Life from Death

garden-angel“By faith Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead” (Hebrews 11:19).

What has died in your life?  Your marriage?  Your future goals?  Your plans?  Your hopes? Your dreams?  Your faith?  You sit there staring at this thing that you built your life around as its heart slowly stops beating.  What do you do now?  Where do you go from here?  Why should you even bother to do or to go anymore?  I’m not talking about simple everyday disappointments; I’m talking about those soul-crushing desperations that drain your hope and leave you empty.  I’m talking from experience.  I’ve been in those places, I’ve felt the heart-rending pain.  I’ve buried hopes and dreams – and yes I’ve even buried my faith.

But the God who created me is also the God who brings life from death.  Abraham understood that – God had made promises to him that centered on his son Isaac, then God asked him to put his son on and altar of sacrifice.  Abraham didn’t understand God’s plan, but he knew God would never make a promise He didn’t intend to fulfill.  He knew that whatever God had in mind by making this request of him, He would still be faithful to the promise of descendants – coming from the very son over whom he now held a knife.

I’m sure you know the story, and if not check out Genesis 22.  God stayed Abraham’s hand and brought Isaac from the brink of death.  God fulfilled His good promise.  The thought that runs through my mind over this account is not that Isaac had to die, but that Abraham’s dependence on Isaac had to die.  Abraham had to put all his hopes in God, not in Isaac.  Now, the question for you and me is, what are we depending on?  A hefty bank account?  A great job?  A college degree? (That one is for me.)   Who are we depending on? A spouse?  Children? Parents?  A significant other?  God had to put some things to death that I was building my life around.  He had to break my dependence on things and people so that all I had left to depend on was Him.  It wasn’t just to bring me pain; it was to bring life out of death.  It was to let the perishable die so that the imperishable could live.  Beloved, in God’s hands is life – everlasting and abundant.  You can trust Him to resurrect what you have buried.  You can trust Him with your heart.

The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Know

resurrectionChrist Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God.  Romans 8:34

In the world of biology, all organisms are classed or grouped together by certain similarities and separated by differences in their cellular makeup.  These grouping are known as “kingdoms,” such as the “plant kingdom,” and the “animal kingdom.”  Those are pretty obvious in their classifications, but other groupings such as bacteria and a kingdom known as “Prostista” (complex microscopic cells) have a far wider range of characteristics.  So how do the biologists determine the criteria for classifying species? My Biology 101 textbook made a statement that drew my attention: “Evolutionary assumptions are generally used to decide which characteristics are most primitive and therefore most important.”[1]  In other words, in tracing a species’ changes and growth, classifications are based on the most basic characteristics—it’s “starting point”—as the most important.  Please note, I am not endorsing an evolutionary perspective, but merely pointing to the way all life forms grow and change from their earliest state.  For instance, all human beings start from the same organisms and from there a person changes and grows, but the basic building blocks of human life are evident throughout those changes.  All humans share this starting point, regardless of gender or ethnicity or location.  Thus we classify all humans differently from say plant life or bacteria.

So how does a biology lesson apply to a Christian devotional?  I’m glad you asked.  The Christian faith has experienced a tremendous amount of change over the past two-thousand years.  Some of these changes have been positive, such as the agreement of the doctrines of the faith and some have challenged and strengthened the faith—consider the inspiration of the martyrs during the persecution of the church.  Some changes have been hard, but necessary, such as the Reformation, which gave birth to Protestantism.  From there we have multiple branches of denominations, each with their own traditions and structure.  These are not bad things in themselves but they have changed the complexity of the faith.  And yes, some changes have caused havoc, confusion and turmoil in the church.  I’ll leave those unnamed so we don’t lose focus.  The point is, all these changes have added layers to the basic truths of Christianity.

The question then becomes, when we strip away all these added layers what is the “most primitive and most important” aspect of the Christian faith?

Paul makes it very clear in his letter to the church in Corinth:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time . . . Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appear to me also.”  1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

The death of Jesus Christ, His burial and His resurrection are the core, the root, and the foundation of the Christian faith.  Paul said that those are “of first importance.”  That does not mean that other doctrine of the faith are of lesser importance.  We must recognize the humanity and divinity of Jesus, the incarnation and the virgin birth, but the heart of our faith is the fact that Jesus died, evidenced by His burial, and that He rose again, as seen by the many witnesses afterward.  If your faith is built on anything other than this, if your confidence is in your religious affiliation, if you follow a Jesus who is a “good teacher and moral example,” if you adhere to traditions rather than truth, I dare to say you do not have saving faith.  Only faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is saving faith.  If your Christianity is not built on this single most important truth of all, then you should reconsider whether you truly are a Christian.

