Advent Reading Day 14:  Jesus is our Friend

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. -Proverbs 18:24 NLT

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.  When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.   There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.  You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. -John 15:9-16 NLT

Jesus is the greatest friend we could ever have.  He even went to the depths of proving this by coming to the earth as a baby, incarnation of God and man, and then, ultimately by laying down his life on the cross.  Abraham, Enoch, Moses and David were just a few examples of men who were friends of God.  What made them friends?  They listened and obeyed God.  They spent time in His presence and conversed with him.  Enoch even walked right into heaven without dying, he was that close to God! “Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him” (Genesis 5:23-24).

When Jesus was on this earth, he had male and female friends.  Think of people like Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the disciples, etc.  He spent time with them, sharing in fellowship over meals, listening to them about their lives and their families, rejoicing when they rejoiced and weeping when they suffered loss (John 11:35).  Jesus calls us friends as well.  He desires to tell us what is on his heart.  He wants us to spend time with him in his presence.  He also wants us to love others as he loves them.

But what about when life is hard, people hurt us, illness floors us, and we just feel completely alone?  Have you ever asked why life is so difficult and if Jesus really does love you?  Remember the story of Lazarus. Though Mary and Martha told Jesus that their brother was ill and could die, Jesus still stayed ministering in another town.  He did not return until 2 days later and Lazarus was in the tomb dead.  Martha said to Jesus if he had come earlier, Lazarus would not be dead, but she trusted Jesus regardless.  Of course, we know the rest of the story- Lazarus was raised from the dead.

Sometimes we feel as if Jesus doesn’t care and he has abandoned us.  We forget that he indeed is in control and he still is our friend.  How do we embrace a friendship with Jesus as God?  We spend time in his presence, we keep praying, we keep trusting and believing.  Remember the end of the story for Lazarus- something greater usually comes out of difficult times.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not ours.  Allow Jesus to be your friend.  Tell him everything- your joys, your frustrations, your anger, and your unbelief’s.  He knows already but he wants you to talk to him.  And he wants you to listen.  Jesus came to make it possible for us to be friends with him (not just for the priests).  Can you say today “I am a friend of God?”

Prayer:

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For further study:

Exodus 33:7-11; Proverbs 17:17, 27:9: John 1:1-44; James 4:4-10

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Advent Day 13: Jesus is the Great Physician

When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.   The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favour has come.”   He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently.  Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” -Luke 4:16-21 NLT

Jesus is our Healer, the Great Physician. He came to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah as the one who brings Good News, set the captives and oppressed free and make blind eyes see (Is. 61:1-2).  Jesus healed paralytics, blind men, a woman with an issue of blood, the demon possessed, the mute, and even raised people from the dead!  Jesus healed the whole person, not just the physical.  He cared about the souls of man.  When we read of Jesus’ healing, he forgave man’s sins, he expelled demons and he brought new life into those who once suffered.

Some people think that those miracles only happened in the Bible and they do not still occur today. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and for evermore.  He can and still does heal.

Some of you are suffering illness day in and day out.  You have prayed over and over again for Jesus to heal you.  You have asked others to pray for you, but it seems to no avail. I understand as I am in this same situation, praying for healing when pain and fatigue overwhelm me daily. I don’t have a padded answer as to why Jesus hasn’t healed me or you.  I can say however, Jesus is with us.  He has compassion for us.  He cares about our souls and healing may be taking place from the deepest part of us.  I also believe that though our healing may not take place here on this earth, we will be ultimately healed in heaven with a new body with no more pain or sickness.  I keep holding on to hope for healing here and if not here, in heaven.

Does Jesus still heal?  I believe He does.  I am finding it is no point of complaining all the time about my illness, it’s just the way it is for now and how ever long I suffer with it.  I have found though that praising God through the pain makes a massive difference.  When I spend time in worship and praise, the pain lessens as my eyes are fixed on Jesus.  Be encouraged friends, God is with us.  He can still use us despite of our illnesses (Joni Earickson-Tada is a great example).  Don’t give the enemy the satisfaction of giving in!  Stand firm in your faith.  God gives and takes away, blessed be His name.

Prayer:

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For further study:

The book of Job; Isaiah 61; Matthew 9; James 5:14-16

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Advent Day 12: Jesus the Good Shepherd (Part 2)

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away!  In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish. -Matthew 18:12-14 NLT

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.   He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honour to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. -Psalm 23:1-4 NLT

Shepherds care for their sheep. They keep a vigilant watch out for them keeping them safe from harm. But sheep can be dumb, they can wander away from the comforts of the fold and end up lost. The sheep could fall off a cliff, get tangled in brambles or get wounded. The shepherd easily realises that one of his sheep are missing and he goes to look for it. He will do anything to make sure the missing sheep is found and brought back to safety.

