YOUR BROTHER WILL RISE AGAIN

John 11:24 – Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day”.

The eleventh chapter of John gives us one of the greatest messages of hope. Mary and Martha had expected Jesus to immediately come when hearing of their brother’s sickness. He did not, and Lazarus died. He was buried before the Lord arrived. Their hopes were dashed and they were only left with the hope of the future resurrection. Life is filled with dashed hopes and expectations for many. Some people experience more than others.

When Jesus arrived, Martha appealed to Him by saying, “Even now, I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (John 11:22). Jesus assured Martha that her brother would rise again. Martha responded that she knew he would rise again in the resurrection on the last day. This is an important statement that helps us to understand the next great event. Martha’s statement is consistent with both Old and New Testament Scriptures that indicate the resurrection is the final event of human history, happening on the “last day,” as Paul said, “at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Jesus then gave Martha the cornerstone of our Christian Faith. “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26). “Never die,” is the greatest guarantee we possess. That promise contains all the promises of God. “They are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). For the believer, life is settled in the “I am.” Our life is hidden in Christ, who is in God.

Martha was contending with human emotions in the passing of this good man, Lazarus. She was confused and broken, yet abiding in her was faith concerning the future resurrection. As you prepare for the New Year set your eyes on Jesus, the resurrection and the life. He alone provides hope and stability as we weather difficult seasons in life. There is no promise made of an easy life void of hurt and difficulty. But there is the promise of both His presence and His physical return. Jesus’ presence made the difference in Lazarus’ case. The resurrection of Christ sealed the future for all those who put their trust in Him.

As the early church faced Great Tribulation and the future destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus instructed John to write down what he saw and send it to the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation, which is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).

Christ Jesus rules the nations, directing events for His purposes. He revealed to John how He was about to direct the events at the end of that generation who first heard the Good News of His Gospel, events of judgment against His enemies. Beloved, be encouraged, regardless of what may happen in your life or in the nations, Jesus is Lord! He is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Coming King who will judge all those who have rejected His Covenant. Hope in God! Trust in Christ! Be filled again and again with the Holy Spirit. Enjoy your life in God.

Father, I thank You for Your promise given to Martha, “he will rise again”. I thank You that Your promises are Yes and Amen to Your glory. Help me bring glory to Your name throughout the coming year.  

GOD’S SON HAS SPOKEN IN THESE LAST DAYS

Hebrews 1:1-2 – God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

These words were written to Hebrew believers who were being persecuted and had become discouraged. The author wrote, “In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:2). And again he wrote, “How will we escape if we neglect so great salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:3-4).

The Gospel was preached and confirmed in the generation of the disciples. Part of the message was a coming judgment on the Jewish nation that rejected two things. They did not accept the New Covenant in the blood of Christ and the presence of the kingdom in the person of the Holy Spirit. The writer of Hebrews identified the last days as beginning in the ministry of Jesus. For that generation, it was the end of the Jewish religious system as they knew it. The city of Jerusalem along with the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, just as Jesus had warned throughout His earthly ministry. The Apostles gave the same message of warning throughout their ministry.

Just before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus entered the temple and judged the religious leaders with very harsh words (Matthew 23). He went on to share with His disciples in Matthew 24 concerning the events which would transpire in their generation before His return when He would finish the apocalyptic judgment on the Jewish religious system which had rejected His Messianic message and the gift of His Holy Spirit. Once we understand the “Gospels” and the message of the apostles to their generation, we can inquire of the Lord of our generation. We can look forward to His bodily return for His church and the eventual judgment of the Gentile nations who reject His Lordship in the earth.

The early church was created at the beginning of the last days, as represented by Peter in his first sermon recorded in Acts 2. Our generation exists at the end of those last days when we are to be looking for the literal and physical return of our Lord. The message of His return is a vital message needing to be preached in our times. Unfortunately, men have scrambled the message of Christ’s return with their own ideas, making it difficult for people to receive. The message is clear and not as complicated as it has been made out to be. In the very same way Christ fulfilled all His words to His disciples when He came in judgment of the Christ-rejecting Jewish system. This time, He will come to judge the whole world, but this time His saints will be with Him.