Why are these so important?  Without the death of Jesus, our sin debt remains.  Only Jesus could be the perfect sacrifice for your sin and my sin and the sins of all of humankind.  Simply put, Jesus’ death paid for our sins.  But why is it so important to know about His burial?   Because without the grave His death is a question not a fact.   Jesus was visibly buried in an earthly grave to validate His death.  It is also important because, to borrow from Bill Gaither, “The empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.”[2]  The empty tomb was the first indication that Jesus’ followers had that He was alive.  Jesus’ resurrection is the assurance we have of eternal life.  Without His resurrection, we are trusting in a dead man with no power.  But He is alive and He promises us that we will have life everlasting if we believe and trust in Him.

There are many facets to the Christian faith and we do well to learn about atonement, justification, sanctification, grace, Christology and the other great truths of Christianity.  If you’ve never studied these important doctrines, I encourage you to do so.   They will enrich your understanding of the Bible and of your relationship with Christ.  Consider them the building blocks of your faith.  But before you start building, make certain you are on the rock-solid foundation of “first importance.”  Be sure your faith is resting on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Chris. “All other ground is sinking sand.”[3]

Lord Jesus, there are many voices that claim to know the truth, but only Your Word tells us what is “of first importance.”  Guard Your church Jesus lest we wander from the substance of our faith and lose our foundation.  Amen.

 

[1] Charles Detwiler, Kimberly Mitchell and Norman Reichenbach, Life by Design, (Boston, Cengage Learning, 2014), 14.

[2] William J Gaither and Gloria Gaither, Because He Lives, (1971).

[3] Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury, The Solid Rock, (n.d.)

The Blessedness of Obedience

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor.  Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him.” (John 12:1-2)

The weary people stood at the edge of the Jordan River, listening to their aged leader Moses recount the history of their journey from Egypt, across the wilderness to the place where they now waited to enter the Promised Land.  He reiterated the commands and laws of God and, as he neared the end of his message, as all good preachers do, he delivered the application and gave them a choice: obedience or disobedience – and with the choice came consequences – blessing for obedience or punishment for disobedience.

I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.  For the Lord is your life. Deuteronomy 30:19-20

 God so desires to bless us.  He has a vast storehouse of good things waiting to be poured out on your life and mine.  Because He loves us, He watches – not for us to do wrong – but for the moment we do right so that he can rain down “showers of blessings” (Ezekiel 34:26). God is generous with His blessings – lavish even (1 John 3:1).  It delights Him to delight us.  You can’t begin to imagine what God wants to give you as Paul said: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

But God reserves those blessings for those who love and obey Him.  True, “rain falls on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45), but He saves the greater blessings for His children who hear His voice and obey.  The account of Lazarus is a perfect example.

In our key verse, Lazarus is at the table with Jesus, his beloved friend, teacher and Lord.  The reason for the gathering is significant – it was a dinner to honor and thank Jesus for what He had done for Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary.  And it is also the point of this devotional.  Look back at the first part of our key verse and note that Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Jesus.  Take a few minutes to read the account in John 11:1-44.  Notice with me in verse 43 that “Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And what did Lazarus do?  He obeyed. “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (v. 44).  Lazarus heard Jesus’ voice and he obeyed.  And because he obeyed, He was restored to life.  Because He obeyed, he was sitting at the table, sharing a meal with Jesus.  Lazarus heard, Lazarus obeyed, and Lazarus lived to enjoy the blessings of his Savior.  What if Lazarus had decided not to obey?  He would have stayed cold and dead in the tomb and not received the blessings of life and fellowship with Jesus.  His family would not have given a dinner and Jesus would not have been honored.

Lazarus’ obedience brought blessing, it brought life and a deeper relationship with Jesus than ever before.  Lazarus’ obedience brought honor to Jesus – and this in the last week of his friend’s life, for Jesus would die on the cross just six days later.

Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave and into life.  He calls you and me out of the grave and into life.  We are all spiritually dead until we hear the voice of Jesus calling us out of the grave, and He calls to us all – every man, woman, boy and girl.  Some will hear His voice and obey and receive the blessings of everlasting life and fellowship with God.  Some will hear His voice and refuse to obey and remain cold and dead, and will receive everlasting punishment.  But we all hear.  We all are called from death to life.  We all have a choice to make.

“Choose life . . . and live.”

