The Last Advent Post (Advent 2012 – Day 23)

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Today’s scripture reads:

Though he was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

-Philippians 2:6–8

I love this passage and I think it is the best passage to end this Advent season on since it sums up just how amazing the Christ story is. Let’s dissect this passage and really meditate on these words as we eagerly await the celebration of our Lord’s arrival tomorrow.

Though he was in the form of God… Christ was not literally in the “form of God” to say that God looks like a first century Palestinian jewish male in his early thirties. What this does mean is that Christ was of God. Christ is , and was, and is to come. He is literally of God, the same essence that is God was Christ, just in human form.  If you are confused don’t worry, trinitarian theology is something that almost no one can grasp, but the point is that He was of God.

He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…  Christ came because we as human being constantly fail to live up to any standard of righteousness. The entire Old Testament is full of human kinds failures and unwillingness to follow God. Whether it is Adam and Eve doing the one thing God forbid, or Abraham sleeping with his servent because he was tired on waiting on God to fulfill his promises, man kind cannot be righteous. In this regard Equality with God is not something to be grasped, or even hoped for. If we cannot even avoid sinning, then how can we expect to be Holy Holy Holy as God as Holy. Christ came, not to simply show us how to obtain righteousness, but also to be means to us receiving the righteousness that we could never obtain on our own.

But made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in likeness of men… For our sake Christ humbled himself. He, who was of the essence of God willingly became nothing. He became the child of a lower class family and was born in a stable. When God came down and became one of us he did not come down as a king, but as a servant. He was born in likeness of us… he who had been witness to the creation of the universe… he who will one day vanquish all evil form the earth… he was born in a manger and walked the dusty roads of palestine telling the people that their sins were forgiven. How strangely beautiful to think that the God who shaped the earth would take the form of a poor wanderer who kept the company of sinners and preached a message of love.

Being found in human form, he humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross… As it was pointed out before, mankind sucks at being righteous. We so often choose evil it’s hard to argue that it’s not just part of our nature. We so often lack obedience to God, who always knows what is best for us. We would rather play in the filth of our own sin than trust in the God who formed us and knows how to reach our full potential. Where as we so often lack obedience, Christ humbled himself and showed true and perfect obedience. He willingly laid down his life and died on a cross to cover up our disobedience. The only man who knew no sin, became sin, so that we could one day be saved.  The old hymn that sings “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe” speaks a beautiful truth. We truly do owe it all to Jesus. Don’t let today pass without thanking him for all he has done, and don’t go this Christmas season without reflecting on how truly great and wonderful our God is. May we never stop singing his praises.

So That You May Believe (Advent 2012 – Day 22)

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Today’s scripture Reads:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

—John 20:30–31

Today is the second to last day of my advent countdown to Christmas Day! It’s been a great month and I hope you have enjoyed this Advent season as much as I have. Today’s scripture was originally going to be saved for tomorrow since it makes for such a nice bookend. It would have been a great bookend to the advent season. I made a last-minute switch because I can think of no better verse to lead into Christmas day than the passage I have picked out for tomorrow, but enough about that, let’s focus on today’s passage.

The Gospel of John (and the other Gospels for that matter) were written to be a means for people to come to faith in Jesus Christ. They were written accounts for the purpose of bearing testimony to the truth that comes in and through Jesus. John mentions that these accounts are not all-encompassing. It would be impossible for the Gospel authors to recall every word, action, and teaching of Christ’s entire three-year ministry. They did, however record much of the important details so that future generations would know who Christ was, what he taught, and why we continue to worship him today.

I’ve expounded upon the radical change brought about by Christ and the significance of the truth he preached. I’ve spent all month writing about how glorious amazing the gift of Christ was, and if I had a million years to keep writing I don’t think I could ever say enough about the wonderful name above all names. But how do we know this good news is true?

To this I point to the early church. After the death of Christ we see the disciples in shambles. Judas is dead, Peter has denied his lord, and everyone is in hiding unsure of what to do next. Then shortly after that there is an explosion of Christianity. Each one of the Disciples would go on to suffer a terrible martyr’s death. Peter, the man who had denied Christ three times during his trial, would be crucified upside down on a cross because he would not deny that Christ was the Son of God, and did not consider himself worthy to die on the cross as his messiah had. In the first 300 years over a million Christians would be brutally murdered for refusing to deny that Christ was the risen Son of God… So what happened?