There have been times that we too have wandered off from the safety of the green meadows, peaceful streams and comfort of the presence of God. We try to do things our own way. We begin to find ourselves overwhelmed with life and many times cry out as to why we got ourselves in that situation. Jesus knows. He goes to great lengths to call us back home to His protection and care. He welcomes us with open arms.

Maybe today you know of someone you love who is far from the Lord. It could be one of your children, a spouse, a friend, a parent or a colleague. The pain of knowing that they don’t know the Lord or that they ran away from Him going their own separate way tears at your heart. Some of you may have sleepless nights worrying about them. You have prayed for them so often but it seems to no avail. Don’t give up praying for them. Don’t give up showing them God’s love. Keep in mind that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He cares about them too. His heart breaks with yours. He knows your pain and He hears your cries. You don’t have to bear this on your own, let Jesus carry the burden. Jesus came to seek out the lost and save them. They too can come to the safety of the green pastures and quiet waters.

Be encouraged – Jesus who sought you and still seeks your heart, cares about those you love too. Rejoice in the Good Shepherd today and give Him thanks for reaching out to you and to others.

Prayer:

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For further study:

Isaiah 40:10-11; Ezekiel 34:1-31: John 10:27

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Advent reading 10: Jesus is the Lion of Judah

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  -Isaiah 11:6-9 NIV

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  -Revelation 5:5-6 NIV

Lions can be found in Africa and in Northwest India.  They are known for their fierceness and strength.  Throughout the Bible, the lion is seen as a symbol of strength and Israel’s enemies.  Peter even calls the devil a roaring lion looking for whom he can devour.  Even though lions are sometimes seen as a symbol of evil, they are also a symbol of God’s people.  Jacob prayed a blessing over his 12 sons, when it came time to bless Judah, he compared him to a lion- thus the phrase “Lion of Judah.”

In the Hebrew Scriptures, God is depicted as a lion who roars in judgement against faithless people and nations.  He also is seen as a lion who fights on behalf of His people.  When Jesus returns to take us home, He will come as the Lion but calm as a Lamb.  The lion and the lamb will be in peace.  There will be no more arguments, no more church splits, no more wars, crime, terrorist attacks, hatred, and strife.  There will be perfect peace.  Jesus will bring peace as well as fierce, loving protection.

William Watley, a preacher, says this about the experiences of Jesus as the Lion and the Lamb…

“Jesus as Lion and Lamb means that He has more than one way of approaching us and addressing our situation.  When we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, we don’t need a lion of condemnation and judgement attacking us and raving our spirit.  When we are already feeling like a nobody, we don’t need a stern lion beating up and making us feel worse.  We need a gentle word from the Lord.  We need a word of comfort and encouragement.  We need the Lamb to speak tenderly and tell us, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).  Justice says that we deserve a lion to slay us, but mercy says, “I’m going to send a lamb and let you know that you have another chance.”

But when we get comfortable with being miserable; when we start feeling so sorry for ourselves and are tempted to stay down; when we’ve been down so long that getting up doesn’t even cross our minds (or if it does, it seems like an impossibility), then we don’t need a lamb comforting us in our misery.  We need the Lion with power to pull us up…

As Lion and Lamb, Jesus understands our weaknesses but relates to our strength, and He loves us with all our contradictions.”

Prayer:

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For further study:

Genesis 49:8-10; Amos 3:6-8; Joel 3:16; Hosea 11:9-11; Isaiah 31:4-5

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Advent Reading Day 9: Jesus is the Lamb of God (Part 2)

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honour at God’s right hand, pleading for us. -Romans 3:31-34 NLT

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value.  It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. -1 Peter 1:18-21 NLT

Nothing- please hear me again- nothing can separate us from the love of God! The love of God compelled Him to send Jesus Christ to die for our sins. Jesus took the punishment of our sins on the cross.

John the Baptist declared Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” Have you ever wondered why he didn’t shout “Here is Jesus- the Messiah, or the Son of God or the King of kings?” John declared Jesus as the Lamb, an innocent victim who was here on earth to become a bloody sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus as the Lamb of God did not come as a cute cuddly stuffed animal. He came as a tiny baby, born in a cave, wrapped as the Perfect Lamb ready for sacrifice.

Jesus was an innocent victim who died because He loves us. Because of His perfect sacrifice, He set us free. Our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are cleaned, our sins are washed as white as snow. There are no barrier’s to God’s love.

