Advent Reading Day 18: Jesus is the King of kings

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”  Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.   Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’   The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” -John 3:3-8 NLT

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war.   His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself.   He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God.   The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses.  From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress.  On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords. -Revelation 19:11-16 NLT

Jesus is the King of kings.  His kingdom will reign forever.  He was born in the tiny village of Bethlehem but he is from the greatest kingdom ever.  The world has never seen a King like Jesus.  His rule is mightier and more powerful than any earthly sovereign.  His kingdom unfolds around us every day through people who show his love and mercy to their fellow man.

Have you ever thought about the challenges of those in leadership over their perspective countries?  They have all the responsibility of a whole nation on their shoulders.  They may do things we like and they may not.  There is not one human leader who is perfect.  In order to bring God’s kingdom to earth we need to pray for our national leaders, pray for wisdom, favor, protection, and salvation.

People did not like Jesus and sadly still don’t.  His kingdom is something people do not understand until they are born of the spirit.  Jesus explains this to Nicodemus, a religious leader.  In order to enter to God’s kingdom, we must be born again. Simply this means giving our lives to Jesus and making him King and Ruler of our lives.    This is about giving our lives completely to Jesus, acknowledging him as Lord and Savior, confessing our sins and then walking a new path following him.

Jesus doesn’t force his Kingdom upon us.  He is a perfect gentleman; he invites us- giving the choice to us to believe and receive him.  As one early Christian writer says, God “was determined to save us by persuasion, and not by compulsion- for there is no compulsion found with God.  His mission was no pursuit or hounding of us, it was an invitation.”  Everyone has to choose whether or not they will be a part of Christ’s Kingdom.  When we accept that invitation, then we are called to spread God’s love to others, so they too may accept him.

Jesus’ birth is one of excitement as the King of kings came to earth to bring his Kingdom here.  One day Jesus will return!  As we have been waiting this Advent for Christmas day, we also wait expectantly for Christ’s return.  We wait for his Kingdom to reign forever in peace, love, and harmony. Until then, no matter how violent the world is we must resist the temptation of fighting evil with evil and destructive words.  We are called to overcome evil with love and good.  Today, may we commit ourselves to loving others, praying for each other-including our national leaders and walk humbly with God.  May we be an example of his everlasting Kingdom.

Prayer:

Jesus, King of kings, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, harmony; where there is error, truth; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life (St Francis of Assisi).” May your Kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen.

 

For further study:

Matthew 6:9-10; Matthew 21:1-9; Matthew 25:31-43: Revelation 11:15, 15:1-4; 17:12-14

Advent Reading Day 17:  Jesus is our Savior (Part 2)

The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” -Luke 2:11-14 NLT

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.   Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.  Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:6-11 NLT

Jesus left everything in Heaven- riches, gold streets, glassy seas, no pain, no sickness, no sorrows- to come to earth as a vulnerable baby. Jesus was just a simple baby in a simple manger in a simple town yet all of creation rejoiced.  So why all the fuss? Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself and broke time and space and came as a simple human. He gave up everything to be our Savior!  Christ considered himself nothing so we can have a relationship with his Father.  Jesus came to save us from our sins and eternal death.  He also saved us so we can fulfill the purpose God called us for.

We are saved to minister to others God’s love and mercy.  We are to be humble as Christ is humble, to love others as Jesus loves them, to be a living reflection of Jesus.  This is not easy in a world where self is promoted.  We are supposedly our own gods. The world doesn’t believe that God exists and it does everything it can to discredit Christians.  Why are people so offended by Christ?  First of all, they have always been.  Jesus told us they would be. Second of all, his message is about denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following him.  It is about being humble, putting God and others before ourselves, it is about victory over the enemy.

Satan trembles at the name of Jesus Christ our Savior.  He doesn’t want people to follow Jesus.  Remember, he was kicked out of heaven for wanting to have the glory to himself, he thought he was better than God (Is. 14:12-22; Ezekiel 28:1-19).  Satan has always wanted the glory and the praise and people to follow him.  Don’t worry though- Jesus is the Victor!