Paul described the “mystery of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57. “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.” Just as Mary’s boy was born and brought redemptive hope to all of Israel and eventually the entire world, hope continues as we wait for His victorious return. 

Father, I thank You that You sent Your Son to speak in these last days. I put my faith in all He has spoken and wait for Your promises to be fulfilled in my Lord’s return. Help me speak clearly and plainly of Your return in the hopes of many coming to Christ.

KEEPING YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE

Hebrews 12:2 (KJV) – Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus is the prize!

Joseph kept his eye on Mary and then Mary and Jesus after the Lord’s birth. He knew His responsibility in serving the God of Israel. While God, who is in heaven, was the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit, Joseph provided earthly fathering for Jesus. Jesus was known as “the carpenter” (Matthew 6:3), one could surmise that He worked with Joseph in the carpenter shop.

John the Baptist looked for the “Lamb of God.” His eyes were looking for the one who would take away the sins of the world. With the information we have about John, we know he was filled with the Holy Spirit while in his mother’s womb. We know he separated himself from society and spent time in the wilderness, no doubt, seeking God concerning his assignment.

All of the disciples of our Lord were engaged in the society and culture of that day. They had jobs, they were integrated with family and their immediate culture. The twelve saw Jesus and followed Him at His invitational call. Eleven kept their eyes on Christ and fulfilled their calling. One turned out to be a “traitor,” selling out to the Lord’s enemies for a few pieces of silver.

Down through history the story is told of multitudes whose spiritual eyes were drawn to Jesus and followed Him. Some followed Christ to martyrdom. Many others have stories that will not be told until eternity. All those who followed the Lord in this life found fulfillment in their obedience to His leading.

Along with these saints, we are looking for the glorious return of our Lord and Savior in bodily form. The Scriptures tell us that when He comes “His reward is with Him” (Revelation 22:12). The prize is Christ, but He is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). We are called to keep our eyes “fixed upon Jesus” (1 John 3:3). All our hope, our absolute certainty, is rooted in the promise of His return for His own. It is important day by day to remind ourselves, He is coming again and His reward is with Him. Keep your eyes fixed upon the Savior. The things of this life will soon fade away, but He is our steadfast hope.

Father, I thank You for all those who have demonstrated that their eyes were fixed on Jesus. Help me to keep my eyes on the prize. Protect me from the distractions of the world and the challenges in life that can cause me to take my eyes off the Lord and His reward.

THE RETURN OF OUR GREAT GOD AND KING

Titus 2:13-14 – Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Isn’t our God good? He prepared the entire world for the advent of our Savior, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. As we celebrate His first advent of 2,000 years ago, let us not forget His Second Advent is before us. The Lord is even now preparing the modern world for the greatest event in all history, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in bodily form to receive His redeemed people and judge all who have rejected His gracious offer of salvation and eternal life.

Every believer should be looking for the blessed hope. The world does not have such hope. The world only possesses ideas of trying to produce utopia, peace among men, and a better world system. The problem is deeply rooted in man, mainly his heart that is filled with selfishness and pride. Even in democracies, it is observable how corrupt the heart of man has become. Political campaigns are filled with ego and pride. It is a proven fact that negative campaigning is effective.

The answer to man’s dilemma is rooted in our scripture for today. Christ Jesus gave Himself to redeem us from every lawless deed. Humans cannot help themselves when it comes to being lawless before God. We just can’t keep His laws, no matter how hard we try. We can discipline ourselves to be as good as possible, but there is no hope of attaining God-like righteousness without Christ. The Holy Spirit redeems us and imparts a right standing before God because of what Christ has done. The Holy Spirit is always at work in our lives to purify and set us apart to be zealous for every good deed. Christ’s work in us is not only for today, but that He might present us to God His Father in eternity. He is coming back for a spotless bride, not resulting from our efforts, but rather His cleansing blood.