Jesus came as a baby to the earth to a poor family, grew up to be a carpenter’s son learning the trade and then at age 30 He began His ministry. Jesus never sinned, yes, I know for some that is hard to believe, but remember, He was truly God, yet truly human. Jesus was indeed the perfect sacrifice. When He was on that cross, He gave His all for us so we can have eternal life. That’s how much God loves us!

 

We don’t hear much about the blood of Jesus today which is honestly sad because it is the message of the Gospel. We cannot be saved without the blood. The blood of Jesus sets us free. His blood brings healing from the inside out. His blood washes away our sins.

Today, praise Jesus for His blood. He gave every last drop of blood for you and for me. When you look at a Christmas tree, remember the sacrifice on Calvary, and when you look at the manger, remember the reason Christ came. There is power in the blood, the blood from the perfect Lamb of God!

Prayer:

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For further study:

Romans 8:31-36; Genesis 22:6-13; Revelation 17:12-14

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Advent Reading Day 8: Jesus is the Lamb of God (Part 1)

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. -Isaiah 53:7 NLT

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptising with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” -John 1:29-31 NLT

Those who know me know how much I love sheep. I actually collect them in different forms- coasters, stuffed animals, ornaments, etc.  Sheep are known for their wool, their simplicity, and lambs are known for frolicking in the fields.  Lambs represent purity, simpleness, and innocence.  The first lambs that were slain for their blood was in Exodus when the Israelites were to leave Egypt.  They had to take a lamb, the first born without any defects, raise the lamb, then it had to be killed for the blood. The lamb became a part of the family, imagine the feelings of having to slaughter their prized pet.  They then took the blood and smeared it on the doorposts of their homes so when the angel of death passed by the Israelites were saved.

Lambs were the main animals sacrificed – one in the morning and one in the evening (Numbers 28:1-8) and the offering was doubled on the Sabbath.  Lambs were also sacrificed on the first day of the new month, Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur- Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.  Lambs represented the purity of the person who offered it, it represented the desire to offer their own lives to God.

The phrase “Lamb of God” was only found in John’s Gospel.  Jesus is often referred to as the Lamb in Revelation.  In Revelation, He is known as the Lamb who was slain, rose again and will live victoriously.  Because of His ultimate sacrifice, we are saved and cleansed.  The New Testament also calls us lambs as we follow Him.

Jews no longer sacrifice lambs because the temple was destroyed.  However, they still place a lamb shank bone on a Seder plate as a reminder of the sacrifice.  Christians recognise the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb as a part of the Passover.

When we pray, we pray to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He was the first born, Son of God, perfect, without blemish, innocent, simple and pure.  God sacrificed His only Son, the Lamb of God so we can be saved and live eternally.  As you think of the nativity scenes and you see the lambs surrounding Jesus, remember Jesus as the Lamb of God who came to give His all for you and for me.

Prayer:

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For further study:

Exodus 12:2-47; Numbers 28:1-8; Revelation 5:6, 9-10

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Advent Reading Day 7: Jesus is the Christ/Messiah

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. -Matthew 16:15-17

“Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” -Acts 2:36

We are very familiar with the title of Christ for Jesus and even the Messiah. Messiah means the “anointed One” or someone who has been set apart for a special mission. His mission is to bring the world back to God through the power of His love.

The Jews longed and waited for their Messiah to come. Prophecies declared that He would come to save them. The New Testament declares Jesus as the “anointed One” at least 530 times. Jesus wasn’t anointed with oil like David and the priests were, however, He was anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit when He was baptised. When Jesus was on the earth, the Jews wanted Him to be the King and overthrow the Roman authority. Jesus did not want to be thrown into this political trap so he avoided the title of Christ/Messiah until right before His death when the high priest asked Him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Living God?” and Jesus answered “I Am.” Yes, He was indeed King and still is, however, His anointing was not to be an earthly King but as King of the eternal kingdom.

Peter recognised that Jesus was indeed the Messiah (Matthew 16). However, he wanted Jesus to be more- to be the Messiah he wanted. Peter didn’t want Jesus to die and told Jesus this should never be (after all He is the Messiah). Jesus knew He had to die to save humanity from sin and death but Peter wanted Jesus to take care of things then and there. Jesus doesn’t usually do quick fixes because He desires to see transformation in our lives from the inside out. We don’t always get what we want, but Jesus always blesses us with eternal blessings.

Jesus is the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah. He was anointed to bring our salvation. His kingdom is not of this earth, it is eternal. Praise the Messiah for coming to save you and me.

 

Prayer:

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For further study:

Isaiah 52; Matthew 16:13-23; Acts 2:22-24, 32-38; 2 Corinthians 1:18-23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22