke 23:11).

Crucified on Good Friday, He was disrobed of His clothes as the soldiers divided it among themselves (John 19:23-24).

Buried that same day, He was wrapped in linen cloths and placed in a sealed tomb (Luke 23:50-53).

Resurrected on Easter morning, He left only the burial clothes to be found by his friends in the empty tomb (Luke 24:1-12).

Coming again, Jesus will wear a robe dipped in blood with a name written on it and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16).

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

We’re dressed and ready this Christmas day. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20-21).

What is the Meaning of Christmas?

MangerCaveEvery year, millions of people around the world celebrate Christmas. But what does it all mean? What difference does it really make in our lives? Why should we care? Why do we need Christmas? What is the meaning of it all? 

Over the years, I’ve heard countless explanations for the meaning of Christmas and the reason for the season. “Christmas is about spending time with family and friends,” some say, and others “Christmas is about giving back to others.”  It’s been said that Christmas is about, “love for others” and “peace on earth.” It’s been sung that Christmas is about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” The meaning of Christmas has been explained many times and many ways. While these are certainly some good things about Christmas, they fall well short of the true meaning of Christmas.

Our world has incredibly complex problems: wars, terrorism, famines, racism, loss, and catastrophes. People have complex problems: physical, emotional, and family problems. Sometimes we despair as we try to help others or to deal with our own problems. We fill our hearts with all kinds of choices, behaviors, stuff, or people only to find our lives empty of meaning.

Where do we go to find the meaning of Christmas? We go to the source of truth – God’s Word, the Bible. Listen to the angels as they announced Jesus’ birth:

“The angel said to the shepherds, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.” Luke 2:10–11

StoneMangerChristmas is about a Savior who was born for you! The meaning of Christmas begins and ends with a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. In Jesus Christ, God provided the simplest solution for all of the complex problems we make and face in this world. In Jesus Christ, God sent a Savior whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

Some might scoff about the salvation of Jesus as a simplistic solution – one that really doesn’t work. Others might say that His incarnate birth a nice story, an interesting legend, harmless enough; but they would never consider it as a serious solution to any significant problems. But, God knows that the basic problem with the world is the sin of the human race. Sin, missing God’s standard for holiness and goodness in character and action, is what separates mankind from God and from each other. Any solutions that leave out dealing with our sin problem are the simplistic solutions. The only solution that offers true hope and real help to humanity’s complex problems is that which takes into account the sinful hearts of people and offers a practical solution to that universal, and yet, personal problem of sin.

The angels from heaven announced God’s provision of this Savior. The birth of Jesus is a fact of history: “Today…was born.” The birth of Jesus is a foundation for eternity: “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” And, His birth is a fulfillment of prophecy: “in the city of David.”

The angels from heaven announced God’s purpose of a Savior (Luke 2:11)  The name, Savior, defines both His life and His death. If you’re simply looking for moral reformation or behavior modification, you might need a life coach, a cheerleading section, or a really good friend, but not a Savior. But if your life requires mortal resurrection (and it does because we are all sinners who sin), you’re going to need something beyond yourself. If your life of captivity to sin has resulted in spiritual death (which it has), you need someone who will raise dead people to life. If your sin has separated you from a Holy, Perfect God, then you need a Savior who died in your place to reconcile you to Him.

In Jesus, God provided what we needed the most, when we deserved it least, at the greatest personal cost to Him (see Isaiah 53). Jesus came to live as the perfect God-man who could die in our place for the forgiveness of our sin.

Jesus_candlesThe angels from heaven also introduced God’s promise of this Savior. The birth of Jesus was “good news of great joy for all the people.” Later, Jesus Himself clearly communicated the promise of His advent: “The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) He had come to seek us out. Jesus came to earth as a rescue mission. When we think of someone being lost we think of helicopters hovering in the night sky, overboard sailors clinging to the wreckage of a ship, coal miners trapped beneath the earth, or children who cannot be found. But these temporal situations are transcended by the eternal tragedy of people who are lost in the rubble of their own sin, buried in the darkness of self-sufficiency, suffocating by loneliness, and crushed by personal pain.

Sometimes the solutions to life’s problems are simpler than we think. With the birth of Jesus which we celebrate at Christmas, God sought us out, rescued us, and saved us by His grace, mercy, and love (Titus 3:4-7).

There was a man who traveled a great distance for an interview with a distinguished scholar. He was ushered into the man’s study, where he said, “Doctor, I notice that the walls of your study are lined with books from the ceiling to the floor. No doubt you have read them all. I know you have written many yourself. You have traveled extensively, and doubtless you’ve had the privilege of conversing with some of the world’s most intelligent and wisest men. I’ve come a long way to ask you just one question. Tell, me, of all you’ve learned, what is the one thing most worth knowing?” Putting his hand on his guest’s shoulder, the scholar replied with emotion in his voice, “My dear sir, of all the things I have learned, only two are really worth knowing. The first is, I am a great sinner, and the second, Jesus Christ is a great Savior!” If you know those two things personally, you know the meaning of Christmas – that a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord!

That’s what Christmas is all about. A Savior, Christ the Lord, who was born for you. It really is that simple.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!

The Nativity

The Nativity

“The Nativity” by Gari Melchers is one of my favorite artistic portrayals of the birth of Jesus because it seems to capture the harsh realities of the night that changed the world.

