Saturday, December 23, 2017

4th Week of Advent - Peace

This week we celebrate the fourth week of advent.  Advent is a season of for many Christians that includes the four weeks prior and culminating with Christmas    The season of Advent is considered the beginning of the church year, primarily because it recounts the beginning chapters and verses in the New Testament.  During Advent, we also look forward and prepare for the second coming of Jesus.  In the Bible, these prophecies are referred to as the “last days”.

Each of the four Sundays in Advent are assigned one special focus or application:  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  In this fourth week of advent we look at Peace.  

One of the major Messianic prophecies in the Bible is in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 9 verse 6.  In these verses we see Jesus as the Prince of Peace.

“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.” Isaiah 9:6

While Jesus was the Prince of Peace, we mistakenly think that the peace that He brings is from war or aggression.  We can easily forget that the Peace that Jesus brought was primarily between God and Man.  

We can be the recipients of that peace with God through Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul also talks about this peace impacting both Jews and Gentiles: 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:13-18 NKJV)

In Jesus we can be complete, we can have peace. The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom which also means completeness and well-being.   Jesus came to save us, to make us complete.  By trusting in Jesus, the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins, we can experience true peace, or shalom, of God.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Third Week of Advent - Joy

This week we celebrate the third week of advent.  Advent is the time of preparation including the four Sundays and weeks before Christmas.  Interestingly, before there was any celebration of Christmas, Christians would celebrate the Ephany (January 6th) and prior to that feast new believers would prepare falso for four weeks, for Baptism. 

Today in many churches we celebrate Advent.  Each of the four Sundays in Advent are assigned one special focus or application:  Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.  

In this third week of advent we look at Joy.  

One of the very first verses our children learned was Philippians 4:4 which reads. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." (ESV)     Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit along with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.  The Bible tells us that as Christians we are to automatically produce these fruits.

It may be difficult sometimes to be joyful but every day there are many blessings to be counted.   These difficult days are times when it’s good to remember friends, family, and significant people and events in our lives that gives us great joy.

The Bible tells of the shepherds in the field and the angel that brought good news of great joy.
"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." - Luke 2:8-10

We have a choice each day to live our life with Joy and happiness or sadness and depression.  Here are some ways to remember to be joyful:
  1. We can trust in God even when we have every reason to doubt.  God is faithful.  The Bible says he is our strong tower, our ever-present hope in time of need. He has promised to never leave us.
  2. Giving to others in their time of need is a sure way to turn your frown into a smile.   The Bible says it’s better to give than receive and this is exactly the point.  Giving releases that gift of joy.
  3. Exercise is great for the body and exercising your faith is great for your spirit.   Pray, spend some time in worship, open the Bible and enjoy time with the Word of the Lord and quickly, the God of hope will fill you with joy and peace as you trust Him  (Romans 15:13.

Advent is a time of preparation.  In this third week we are getting closer to the business of the holiday.  Make sure you spend time to prepare your heart for this wonderful celebration of the coming of the King. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2nd Week of Advent - Love

This week we celebrate the second week of advent.  Advent is from the Latin word for “coming”, or “to come”  Each of the four Sundays in Advent are assigned one special focus or application:  Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.  In this second week of advent we look at Love.  

The Bible tells us that God is Love.   It isn’t just that He has love or shows us how to love, while this also may be true.   When we say God is love we also acknowledge that it was love that both created the universe, our earth and mankind but also provided the atonement through Christ as God loved us.   While most people immediately recognize John 3:16, here is another verse that tells of the love of God.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7-12.)

At Christmas we are reminded by the Christ child of how accessible God has made himself to us.  A baby is born in Bethlehem.  This is no ordinary birth nor ordinary child for this is a the promised Messiah, the Emmanuel or “God with us”.

Love was born in Bethlehem.  It is out the capacity of God’s love that mankind is redeemed and set free.   The message of Christmas is love.  In fact, the entire gospel including the prophecies of His birth, to the nativity, to the cross, to the resurrection, to the establishment of the Church and to his second coming is all and entirely about love.

In our ministry as Pastors and Christian leaders, we must continually teach that love is not only the end goal, it is also the very beginning of a relationship with God.  Love is given but at the same time, God receives, deserves and demands our love. 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

1st Week of Advent - Hope

This week, many Christians around the world will be celebrating the first week of advent.  The word “Advent” means coming or arrival.  

During this time, we celebrate the arrival of the Christ child, the Nativity of the Son of God, in Bethlehem.  At the same time we are looking forward to His second coming.   Each of the four Sundays in Advent are assigned one special focus or application:  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

In this first week of advent we look at Hope.  It is very fitting to start with Hope as it was the hope of the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah that filled the hearts of the angels, shepherds and wise men with joy.

Just as importantly, we have what the Bible tells us is the Blessed Hope of the Second Coming of Jesus.   Paul tells us that the grace of God enables us “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  (Titus 2:12-13)

The blessed hope of every Christian is the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior.  This hope is not uncertain, but an assurance that Jesus will return just has Jesus said he would return.    By the blessed hope we look forward to an event called the rapture.  This word rapture The word “rapture” was from the Latin “rapio” meaning to be “caught up” used in 1st Thessalonians 4:17. 
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (NIV)
 This same event is also described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
This event called the rapture is eminent, meaning there are no prerequisites before Jesus  is to return.  The ancient church was convinced that Jesus was going to return and I believe it is exactly the way every Christian generation should live.  While there are no prerequisites to the second coming of Jesus, the prophets tell of certain events that will happen including the gathering of the dispersed people of Israel and their return to Jerusalem, the holy city.  Jesus also promised in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

So this week, the First Week of Advent we celebrate Hope. 

There’s a song by Chris Tomlin that speaks of this blessed hope.  It’s called “I will Rise”  

Here’s a portion: 

There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

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