 Merciful and gracious Heavenly Father, I pray for the soul that reads these words.  I pray that they will choose to obey.  I pray that they will chose to receive all the blessings You have in store for them.  I pray they will chose life.  Amen.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun (Israel), who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in His majesty.” Deuteronomy 33:26

I grew up on fairy tales and stories of damsels in distress and spent much of my early life dreaming of my knight in shining armor. It’s such a romantic thought. I would be kidnapped and held captive by someone who was just mean and evil and wanted to defeat everything good. My situation would be so dire, but then, here would come my beloved hero, to defeat the enemy and rescue me. I would be swept up on his white stallion and we would ride off – of course into the sunset – to begin our “happily-ever-after” life together. Even as I grew older and left fairy tales behind, I still looked for that one guy who would right all the wrongs and make everything wonderful. I figured out that, no matter how wonderful he is, no man will every measure up to that expectation.

That is until I met the One Man who did. No, it’s not my husband, though he is a great guy. My beloved hero is Jesus Christ. And the scenario is not just my fantasy fairy tale; it’s really true, for me and for you. It’s true for every person that lives today, that ever lived, and that is yet to live.

There really is someone who is completely evil. His name is Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, and he is the enemy of the One who is pure and good – God, the Heavenly Father. God created a perfect world (Genesis 1:1) and then perfectly created two beings in His image: man and woman – we know them as Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:7). Satan slid his way into this perfect place and took them captive to sin, and because of sin, to death (Genesis 3:1-6). This curse of death and sin has been passed down to every human being (Romans 5:12). We are all held against our will by Satan. You may find that strange given how humanity has chosen sin for thousands of years, but our true will – the soul which God placed in man at creation – longs for Him. But our feet are in the stocks, even as we roam the earth, bound by the enemy of God. Why us? Why does Satan attack man? Because we are God’s beloved creation, made in His image, and what God loves, Satan hates.

How it moved God’s great heart with compassion, to see us, His beloved creation bound in chains of sin and unable to rescue ourselves. So He sent us a Hero, a Knight in shining armor. He sent us a Savior, His own and only Son. In what is only a God-miracle, He set His glory aside and poured His divinity into a mortal shell. The perfect Son of God became the perfect Man, Jesus. He came, not on a great steed, but in a young woman’s womb. He came, not to brandish a sword and kill a mortal enemy, but to carry a cross up a hill and crush the head of the enemy of our souls (Genesis 3:15). He came to take on every sin of every person in every age – He came to bear your sin and mine (Romans 6:10). He suffered. He bled. He died a cruel and torturous death for one reason: because He loves you and me. He came to set us free.

He came to give us life –the life we were created for, before Satan and sin took us captive. This life is ours once again, because Jesus did not stay in the grave. God raised Him from the dead, and He is alive today (Ephesians 1:20). His death set us free from the curse of sin (Romans 8:1-2). His resurrection gives us life, eternal life, forever life (1 John 5:11). That “happy-ever-after”? It is a promise, not a fairy tale. Heaven awaits, the place of pure perfection, our forever home (John 14:2). One day, Jesus will come again to earth. He will come to finish the battle of good vs. evil. He will bring His enemy, our enemy, to his final destruction. And guess how He will come? Yep, on a white horse (Revelation 19:11). He will come as the Rider who is Faithful and True – the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And He will right every wrong, and put an end forever to evil.

This is not just a great fairy tale, though the world tries to claim it is. This is the true reality. This is the over-arching picture of God’s plan. He created us. He loves us. He saw us captive to sin and death and evil, and He sent His own Son to rescue us. I hope this is real for you. I hope you have received this gift of freedom and life that God has offered to you. For those without Jesus, the final fate of Satan in their eternal fate as well. The promise of forgiveness and redemption and eternal life is only for those who have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. If you do not know Jesus, please examine the evidence in the Scriptures I’ve highlighted. Ask Him to show you the truth. And pray the prayer at the close of this devotional. Please let me know if you do. I want to rejoice with you. If you already know Jesus, pray a word of thanks for what He has done for you.

This is real life. This is the only question that matters: What will you do with Jesus?

Dear God, I know that I am held captive by sin and my fate is death. I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died to set me free from sin and death. I receive this wonderful freedom and the promise of eternal life. Thank you God, for saving me. Teach me to love you and walk in Your ways all my days. Amen.

Two Hearts at Calvary

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

In the midst of the crowd of people at Golgotha that day stood a mother with a broken heart. In the halls of heaven, amid the angels and the saints, the Father’s heart surely broke as well. As the soldier’s sword pierced the side of Jesus, a sword of grief and pain pierced the heart of Mary as she watched her son die. Though the face of God the Father turned away from Jesus, I suspect the same sword that pierced Mary’s heart likely pierced the great heart of God. A mortal woman and an immortal and eternal God, bound by the love only a mother and Father shared over their son. A life’s journey that began before time, in the heart of God. A life’s journey that began in a stable in the heart of a young woman.

