Advent Reading 16: Jesus is our Saviour (Part 1)

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.   Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”   All of this occurred to fulfil the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”   When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. -Matthew 1:18-25

Jesus, there is no greater name than His.  His name in Hebrew is Yeshua, which is close to the name Joshua.  His name simply means “Yahweh is salvation.”  Yeshua is also related to the Hebrew word ‘yeshu’ah,’ which means ‘salvation.’  Peter declares to the early church “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Jesus came to save man from sin and eternal death.  The trouble is today, the world doesn’t see the need for salvation.  People are blinded to His truth, His love.  They don’t understand what they need saving from because “sin” is a word that is foreign to them.  Sin is simply our actions, thoughts, and lifestyles that go contrary to God’s holiness.  God desired man to have a relationship with Him.  Through Jesus’ death on the cross, we can have salvation.

God continues to seek for souls to be saved. Jesus hung out with the “sinners.”  Sadly, the ones who thought they were right with God were just religious people who had the look of holiness but honestly didn’t have a clue what true holiness was.  They followed the religious traditions and laws, but their hearts were far from what God desired.  God has always only desired man’s hearts to be in love with Him and love others as He does.  The “sinners” were those who were considered the outcasts, sadly are still today.  They were the prostitutes, infirm, tax collectors, demon possessed, the poor and the weak.  Yet, Jesus spent most of His time with them.

These so-called sinners were ones that knew their lives were off course.  They were searching for meaning, longing to be loved and accepted.  They were responsive to Jesus’ love and grace.  They weren’t ones like the “religious” people who thought they knew it all and acted like they had already arrived.

Not much has changed today.  There are people that have gone to church since they were christened.  They think because they have always gone to church, they are automatically saved and going to heaven.  The church’s God or even their family God has not become their own personal God.  They have the appearance of a Christian, they know the Bible and can quote scriptures, they know all the Christian songs and can give generously.  Yet, inside they have no relationship with Jesus.

Then there are those who have struggled with alcoholism, child abuse, prostitution, drug abuse, etc.  who come to Jesus and have an amazing encounter with Him and give their lives totally to Him.  There are those who are infirm, poor and weak who each day they continue to give praise, they continue to quietly show their love for Him.

We need to be careful not to judge the “sinners.” We all are sinners as we all were born into sin. Everyone needs Jesus.  Jesus came as salvation for everyone – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that WHOSOEVER believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  We all need Jesus.  We need His saving grace to have more compassion-less judgement, more patience-less anger and irritability, more faith-less doubt and more praise and thanksgiving-less complaining. We all need Yeshua.

Prayer:

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For further study:

Luke 19:8-9; John 3:1-21; Acts 4:8-12

Matthew 1.21 NLT

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Advent Reading Day 15: Jesus is the Bright Morning Star

I see him, but not here and now. I perceive him, but far in the distant future.  A star will rise from Jacob; a sceptre will emerge from Israel.  -Numbers 24:17a NLT

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.   I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”   Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.   Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshippers, and all who love to live a lie.  “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” -Revelation 22:12-16 NLT

Jesus calls himself the Bright Morning Star in the last chapter of Revelation.  The morning star was thought of as a herald of a new day, symbolising a dawn of hope and joy.  When Jesus came as a baby, a bright star shone in the east heralding his birth.  The Magi followed that star until they found the toddler to worship him. With Jesus’ birth darkness was pierced by his perfect light.  When Jesus rose from the dead, light pierced the darkness of death.  Finally, when Jesus returns to take us home, he will reign forever as the Bright Morning Star and there will be no need for any other light for his light is the brightest.

Before we met Jesus, we all walked in darkness.  When we came to Jesus and made him Lord and Saviour of our lives, a new day dawned in our hearts and his light filled us.  William D Watley, Pastor of St James A.M.E. Church in Newark, New Jersey captures this transformation:

“We usually think of stars as night-time luminaries, but the morning star announces the beginning of a new day.  Who can testify that ‘since I met Jesus, it’s a new day now?’ I used to be bound by the devil, but since I met Jesus, it’s a new day now.  I used to have low self-esteem and was in a constant self-destruct mode, but since I met Jesus, it’s a new day now.  I’ve put down my blues guitar and picked up a tambourine of praise.  It’s a new day now.  People and things that used to upset me don’t bother me anymore.  It’s a new day now.  Fear that used to paralyse me and guilt that used to beat me up have lost their hold upon me.  It’s a new day now.  Glory, glory, hallelujah since I laid my burden down- it’s a new day now!”

Brothers and sisters, if we belong to Jesus, it is a new day!  We still have earthly problems, we still struggle, we still have difficult days but our faith in Jesus will use those things to make us better people. He is working in our lives for the greater purpose.  He infuses our lives with his light, his power, his glory and his purpose.

Don’t let sickness keep you from declaring his praise!  Don’t let circumstances dictate your faith!  Don’t allow problematic people destroy your trust in God!  Kick back the darkness with your praise to the Bright and Morning Star. Satan is allergic to praise.  Resist him and he has to flee!  Hail Jesus as the Bright Morning Star.  He is going to return and take us to our eternal home.  Today, declare in your hearts and if you so desire on the top of your lungs- “Glory, glory, hallelujah!  It’s a new day now!”

Prayer:

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For further study:

Psalm 139:11-12; Matthew 2:1-2; Luke 1:67-69; Revelation 2:26-28

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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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