The Resurrection happened. Christ defeated death and that handful of men who were so afraid lost their fear of death. They no longer feared what man could do to them because they knew without a shadow of doubt that Jesus Christ was who he said he was. Christianity, by all accounts should not have flourished. When one considers the immense persecution Christians suffered for their faith from day one it is nothing short of a miracle that he faith made it past its first generation. Yet in spite of all of this Christianity grew and continued to grow so that now there is hardly any corner of the globe where a follower of Christ can not be found. People all across the world and throughout history have found life in his name and no force on earth could stop them from proclaiming the truth. Jesus Christ offers real life change, and for those who have felt the redeeming power of Christ there is no turning back. The only reason any of us are believers and followers of Christ today is because a handful of men, who at first ran and hid, saw the risen Christ and knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were given a job by the God of Heaven to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the nations.

Eagerly Awaiting the Return of Christ (Advent 2012 – Day 21)

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Today’s scripture reads:

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

– Philippians 3:17-21

I’m sure anyone who has been even remotely connected to popular culture or media in the past few years has heard about the Mayan prophecy that failed to come into fruition yesterday. While some argue if the Mayan’s ever actually predicted that the world would end yesterday or not, the fact of the matter is that we are still here. Not much has changed between December 21st and December 22nd and in the end I think this will go down in history as yet another doomsday prophecy that never came to pass. I’d hope that none of us were too terribly shocked by this turn of events since a similar event seems to come up at least once a decade, if not sooner. People have been predicting the end of days since they had a grasp of time. Even the 1st century Christians were prone to false doomsday predictions. Just look at Paul’s early letters like the Thessalonians letters compared to his later works like Ephesians and you can see that it took Paul a while to accept that maybe Christ’s return would not come in his lifetime.

The Bible does not tell us when Christ will return, although we are promised that he shall return some day. Speculating about the exact date is foolish since only the Father knows the exact timing. So in the mean time what are we supposed to do? We have found ourselves in the middle of a great shift. While we look back to Christmas and remembrance of God’s saving plan enacted in our lives we also forward to the day when all will be brought to fruition. We eagerly await the savior’s return when all will be brought into perfect glory and he shall subdue all things to Himself. What a glorious day that shall be indeed. It can be difficult sometimes to be patient and wait on God’s timing. We have to accept that there may yet still be a very long time before our Messiah returns to us as prophesied, and that it is very likely that we will not see such a day in this lifetime. In the meantime we should always remember to show gratitude for being born in such a time that we have seen God’s saving plan being enacted through Christ and his body (which is the Church). We should live as Children of the kingdom of Heaven, and not pursue paths that lead only to destruction and petty pleasures. As the scripture says, many men walk as if their god is their belly, they seek only to fulfill their own desires and passions. Let us take rest and peace in remembering what has already been done for us through Christ, and let us not grow weary in doing good as we eagerly await a return visit from our beloved Lord.

Once Enemies to Now Family (Advent 2012 – Day 20)

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Today’s scripture reads:

If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

—Romans 5:10–11

How wonderful the story of Christ is. I can’t think of no greater act of love, no greater demonstration of kindness, no purer example of mercy and grace than in what I see in the life of Christ. I once was by a professor that there are five stories that together compromise the entirety of the Christian faith. The are as follows:

  1. The Story of God
  2. The Story of a World Gone Wrong
  3. The Story of God and His People
  4. The Story of Christ
  5. The Story of Christianity

All of these stories work together to form one grand tale of love, patience, sacrifice, reconciliation, and joy. God made a beautiful world, but in allowing the choice between good and evil, he allowed evil to enter the world. Though he would interact with his people through signs, prophets, and miracles still humanity would always return to wickedness. How often did man reject God and how often did God have to call his people back to him. Finally God his son down to earth as one of us, to mend the bond and reconcile a fallen world back to him. A God who loved an unworthy people who could not save themselves, chose to reconciled us to him. We were his enemies, and yet he loved us enough to take our punishment upon himself as an ultimate demonstration of love given freely and selflessly.

Thanks be to God who through Christ as turned his enemies into sons and daughters. We are reconciled, not because we are worthy or good, but because God never gave up on us. Truly this is a call for rejoicing! The one who could have rightly condemned us has chosen instead to adopt us as his own. The one who gave us all the blessings of life, the one who we cursed and turned away from, has chosen not to give up on us. We are made new because God’s love does not fail. If never again should another blessing ever come my way, I will have considered myself blessed infinitely more than I deserve. We who were dead are now alive, we who were slaves are free, we who were enemies are now family.  Christ came so that we would no longer be separated from God by our sins. In Christ we no longer had to be afraid to speak the name of God, but rather we could approach him as our “Abba” (Daddy). God is no longer a presence that resides in temples, but he resides in us through the holy spirit. No longer do we require ritual purity because we are made pure and new through Christ who took it all upon us. Where we were once enemies of God, we are now his adopted children. Do not forget this during this holiday season.

