Advent – A Time Of Answered Prayers

An angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. The angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” – Luke 1:11-17

What prayer weighs on your heart? What desperate plea fills your waking thoughts and leaves you with disturbing dreams? “Do not be afraid. . .” the angel says. But commanding fear to flee does not seem to help. Are you willing to consecrate this prayer to God? To give it over to him to do as he wishes? Would your plea be so bold if you knew it would break your heart?

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” – Luke 1:35

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. – Luke 1:41

There it is, the joy of answered prayer. Your heart leaps at the thought that at last, the thing you so desperately seek is near. Only now there is a new nagging, an uneasiness that cannot be explained except by seeking after God. And as you draw nearer to him, there is a growing sense this gift will demand all of you.

Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. – Luke 1:67

You cannot help yourself. You must tell of what God has done for you. But in doing so your neighbors call you ignorant, uneducated, simple-minded. Smart people know better than to believe in God. Only a fool dares to claim that God speaks to people. And to admit you are possessed by a spirit? There are institutions for those who hear voices.

The child John grew and became strong in spirit, and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel. – Luke 1:80

Inspired, galvanized, fanatical . . . and now confined to a desert wilderness. What leader builds a following while isolated from society’s influencers, kingmakers, and power brokers? Only an individual following the voice of one.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14

Peace and the favor of God. Oh, if only you would bless me in this way, Lord. I so desperately need your strong hand of favor, your peace that passes understanding.

There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. – Luke 2:25-27 

Moved by the Spirit, cloaked with its power, we catch a glimpse of what’s to come.  Not all, but enough to confirm that if we hold firm, we will see God’s glory.

Simeon took [the child] in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:  a light for revelation to the Gentilesand the glory of your people Israel.” – Luke 2:28-32

Now we understand that our prayer is not for us alone, not for merely our family, our people, but a blessing for those we may never see.

Then Simeon blessed the child’s parents and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. – Luke 2:34-35

Our prayer began in our hearts. Now as if a mirror, it reveals the hearts of others. Will they see God’s glory in this thing we consecrate to God?

When his parents saw him [in the temple], they were astonished. “Why were you searching for me?” Jesus asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? – Luke 2:48-49

Home. We miss it. We wish to return. And yet we cannot remember our home. We only know this life is not our final resting place. We came from more. We will return to more. Until then, we sometimes find community, encouragement, and the strength among God’s people while we serve and love others in this foreign land.

Advent – A Time of Signs, Dreams, Visions. . . Miracles Are Coming

Today’s Christian seldom expects miracles. Oh sure, during Advent we recount the birth of Christ, tell its story, read of how God intervened in human history, but few of us act as if we believe the foolish tales of wise men watching, shepherds praising, and heavenly angels singing. The idea that God’s Holy Spirit would come upon a virgin and inseminate her with his son are at odds with our sense of what we know of science and the realities of nature.

Advent. . . a time of signs, dreams, visions, and the miraculous is best left on the pages of a Christmas book we dust off each year to remind ourselves that once upon a time we believed – or said we did. But what if the wise men, shepherds, a poor priest, and the young couple were telling the truth?

During the time of King Herod, Magi (wise men) from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1

A star. One among hundreds in the sky. Why this star? Why now? How did these wise men, these expert astrologers, know this star was for the one who had been born king of the Jews? And why had they left their homes in Mesopotamia to travel for a month or more in order to find this one whose star settled over Jerusalem? Would we? On a Sunday morning after a week of work, we can barely find the energy to drive to church.  And yet. . .  these wise men risked being robbed, killed by wild beasts, and slept under a frigid night sky in order to see if what they sought and saw was in fact God’s miraculous intervention into the lives of men.

Are we waiting for a sign from God? Are we watching? Or are we so settled in our comfortable lives that we no longer look up with expectation? Are we so wise in our own ways that we no longer expect God to intervene in our sickness, finances, families? One star among hundreds. . . but this one is different. And only a few recognize its significance.

Dreamer of dreams. . .

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. That dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 13:1-4 

Death. That is the end of dreamers and prophets and priests who lead others astray. And yet this man Joseph, a man of little significance, is willing to risk his reputation, and possibly his life, in order to lead others to an encounter with God.

What are we willing to risk? Our reputation? Certainly not. Who among us will say with boldness to a stranger that we hear God in our dreams, in our prayers? Better to let those whom we encounter remain lost in darkness than admit that we hear voices.

