Advent – Looking With Hope for the Coming of Christ

Matthew 24:4,9,10

Advent - Looking With Hope for the Coming of Christ

“Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” Matthew 24:4

What does it mean to “come in the name of Christ?” Though we may not claim to be the Messiah, in our discussions with others we may accidentally insert false teachings and claim they are from Christ.

The Apostle Paul warned: If anyone teaches otherwise (in this case that we should show disrespect to those in authority over us) and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have been robbed of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 6:3-5

To be clear, Paul wrote these instructions to slaves, which invites a discussion on slavery. But his message remains: show respect to all who are in authority over you and agree with the instructions and words of Christ and God.

Jesus warns that we are to be alert. Test every spirit, every doctrine (1 John 4:1-6). Examine every teaching.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. – Ephesians 5:6-12

Should you find yourself learning under someone who affirms and promotes sinful practices, walk away. Find teachers and leaders who honor God’s instructions; learn from them.

“After wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and the beginnings of birth pains, you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death. You will be hated by all nations because of Christ.” Matthew 24:9

In America, individuals seeking to serve as judges are attacked for affirming their belief in God’s Word. Christian groups on college campuses are banned for affirming their belief in God’s words. Advocacy groups are demanding that The Department of Education pull the accreditation of Christian colleges if they do not amend their beliefs. In the U.K., Barclays closed the bank account of a Christian charity for sharing the Good News of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  Christian foster care services  that place children in homes are threatened with lawsuits for affirming God’s design for family. Christians in America continue to enjoy greater freedoms than any in the world, but Christ warned this will not always be the case.

“At that time many will turn away from the faith.” – Matthew 24:10

According to the Barna Group, “rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have been dropping for decades. Americans’ beliefs and its religious identity is changing.”

Tessa Landrum of Kentucky Today, writes, “Those born between 1995 and 2015 are “individualistic, lonely, and social justice oriented. They were raised on technology and their lives are often built around the online world. They are activists and volunteers who want to make an impact on the world. They were raised during the Great Recession and value financial stability. They are sexually fluid. And they account for 25.9% of the American population. They will change the landscape of our society with their ideas and values – many of which omit the idea of Christian faith and the prospect of church membership.

In his book Meet Generation Z, James White writes, “the most defining mark of members of Generation Z, in terms of their spiritual lives, is their spiritual illiteracy. They do not know what the Bible says. They do not know the basics of Christian belief or theology. They do not what the cross is all about. They do not know what it means to worship.”

What about you? When persecution costs you your job, health insurance, home, friends, family relationships, will you turn away from Christ? Will you love yourself and your neighbor more than God?

Christ gave us the formula for social change.

Love the Lord your God with:
all your heart (starts with love for Him)
all your soul (the very essence of who you are)
all your strength (energy exercised and exhibited)
all your mind. (transformed through the reading of His word with illumination from His Holy Spirit)

Then:
Love your neighbor
Love yourself.” Luke 10:27

Any time we invert this formula and attempt to:
Love self
Love neighbor
Love God
we, at best, produce individuals who help others through self-sustained good works, rather than through the endless power of Christ’s Holy Spirit.

At Christmas we celebrate the coming of Christ as an infant. He will return as King of Kings. Will you be ready?

The Lord’s Will Be Done

Acts 21

The Lord's Will Be Done

We tore ourselves away. Acts 21:1

Though the Spirit they urged Paul not to go . . . we continued on our way. On the beach we knelt and prayed. Acts 21:4-5

Phillip the evangelist had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. Acts 21:9

The prophet Agabus warned, “The Holy Spirit says, the owner of this belt will be handed over to the Gentiles.” Acts 21:11

We pleaded with Paul not to go. Acts 21:12 But then we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” Acts 21:14

Often we think an open door is God’s will. Or that a closed door is his answer to our prayer. Other times the nudging of the Holy Spirit seems to point us in a direction . . . or stop us in our tracks. In all cases we need to test the spirits.

In the above passages, twice the Holy Spirit warned Paul of the trials he would face if he proceeded. Paul’s godly friends begged him to turn back, but Paul remained sure of his calling and God’s will for him. The Holy Spirit did not tell Paul to turn back, but the Spirit of Christ did prepare him for the trials he was to face. And all that the Holy Spirit warned of came true, and yet Paul did not die. Though he was imprisoned, God opened a door for him to witness in Rome to those in the household of Herod.

If we pay close attention we can hear the Holy Spirit speaking of the trials we may face. This warning may not be our call to retreat, but, like Paul, to advance boldly. Are you leaning forward in your walk with Christ, or looking back?

Savage Wolves Will Come in Among You and Will Not Spare the Flock

Acts 20

Savage Wolves Will Come in Among You and Will Not Spare the Flock

While I testified to the gospel of God’s grace I have served the Lord with great humility and with tears. Although I was severely tested by the plans of others, you know I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you. Acts 20: 19-20

I have declared that all must turn to God in repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus. Acts 20:21

Now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going, not knowing what will happen to me. Acts 20:22

I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the WHOLE WILL of GOD. Therefore, keep watch over all those whom the Holy Spirit has placed in your care. Acts 2028

I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples. Therefore, I have warned you: Be on your guard! Acts 20:29-31

If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time. – Oswald Chambers

Soon the Whole City Was in an Uproar

Acts 19

Soon the Whole City Was in an Uproar

About the time Paul visited the province of Asia there arose a great disturbance in the city of Ephesus about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius called together the craftsmen and said, “You see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name but the goddess Artemis will be robbed of her divine majesty.”  Acts 19:23, 26-27

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis.” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Paul’s traveling companions and rushed as one man into the theater. The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting on thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. They all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis.” Acts 19:28-29, 32, 34

How about us? Are we in an uproar over some grievance or offence? Have we been insulted, disrespected, disenfranchised, under counted, over looked, left behind, or misunderstood? Are our hurts worth the division and violence that will follow from our outburst?