Life More Abundantly (Advent 2012 – Day 19)

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Today’s scripture reads:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

—John 10:10

We are told all throughout scripture the contrast in death and life. Sin brings death, God gives live, if we are not re-born into a new life we will die a second death, Christ defeated death, Christ brings new life, and the list goes on and on. Today’s scripture talks about a “Thief” and Christ. This thief reaps only destruction but Christ gives life and life more abundantly.

The thief is one who invades and takes what is not his. His goal is stealth and deception, he seeks only his own benefit and does not care for those who may be hurt by his actions. The thief is not concerned about the goodness and wellbeing of the people. The thief is the last person who would ever give of himself. More than stealing, this thief comes to kill and destroy as well. This thief represents the false teachers that existed in Christ’s day (and also those we still see today).  These were the religious and political leaders who used deception to gain power over the people, who took much and gave little, who convinced the world that they were righteous and kind but deep down they were self-seeking and only leading people astray. They would be the ones leading people down the wide path of destruction mentioned later, while Christ was the narrow path that few followed.

In contrast to this thief, we have Christ who gives life. Following Christ leads to more abundant spiritual life as well as eternal life upon judgement day. While the rest of men, including those who follow the thief, are already dead in their sins Christ gives those that follow him the gift of life. Christ is our advocate if we follow him, so that on judgement day we will be judged by Christ who took our sins rather than standing on our own shaky feet. We are given life abundantly, that is to say more than we could ever need.

As we look forward to Christmas we celebrate the day that God decided to come and join us to show us the way. In a world full of thieves, God stepped down to walk among us in Christ Jesus to show us the true narrow path so that we would not be lead astray. God, aware of our inability to ever reach him, prepared a way in Jesus Christ. Let us who have life more abundantly celebrate and commemorate the day when such a gift was given to us.

Jesus Brings Truth (Advent 2012 – Day 18)

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Today’s scripture reads:

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

—John 18:37

Jesus came into this world. We know from John 1 that Jesus existed before the creation of the world, and so his birth was not his creation, but merely how he entered our world in a tangible way. This entering of God into created form is the reason we celebrate Christmas and look forward to that day, just as those that came before Christ looked forward to his arrival. Jesus came into the world and he bore witness to the truth. What was this truth? Simply that God is good, gracious, and has mercy abounding. The truth of Christ is that God has done what we could not do and spared us from all of the guilt we have brought upon ourselves. That God has come and walked among us, lived with us, and faced death for us and emerged victorious, this is the truth that Christ bore.

His teachings on love, equality, mercy, forgiveness, and peace were not philosophical opinions but rather the very commands of God himself. God is the originator of truth and he took the form of Christ on that Christmas day long ago so that he could bring us back to him. Those that speak truth must listen to Christ’s voice because apart from him there is no hope for us. Apart from Christ we are still lost in sin and bound by death. Apart from Christ no man lives.

The good news is that we have been given hope, peace, freedom, and life more abundantly in Christ Jesus. Let us be bearers of the truth that Christ brought to the world with his coming. As we look forward to this Christmas season let us rejoice in the knowledge of the truth of who Christ is and what he has done for us.

A Call to Missions (Advent Day 17)

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Today’s Scripture:

“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” —John 17:18

So most of the daily Advent posts have been reflecting upon who Christ is and what he did for us. Today’s scripture reminds us that, while Christ has essentially done all the work for us that is not a call for us to do nothing. Christ was sent to save a world that could never save itself, and now that the victory is won the good news needs to be shared.

On May 9th 1865, the American Civil War that had engulfed the nation in war for years came to an end.  One of the many sad things that history tells us is that there were many post-war battles that occurred simply because news spread so slowly in those days. Many people continued fighting even though the victor had already been decided. In a similar way, so many people are still running from God or trying desperately to earn his approval even after the victory has been won. Even though Christ has reconciled all people back to him and is willing and ready to accept all who seek him, many have not heard, do not know, or have been misinformed.

The task given to us by Christ is to be messengers of victory calling people to repentance and bringing the world back to the loving father who is patiently waiting. We are living in great and glorious times indeed, in times when God’s promises have been fulfilled and are being fulfilled daily. Unfortunately not all has been made righteous and there is still pain and suffering in this world that we need to combat with love and good works. Darkness is in retreat, but it does not let up its grip easily. We are not promised easy lives if we take up this calling, but isn’t such a calling worthy of taking up? I know I can think of no better way to spend my time on this earth than bringing hope, peace, and freedom to people, and reassuring them that victory has come. The Lord is good, his love endures forever. As we celebrate the great and glorious things God has done for us this Advent and Christmas season, let us not forget that we have a job to do. Go forth and be peace makers, lovers of the lonely, doers of kind deeds, givers of good gifts, and most importantly messengers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.