After Joseph had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20 

The punishment for adultery is death. . .  and yet Mary was pregnant. Not by Joseph, that much he knew. But by who? God’s Holy Spirit? Who would believe such nonsense? Would we? If so, based on what evidence? An angel in a dream? Is that how the miraculous comes, how faith begins? By rejecting death and grasping for life?

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13

A nighttime departure. No time to pack. No time for goodbyes.  Jolted awake from a dream so disturbing that it leaves him shaken with fear, Joseph finds himself visited once more by the God of dreams. His life and that of his wife and son are in danger. The king, the one with legions of Roman soldiers at his disposal, has placed a bounty on Joseph’s head and that of his family.

Suddenly awake, would we turn over, think about what our mind’s eye saw, our mind’s ear heard, and conclude it was all too much to believe? Has God warned us of what’s to come? Do we have a sense of uneasiness regarding someone we love? Do we respond with action? Or do we conclude that God no longer speaks to his people through dreams? Not like before, not like in the old days before we knew better than to believe in such fables?

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, the wise men returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:12

Another way. Not the well traveled path of before. Not with the easy route. No, this time our journey will be different. Harder. Perhaps more painful. For our safety and the safety of others, we must go a different way. And yet. . . here we are still wishing we could take the familiar route. There is comfort on the old road. There are places of rest along the old way. Acquaintances welcome us. But we have been warned. For the sake of others we can not go back by the way of old. Before us lies a vast landscape filled with dangers we’ve yet to face. So in darkness, alone, scared of what we will find as we travel through this land of death, we follow God’s whisper and take the narrow road.

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. Matthew 2:19

We can go home, now. The threat is gone. But we’re not so sure home is where we wish to be. We have made a place for ourselves in this foreign land. We know it is not our home, but it is safe. Who knows what this next journey will bring. In fear we arrived; in fear we return, for we are fearfully made. Fear is our default state of mind. We worry about what is ahead, if we can endure the journey. Though we knew this call would come, we are not ready. And yet. . .  we gather our loved ones around us and announce: “It’s time to go. Home awaits.” But will home look anything like what we remembered?

When Joseph heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee. – Matthew 2:22

Now every small detail matters. One wrong step and we could lose our life, our soul. No longer is it enough to believe in a vague God. Now we must know him so well that his every whisper reaches our ears. We now see it is not the destination that matters, but our walk, our way of listening and responding to the giver of dreams.

When Zechariah came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple. Luke 1:22

No more dreams. Now visions interrupt our reality. We can discount dreams. Dreams come to all who sleep. Why should our dreams be more significant than those of my neighbor?

But visions? To be suddenly blinded by the light of an angel speaking to us? Hallucinations happen to the heavily medicated. And yet I am sober. This can’t be. . . and yet it is. What of those other visions we saw? We had thought them only our wishful thinking. Now we see that all along those visions were from God.

In these last days he has spoken to us in such a way that we can no longer deny the truth: God is coming. He wants us to proclaim his arrival. And if we doubt, if we question the authenticity of his voice, silence may be our final word.

 

Advent – Benefits of Life Through the Holy Spirit

Romans 8

Now that the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you are in Christ and Christ is in you. You, God, Christ, and His Spirit are one.

But of what benefit is this new union? Let’s explore how this new birth will change you.