The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Men of Ephesus, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. If you have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly.” Acts 19:35, 36, 38-39.

When we died in Christ and were born into his Spirit, we agreed that our natural born rights granted in the Kingdom of Man became secondary to the rights gained in the Kingdom of God. Now the only right that matters is the right to be called a child of God. In our actions are we imitators of Christ? Let us live in peace with others through the Spirit of Christ, not as the ungodly who worship the idols of some fading movement. Our neighbors are watching.

Apollos Was a Learned Man, With a Thorough Knowledge of the Scriptures

Acts 18

Apollos Was a Learned Man, With a Thorough Knowledge of the ScripturesApollos was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor. He taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.  – Acts 18:24-25

Are we learned men and women? Do we meditate on God’s word daily? Are we thoroughly knowledgable of the Scriptures?

The Religion News Service recently quoted an individual as saying, “I started to break down my faith and ask, ‘Why is all the Bible written by men? Why is it all one-sided? What do we do with the genocide and the poor treatment of women?’ ”

This individual reflects a growing segment of the population who hold that the Bible is little more than a flawed historical document. To this point Dr. George Barna, founder of The Barna Group, a market research firm specializing in studying the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans, was recently quoted as saying,

“America is in a post-Christian Reformation theology and this reformation is being driven by American culture rather than biblical truth. The worldviews embraced by the adherents of these distinct religious communities reflect contemporary, worldly influence, rather than biblical influence. The most startling realization is how many people from evangelical churches are adopting unbiblical beliefs.”

“Evangelicals have traditionally emphasized the importance of seeing the Bible as the infallible, inerrant Word of God. Now, however, 52 percent do not believe in objective moral truth, which ‘equates to most evangelicals believing that the Bible is either not inerrant or trustworthy in its content.’ That, said Barna, “is a radical and critical departure from the traditional teachings and biblical reliance of evangelicals.”

Contrast the current state of the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans with those of Apollos who, “began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” – Acts 18:26

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he asked some disciples, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied. 
Paul then placed his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other languages and prophesied. – Acts 19:2-4, 6

How about you? Have you been baptized into Christ through his death and resurrection? Do you recall when you professed your faith in Christ? Were you confirmed into a church without receiving the Spirit of Christ through the laying on of hands? If so, find a body of believers who will witness to your Holy Spirit baptism and then record the date of your Holy Spirit Baptism in your Bible. There may come a day when your family and loved ones will find comfort in knowing that you professed your faith in Christ on a certain date.

However some in Ephesus became obstinate. They refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. – Acts 19:9

A hardening of the heart follows obstinance and rebellion. Left unchecked, a mocking spirit takes residence within.

But others were seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. – Acts 19:17-18

Fear of the Lord leads to reverence. Reverence leads to worship. Worship leads to a desire to honor God. And when we have fear of, reverence for, and desire to honor God, we will repent, confess our sins, and worship God with thanks.

By going through our trial we learn to know God better. Oswald Chambers

Life is one trial after another. With the Spirit of Christ within, we can treat each trial as another opportunity to experience God’s love in greater ways.

Examine the Scriptures Every Day

Acts 17

Examine the Scriptures Every DayThe Bereans examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

How about us? Do we examine the Scriptures each day to see if what Paul said, what a writer, preacher, friend says about God’s words are true? God is not worried that an audit of his words will reveal an error, for through his Spirit the writer of Proverbs said, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Proverbs 30:5

Jealous Jews rounded up bad characters, formed a mob, and started a riot in the city. These jealous Jews went to Berea, agitating the crowd, and stirring them up. Acts 17:5 & 13

Do we? When circumstances run counter to what we hoped would happen, do we round up a tribe of like-minded believers, form a mob, and riot in the streets and online? Perhaps because Paul endured beatings prompted by agitated mobs, he wrote, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18

A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with Paul, asking, “What is this babbler trying to say?” They took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “You bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” Acts 17:18-21

Is this the way we seek wisdom and knowledge? By rushing after the latest popular movement or some awakened understanding that suggests we are more enlightened than God? Do the words of God leave us confused, as though he speaks in code? If so, we only need to raise our hand and ask for help. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”-  James 1:5

“God is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, for he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place. God did this in order that they should seek him, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. In the past God overlooked our times of ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:26-31

As the psalmist says, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” Psalm 100:2. Never forget that we can only serve God because through his mercy he allows us to come into his presence. He does not need to be served, but through his grace, he allows us to anoint his feet with perfume and wipe his feet with the very hairs on our head. He saves. He redeems. He has fixed a day for judgement.  All he asks of us is that we turn from our sins and towards him. Will we?

 

Lord, you are my shield around me. You bestow glory on me. You lift up my head. To you, I cry aloud and you answer from your holy hill. I lie down and sleep. I awake again because of you. Sustain me. Arise, O Lord. Deliver me, O God! From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessings be on your people. May your blessings be on me.  Psalm 3

I Am Poor and Needy

Psalm 40

I Am Poor and NeedyBlessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust. Psalm 40:4

Blessed is the man who does not look to the proud, to those who turn to false gods. Psalm 40:4

My prayer:

I proclaim (your) righteousness in the great assembly. I do not seal my lips. Psalm 40:9

I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and truth from the great assembly. Psalm 40:10

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord. May your love and your truth always protect me. Psalm 40:11

My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. Psalm 40:12

O Lord, come quickly to help me. Psalm 40:13

I am poor and needy. Lord, may you think of me. You are my help and my deliverer. O my God, do not delay! Psalm 40:17