As we leave this Christmas season and walk toward a New Year, let us move our eyes from the babe in a manger to the ascended Lord who is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High. He is the one who is preparing to return for His blood-washed people and judge all those who refused His Gospel of Peace. This year, allow the Holy Spirit to work deeper in your heart. Embrace His plan and purpose of producing more of Jesus in all you do and say.

Father, I thank You for the redemption that has freed me from lawlessness unto good deeds. I pray for daily infillings of Your Holy Spirit to help me grow into Jesus’ image and likeness. I pray for Your church to be prepared for Your glorious return to take place, in Your perfect timing.

CHRISTMAS, CHRIST’S DAY

John 1:4-5 – In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The Gospel of John does not give us the details of the Christmas story, but sums up in these two verses what the Christmas story is about. The earth was filled with death and darkness. There was no real hope, except in the “promises of God” of the One to be born who would free humanity from the chains of death and darkness.

The time had come! “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). God promised that the deliverer would come as the “seed of the women” (Genesis 3:15). The entire Law of God given through Moses, pointed toward the coming deliverer. The Law could not save us because of the weakness of human flesh, “What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-5).

God the Father has summed up everything in His Son Jesus, the Christ. Today, we are free to receive all the Father has promised and prepared for those who are willing to abandon their own life for new life in Jesus. Presently, it is spiritual. By faith, we choose Christ and His life over our natural life and its resulting death. By faith, we receive His Holy Spirit, who gives us the Life of Christ through the “new birth.” We are empowered to live a life free from sin and share with others God’s Good News of life and light. God will use each believer, who allows Him, to lead others into a relationship with the living God through faith in Christ the Lord.

We look forward to the next great advent of our Lord, which is His Second Coming. No man knows the day nor the hour of the Lord’s return, but we are to live entirely for Him, waiting in expectation of that glorious day.

Most were not prepared for His first advent. Multitudes missed out on the great benefits of His first coming. Since that time, many have believed and have prepared themselves for His return. Those who died in Christ did not see their hope fulfilled in this life. They are now with Him in heaven and will return with Him as a great company of faithful ones to receive those who remain on earth. Together we will ever be with the Lord. The Apostle John puts it this way, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

Merry Christmas in the worship of the Newborn King!

GO INTO THE LAND

Matthew 2:19-20 – When Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.”

Christmas Eve is a wonderful time for celebrating the new life which was about to be birthed in the earth. The exact date is not all that relevant, but the reality of this occurrence changes the perspective of eternity. Our Scripture for today is filled with hope and encouragement that the Lord’s enemies will be silenced and the land is our possession. The early church experienced how the enemies of Christ became His footstool with the death of Nero and the destruction Jerusalem and the Jewish religious system that had persecuted the early saints.

Life is a journey. Joseph journeyed to Egypt by divine direction. After Herod’s death, the Lord led him back to the place of his heritage. The enemy does all he can to hinder the purpose of God, but our God is sovereign and quiets His enemies so His people can accomplish their purpose. Joseph once again obeyed the divine leading and entered into a new season for his life, the life of Mary and the Child Jesus.

Even though Herod was dead, his son Archelaus was reigning over Judah. This caused Joseph to be afraid. I am certain that he sought the Lord to know what he should do. Many times, the Lord gives great victories to His people, but circumstances arise that can cause us to fear. Fear is natural, but must be overcome. God did not give us fear. “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, and love, and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Timidity is translated “fear” in the KJV. The spirit of fear or timidity has caused many to stumble and not fulfill God’s intentions. When fear raises its ugly head, we need to seek God’s help immediately.

God warned Joseph in another dream and he left for the region of Galilee to live in Nazareth. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, He was known as a “Nazarene.” Nazareth was an obscure, insignificant place. Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Thus the word Nazarene was a fitting title for the One who grew up “as a root out of dry ground, despised and rejected by men” (Isa 53:2-3).

Father, I thank You for how You lead each life chosen to fulfill Your will. Thank You for giving us the details of the birth of Your Son, Jesus of Nazareth. Thank You for Joseph, Mary’s husband, and the sold-out life He demonstrated. Help me, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, to also live a sold out life for You, reflecting Your will in all I do.