  • First you are no longer under condemnation. Romans 8:1
  • You are set free from the law of sin and death. Which is to say, sin no longer rules over you. Romans 8:2
  • You now meet all the righteous requirements of the law through your union with Christ. Romans 8:4
  • Your mind is now set on what the Spirit desires, not on the sinful desires of the flesh. Romans 8:5
  • You have peace of mind through the controlling nature of Christ’s Spirit. Romans 8:6
  • You please God and now willingly submit to His law, not to be saved, but as an act of love. Romans 8:7
  • In all things you are controlled by the Spirit of God. Romans 8:9
  • You belong to Christ. Romans 8:9
  • Christ is in you. Romans 8:10
  • The Spirit of Christ has given new life to your mortal body. Romans 8:11
  • Your earthly body will be redeemed. Romans 8:23
  • You are now obligated to live by the Spirit and produce its fruit. Romans 8:12-13
  • You are led by the Spirit. Romans 8:14
  • You are free from the spirit of fear. Romans 8:15
  • You are now a son or daughter of God. Romans 8:14 (Before you were God’s enemy.)
  • You received a Spirit of sonship. Romans 8:15
  • The Spirit of Christ testifies before God that you are His child. Romans 8:16
  • You are an heir of God and co-heir with Christ. Romans 8::17 This means you now share in all the benefits due a child of God.
  • You share in the sufferings of Christ. Romans 8:17 This may not sound like a great benefit, but when you recognize that those who persecute you do so because you are in Christ, you will enjoy a sense of honor in knowing you are worthy to be counted with Christ. Romans 8:17
  • Through your suffering in Christ you will also share in his glory. Romans 8:17
  • You enjoy a hope others lack. A hope that saves. A hope that endures patiently, expectantly. Romans 8:24-25
  • The Spirit of Christ prays for you. His Spirit knows what to pray on your behalf and intercedes for you. Even if all you can do is groan, if words fail you, Christ searches your heart. He knows the mind of the Spirit. You no longer need to wonder how to pray. The guesswork is gone. Even if you pray incorrectly, the Holy Spirit intercedes for you, correcting your requests. These prayers will align with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27
  • When God calls you to a task, whatever you do, however you do it, regardless of the circumstances or perceived outcome, God will work it out for the good. Not necessarily for your good, but at least your efforts won’t be wasted. Romans 8:28
  • You will be conformed into the likeness of Christ. If you like how Jesus behaved, cared for others, listened before speaking, never seemed to be in a panic or hurry. . .  You’ll like the way He fits on you. Romans 8:29
  • You will possess: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
  • All your sins will be rinsed and removed. Not once, but each time you go through the wash cycle.
  • As a result, you will be glorified. Romans 8:30
  • God will have your back. He will be in your corner. Romans 8:31
  • No charge lodged against you will stick. Though others will slander you, God will eventually clear your name. Romans 8:33
  • God is your justice. Romans 8:33
  • Not only is the Holy Spirit tweaking your prayers so they align with God’s will, but God himself is praying for you. Romans 8:34
  • You will remain fixed in the love of Christ. Romans 8:35
  • No amount of trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, danger, violent threats, or poverty will take you from the arms of Christ. Romans 8:35
  • You not only win your battles, but you are the champion of champions. Romans 8:37
  • No power, neither death nor life, angels or demons, your past, present or future, your deepest valley (depression) or highest mountain top experience (ecstasy) can take you from the love of God. During any and all of this you will remain in Christ and he will remain in you. Romans 8:38-39
  • You will know the thoughts of God. The Holy Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11
  • You will receive wisdom and revelation, so that you may know God and his Word better. Ephesians 1:17
  • When you read God’s Word, your heart will be warmed. Luke 24:32
  • When you read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will explain what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Christ. Luke 24:27 This is as it should be. The author of the text always has a greater understanding of its meaning than the reader. When you read Scripture with the Holy Spirit as your guide, the Author is revealing His deep truths to you. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (His Word), for they are folly to him. He is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 All Scripture is God-breathed (God’s Spirit). 2 Timothy 3:16 
  • You will know the hope to which you have been called. Ephesians 1:18
  • The eyes of your heart will be informed. Ephesians 1:18
  • You will have power. Acts 1:8
  • The Spirit of Truth will guide you into all truth John 16:13 Christ says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6 His Spirit will guide you in His Truth. “You will know the truth (Christ), and the truth will set you free (of sin).” John 8:32 & John 8:34-36
  • Your inheritance is guaranteed. When you believed, you were marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13
  • You will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry (loving anything more than God) and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies. Galatians 5:19-20 The transformative process of the Spirit may take time — maybe a lifetime. But in the same way a child grows from infant to toddler to child to young adult to maturity, you should over time, see these changes take place.

A Barna survey in 2009 showed that only 25% of professing Christians were certain the Holy Spirit is real and dwells within those in Christ. This lines up with Jesus’ parable of the sower where only 25% receive the seed and produce a good crop. Clearly, it’s hard to grow fruit when you are not connected to the vine. Those in Christ and who have Christ in them “now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root.” Romans 11:17 We should not boast in this. It is not our doing. We do not support the root, but the root supports us. Romans 11:18

If you wish to enjoy all the benefits of being in Christ and having Christ in you — in having the mind of God, character of Christ, and clear insight into God’s words and meaning — then ask Christ to come into you so that you may also be in Him. Become one of the 25% who produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Be like Christ. With His Spirit, you can!