Jesus won the victory over sin and death via the cross and the resurrection from the grave!  Because of this, he has the place of highest honor and his name has power!  This power is not like a genie in a lamp and just saying his name brings us what we want.  No!  His power is released when we humble ourselves and earnestly cry out to him.  In order to live in his power, we must humble ourselves daily and realize he is God and we are not.  Jesus saves, restores, delivers and empowers!  Jesus is indeed our Lord and Savior.

Prayer:

Jesus, my precious Savior, I worship you.  Your name is higher than any other name.  Thank you for leaving the comforts of Heaven and giving of yourself as a humble babe in a manger to grow up just to die on a cruel cross for our salvation.  Jesus, you are amazing!  Help me to humble myself as you did.  Help me to not focus on me and what the world wants me to be, but to focus on who you created me to be.  It can be very difficult Lord to think of you and others before myself, pride easily gets in the way, selfish desires take over.  This Christmas, help me to realize the awesome gift of yourself as my Savior and keep this in the forefront of my mind.  I chose today to let go of worldly desires, take up my cross and follow you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For further study:

John 20:30-31; Acts 2: 38-39; Philippians 2:1-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Advent Reading 16: Jesus is our Savior (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’s 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. Don’t get me wrong there are those who have a relationship with Jesus and live that salvation out in their lives- they bear the fruit of 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:
Jesus, Yeshua, thank you for your salvation. Thank you for coming to die for me and giving me eternal life. I admit at times I can be like the religious people being pious in my thinking, forgetting those around me who need you. Please forgive me. Give me grace to love others the way you do. Help me to live in such a way that others will see Jesus in me and will want to know you as their personal Savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
 
For further study:
Luke 19:8-9; John 3:1-21; Acts 4:8-12

 

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 scepter 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, symbolizing 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 Savior 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 paralyze 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:

Jesus, Bright Morning Star, thank you for bringing light and a new dawn of hope, joy, and expectation.  Thank you for giving me new life.  I admit, so often I get caught up in the here and now with all my struggles in life.  Help me to take my eyes off those things and put them on you.  Help me to declare your praises and live with hope in my spirit.  Jesus, I declare you are far brighter than my sickness, my struggles, my circumstances.  You are my Bright Morning Star.  Glory, glory, hallelujah!  Thank you, Jesus, it’s a new day now!  Amen.

 

For further study:

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

 

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 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 unbeliefs.  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:

Jesus, my dearest friend, I thank you for paving the way for friendship with me.  It amazes me that I am able to be a friend of God.  I admit there are times I struggle believing that you are indeed a friend because life gets messy and sometimes lonely.  Earthly friends hurt me and trust is hard.  You never fail me, you never leave nor forsake me, you even loved me so much that you laid down your life for me on the cross.  I cannot even begin to comprehend such love, such grace, such a great friendship.  I desire to know more of you, to spend more time in your presence, more time sharing my heart and listening to yours.  Today, help me to be a better friend.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

For further study:

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

 

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 favor 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 fulfill 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 forevermore. He can and still does heal.
Some of you are suffering from 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 however 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:
Jesus, I know you are the Great Physician and I know you can still heal today as you did in the Bible. I thank you that no disease is beyond your capability to heal. Jesus, I trust you in the midst of pain, sickness, and struggles. I know you are with me. I have friends and family I have been praying healing for. Help me to understand that even though I may not see physical healing, you are working on their hearts and souls. You are in control. I trust you and know you are the same today as yesterday and forevermore. Heal me O Lord, and I will be healed, save me and I will be saved for you are my praise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
 
For further study:
The book of Job; Isaiah 61; Matthew 9; James 5:14-16

 

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 honor 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 realizes 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:

Jesus, I am so thankful that You are the Good Shepherd. Forgive me for the times I run away trying to satisfy my own selfish desires. Help me to stay in your protection and care. Bring me to the safety of your presence. Jesus, I hurt for those I love who don’t know you. I ask that you will speak to their hearts and woo them to you. Jesus, help me to never give up on them as you still love and care about them. Help me to be a witness of your great love. Jesus, please carry this burden that keeps me up at night worried about those I love. I trust you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

 

For further study:

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