Before the shepherds appear to tell about the angelic announcement, before the wise men arrive to worship Him and present their gifts, there’s just Mary, exhausted from child birth, and Joseph, overwhelmed by the task in front of him, and the baby in a feeding trough, an unplanned pregnancy and inconvenient birth that saved us all.

“I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.  This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Luke 2:10-12

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Unplanned Pregnancy

Unplanned birth“The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant…” (Matthew 1:18).

There it is in the Bible: the birth of Jesus was an unplanned pregnancy. Certainly it wasn’t the first in the history of the world nor would it be the last.

Joseph, being a godly, righteous man, had options. He could hardly let his fiancé’s pregnancy pass without action since it implied that she had been unfaithful and had violated the Mosaic Law. So, he had three options concerning how to proceed. First, he could expose Mary publicly as unfaithful whereby she would have suffered the shame of a public divorce (Deut. 22:23–24). A second option was to grant her a private divorce in which case Joseph needed only to hand her a written certificate in the presence of two witnesses (cf. Num. 5:11–31). His third option was to remain engaged and not divorce Mary, but this alternative appeared to Joseph to require him to break the Mosaic Law (Lev. 20:10). So, he decided to divorce her privately (Matthew 1:19). This preserved his righteousness, that is, his conformity to the Law, and allowed him to demonstrate compassion for his young fiancé, Mary.

But there was another option that Joseph had not considered, let alone imagined: Mary was indeed pregnant, but it was not a pregnancy born of promiscuity. Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. It was a miracle by the power of God’s Holy Spirit to fulfill His long-awaited promise of a Savior (Isaiah 7:14).

“An angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

unplanned pregnancyThe virgin birth of Jesus is technically the virgin conception. Mary was not just a virgin when she bore Jesus in Bethlehem, but she was one when she conceived Him in Nazareth. Who was prepared among their peers to understand such a biological anomaly? And yet, this real option of Jesus’ miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit was crucial if Jesus was to be our sinless sacrifice.

The virgin conception was necessary to preserve the baby from the stain of sin. The angel explained the appropriateness of this name (cf. Ps. 130:8). The name “Jesus” means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” Jesus, the sinless Savior, is God’s gift to us to accomplish what no other child could ever do.

“Joseph did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him, Jesus” (Matthew 1:24-25)

My earthly life and eternal future were changed forever by one unplanned pregnancy that saved us all. “O come, let us adore Him.”

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

In Those Days

TheophilusFaith in Jesus’ incarnation certainly requires belief in the supernatural work of God, but it’s not a leap beyond reason.

In the Gospel of Luke, the author carefully investigated and provided specific details about the political rulers and setting surrounding Jesus’ birth that were important to Theophilus (Luke 1:3-4), perhaps a political leader himself, whose faith needed historical validity and intellectual credibility.

The coming of Jesus, the Christ, is not a fairy tale that begins with, “Once upon a time…” Instead, it’s a promise fulfilled, “In those days…” The human birth of God’s Eternal Son was a real event in real time among real people so that we might have real hope and not just wishful thinking.

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

Prince of Peace

Our world today is anything but peaceful. Many people are driven by fear, angry about the events of our world, protesting the injustices of racism or refugees, preparing for war, and even fighting a war of words within our country. As we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), we are anything but peaceful.

Jesus said to His followers on the night He was betrayed and eventually crucified, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27).

Jesus gives His peace to us today as an inheritance that will secure our composure and dissolve our fears (Philippians 4:7). It’s His peace that controls our hearts (Colossians 3:12-15). For “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgement” (2 Timothy 1:7). Jesus gives us His peace as we walk with Him by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) rather than be stirred up by earthly fears.

Paris attacksJesus, Himself, felt troubled by His impending crucifixion (John 12:27), yet still trusted His Heavenly Father’s will to be done (Matthew 26:39,42). So, the peace that Jesus gives is not an exemption from conflicts and difficulties; it’s a part of taking up our cross to follow Him (Luke 9:23-24). Resting in His peace is not an escape from reality nor is it an excuse for passivity. In fact, His peace is anything but passive — it must be actively pursued because it doesn’t come naturally (Psalm 34:14Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14).

Peace will not come if we speak in words that inflame arguments or in ways that antagonize other people (1 Timothy 5:1–22 Timothy 2:1424–26). We should be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry (James 1:19) and even slower to post or comment on social media. The things that make for peace are refraining from verbal criticism and resisting cynical thinking by leaning on Jesus through dependent prayer (John 15:4, Galatians 5:22-23). We need to live peaceably with all people as much as we can (Matthew 5:9Mark 9:50Romans 12:18) because peaceful interpersonal relationships (including those on social media) produce godliness (James 3:18). When Peter rashly took matters into his own hands, Jesus admonished him to submit to the sovereignty of God (Matthew 26:52-54) because man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness (James 1:20).

Protestors in ChicagoThe peace that Jesus gives us is not an absence of conflict, rather, it’s a settled confidence that comes from knowing that we are right with God and that one day Jesus will come for those of us who are waiting for His return (Isaiah 53:5Romans 5:11 Pe 2:24–25Titus 2:11-14). Not only is Jesus the God of peace, but we can experience the peace of God (Philippians 4:7). As fully devoted followers of Jesus who focus on this truth, we can experience supernatural peace in the midst of trouble and fear, just as Jesus did.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace today as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). May the God of peace Himself set you apart for His purposes completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do these things (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  He is, after all, the Prince of Peace.
Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.