 

 

Advent – The Holy Spirit Will Come Upon You

Advent – The Holy Spirit Will Speak, Act Upon, Warn, & Instruct

Wait for the Gift My Father Promised

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17
 

Questions to Consider as You Read the Verses Below

  • Who / what is the Holy Spirit? 
  • When and how do we receive the Holy Spirit?
  • What does the Holy Spirit do?
  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
  • How can I know that I am filled with the Holy Spirit?
  • How can others know you have the Holy Spirit?
  • What physical attributes does the Holy Spirit express?
  • How does the Holy Spirit assist you?

“Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” – Acts 1:4

“John baptized with water. In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:5

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” – Acts 1:8

“You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things. The Holy Spirit will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:26

The Holy Spirit Will Come Upon You

The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The power of the most high will overshadow you. – Luke 11:35
 
After they prayed, the place was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. – Acts 4:31
 
A sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They spoke in other languages as the Spirit enabled.  – Acts 2:1-4

When the Spirit of God and Christ comes to you, it is a sacred and holy act. The imagery is striking. A weight pressed upon us, a presence that overshadows. The nearest comparison we have in our physical flesh is when a husband and wife become one on their wedding night. Consider the verbs used to describe the act of receiving the Holy Spirit, of becoming one with God and Christ. Violent sounds, shaking, tongues aflame, being filled, speaking, seeing, hearing, hands roaming, receiving into ourselves this sacred gift from God.

Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift is for all whom the Lord will call.” – Acts 2:38-39

God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him. Our Prince and Savior gives repentance and forgiveness of sins. – Acts 5:31-32

In the same way that our wedding vows are a promise of fidelity, we agree to turn from all others and love only the one who gave himself for us. Water baptism is our spiritual wedding ceremony, a public profession that we are united with Christ until death in this body.

“We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” – Acts 4:20

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord. – Acts 4:?

They all spoke the word of God boldly. – Acts 4:31

When in love, we cannot help but speak about our spouse, to testify to what she or he does and is. This is as it should be, both at the beginning and throughout the life of our marriage. Should not our love for God be even greater?

Because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, Peter and John placed their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. – Acts 8:15-17

Can you recall your spiritual wedding ceremony, your baptism and public announcement of fidelity to God and Christ? Baptism does not save us, but it is our confession that we will, from that moment on, be loyal to God and Christ and honor this holy union.

Have you experienced the sacred intimacy that comes when you are joined in holy union with God and Christ? If not, find three or four disciples of Christ who will witness your wedding. Be baptized with water. Afterwards, ask your witnesses to lay hands upon you and baptize you with His Spirit. On that day you will experience the gift promised by God. You will become one with your Lord and Savior. Your bridegroom is waiting.

“I, Christ, am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” John 14:20

The Holy Spirit Will Speak to You

The Spirit told Phillip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” – Acts 8:29

“The Holy Spirit says. . .” – Acts 21:11

“The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said. . . “ Acts 28:25

“As the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’” – Hebrews 3:7-11

“The Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.” – Ezekiel 2:2

“When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. – Matthew 10:19-20

“The Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” – John 16:13

The Holy Spirit Will ACT UPON You

The Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Phillip away. – Acts 8:39 Phillip next appeared in Azotus, 19 miles away. – Acts 8:40

“Having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in. . . “ – Acts 16:6

“The Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. . .” – Acts 16:7 “Therefore we concluded that God had called us to preach the gospel to. . . “ – Acts 16:10

Compelled by the Spirit, I am going. . . not knowing what will happen to me.” – Acts 20:23

“The Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” – Acts 20:28

The Holy Spirit Will WARN You

“The Holy Spirit warned me. . .“ – Acts 20:23

The Holy Spirit Will INSTRUCT You 

“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements.” – Acts 15:28-29, Acts 21:25

  • Do not eat food sacrificed to idols.
  • Do not eat meat from strangled animals.
  • Do not drink blood.
  • Abstain from sexual immorality.

Some Observations as You Consider This Gift God Gives

  • The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. 
  • God gives the Holy Spirit to those who love Christ, keep His commands, and repent.
  • The Holy Spirit is a Helper, and Advocate, and with us forever. The Holy Spirit councils, teaches, and reminds us what Christ and God said. The Holy Spirit speaks, instructs, warns, moves, retrains, and prompts us. 
  • The Holy Spirit is Truth.
  • The Holy Spirit lives in you and with you.
  • The world does not know the Holy Spirit nor can it accept the Holy Spirit. This gift is only for those who accept Christ as their savior and exchange their life for his.
  • We receive the Holy Spirit through baptism. Christ commanded, “Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19 
  • Our union with the Holy Spirit often comes with:
    • sounds
    • shaking
    • warmth
    • speaking in words or utterances we cannot understand
    • speaking in different languages 
  • Through the Holy Spirit God, Christ, and you become one.
  • Through the Holy Spirit we have power.
  • Through the Holy Spirit we are witnesses to Christ. We testify about Christ. We speak the word of God boldly. 
  • For most, the coming of the Holy Spirit is the only advent we will experience. The coming of the Holy Spirit is Christ coming to us to be with us and dwell in us forever. We celebrate the birth of Christ and look forward to his coming in glory, but he seeks to be with us now. Will you welcome him in?

Advent – The Coming of Christ In Us – Wait for the Gift My Father Promised

Wait for the Gift My Father Promised

“Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” – Acts 1:4

“John baptized with water. In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:5

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” – Acts 1:8

“You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things. The Holy Spirit will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:26

 

Advent – I Have Told You All This Ahead of Time

Matthew 24:14-25

“This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. Then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:14

Preached as a testimony to all nations. . . a Kingdom Gospel of service, sacrifice, and suffering. A Kingdom Gospel at odds with the kingdom of man message of tyrannical power, senseless revolts, endless violence, and coercion through force.

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand.” Matthew 24:15

When Jesus spoke these words to his disciples none of his testimony had been recorded. Only later, through the writings of Mark, Matthew, John, Luke, Peter, James, Paul, and Jude, would Jesus’ brief life make it into print. And yet, Christ knew we would read his words. Now, 2000 years later, he commands us to not only read, but understand what is to come.

“Let those in Judea flee. For there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—never to be equaled again.” – Matthew 24:16

In the book of Christ Revelation Jesus says, “Hail and fire mixed with blood was hurled down on the earth.
“A third of the earth was burned up.
“A third of the trees were burned up.
“All the green grass was burned up.”
Revelation 8:7

“Something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea.
A third of the sea turned into blood.
A third of the living creatures in the sea died.
A third of the ships were destroyed.
“And a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.
A third of the waters turned bitter. Many people died from the waters that had become bitter.”
Revelation 8: 8-10

A third of the sun was struck.
A third of the moon and a third of the stars was struck, so that a third of them turned dark.
A third of the day was without light and a third of the night.”
Revelation 8:12

Every island fled away.” Revelation 16:20

“The mountains could not be found.” Revelation 16:20

Some contend the Revelation of Christ is metaphorical imagery that should not be taken literally. Ask yourself: Have any of the events described by Christ ever happened? If not, then was Jesus speaking in hyperbole? Are we merely waiting for him to come and say to us, “It was a joke. I was only kidding?” Is this what we mean by Advent?

“If those days had not been shortened, not one person would survive.”  – Matthew 24:22

Notice that Jesus speaks in past tense, as if these events, this time of unequaled distress, has already happened. In the same breathe he then speaks of the same event in future tense.

“But for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.” – Matthew 24:22

Only the One who is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, can speak of history in past, present, and future at the same time.

“False prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. But I have told you all this ahead of time.” – Matthew 24:24-25

Here is our warning. False prophets, false teachers, false preachers will twist the words of Christ and those of his Father. They will do so in order to deceive not just those in Christ, but all men and women. This is the first and favorite attack of Satan. “Did God really say. . . ?” And this will be the Father of Lies last line of offense. But take heart. There is an implied promise for those who are in Christ.

“It that were possible. . . .” When the Spirit of Christ resides within, his Spirit will confirm, illuminate, and cause to come alive his very words. This is as it should be. The author always knows the intent of his words better than the reader.

Praise be to God; Christ has warned us ahead of time to be alert to those who speak falsehoods. Look for the coming of Christ. His arrival is closer today than yesterday.

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?