Jesus the son of Mary. Jesus, the Son of God.

In the Gospel of Luke, within the familiar Christmas story of angels and wise men and shepherds, we learn something about the mother of Jesus. Luke 2:19 tells us that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Every mother understands, to a degree, how we treasure the sight and sound and smell of our newborn baby. But for Mary, this was so much more than just the birth of her son. This was wonder. This was awe. For she had been told that her baby was to be the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God. Angles proclaimed His birth. Shepherds left their flocks and came to see this newborn King, then joyfully spread the news to everyone they met.

We find Mary again, tucking away treasures about her son in her heart, in the account of the boy Jesus in the temple. Frantic worry and fear about His absence from their group gave way to that same awe and wonder at the wisdom of her child, and His passion to be in the house of His Father. Luke repeats the phrase, “His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”  I imagine that, through the years, Mary added more and more to the treasury in her heart.   She knew her son was more than a flesh-and-blood man-child. The Son of God. The Messiah. The Deliverer of God’s people.

And what can we say about the heart of His Father? Can anyone describe the heart of God? A mother’s heart I can understand. Even the heart of a human father is not unique to us. But the heart of the God of Heaven and Earth? Vast. Eternal. Unyielding. Yet still, this was His Son. Surely we can say that the love God held for Jesus must have been beyond the scope of human comprehension. If the love God has for us, His creation is more than we can fathom, how much greater His love for His Son? He did not have to tuck treasures away in His heart, for He had perfect knowledge and remembrance; yet I image – just me thinking mind you – that He rejoiced over every moment of Jesus’ earthly life.

Until now. Until the cross. Until His mother and His Father witnessed the gruesome and cruel death of the son they both loved.

I wonder if Mary, watching her son’s life ebb away, took out those precious treasured memories of angels and shepherds and wonder and awe and tried to understand how this infant she bore could be the hated, dying criminal hanging before her. Was this really her child? Did she look at his hair, matted with blood from the thorns and recall pushing that same hair from His eyes? Did she remember how those hands held tightly to hers as they went to the market together?  The hands that were now nailed to the wood? Did she wonder, “How will he save anyone now?” The Son of God, the Messiah – battered, broken and bleeding. The light in His eyes dimmed as He surrendered His Spirit and died.

How much more was the Father’s heart in heaven breaking? If the love God had for His Son was multiplied to the nth degree, how much more His grief? And then, the Father did the hardest thing imaginable. He turned away from the sight of His Son, for in that moment, all the sin and shame and filth of mankind was cast upon Jesus. Adam’s sin. Eve’s sin. David’s sin. Peter’s sin. Your sin. My sin. The sin of the generations yet to come. The sin of all humanity for all time was heaped upon Jesus, and the Father turned away. Matthew 27: 46 records Jesus’ mournful cry: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? Which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet Jesus knew why. It was the plan of the ages to redeem mankind from sin and death. They had prepared for this from before time began. Prepared, but still shattered by grief.

Mary grieved for her son. Surely God grieved as He turned away from the sin His beloved Son bore.

Two broken hearts, forever entwined by love for the God-man who died at Calvary that day.

Remember My Words

“I did tell you, but you did not believe.” John 10:25
Do you remember that annoying kid in school, the expert on every subject who delighted in telling you everything she knew? Do you remember how irritating it was when it turned out she was right? Didn’t you just hate to hear her chortle, “Told you so!” Yes, I remember that kid. Truth is, I was that kid. And I would like to apologize to my brothers and my classmates for being such a brat. But let me just remind you – I was right.
The point of this, and there is a point, is how we often fail to recall what we hear, and specifically what God has said to us. This is the first step in the long fall of doubt, and our enemy is the chief manipulator in twisting our thoughts and raising uncertainty about God’s words.
Let’s look at an account in Scripture with Jesus and His disciples. Please stop and read Mark 4:35-40. This is the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm that threatened their company on the boat in the middle of the sea. The disciples are fighting against the wind and the waves and where is Jesus? Asleep in the boat! How can He sleep when there is a “furious squall, and waves [breaking] over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped” (v. 37)?
The fearful disciples awaken Jesus, and “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (v. 38-39). Now listen as Jesus chastens His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40). Recently a friend asked me about this passage, wondering what Jesus saw in His disciples that caused Him to rebuke their lack of faith. As I meditated on these words, this is what the Lord brought to my mind and heart. Jesus is not chastising the disciples because they doubted His ability to deal with the storm, the issue wasn’t that they were scared. But go back to verse 35. Jesus told them “Let us go over to the other side.” This wasn’t a mere suggestion, but Jesus was giving them an emphatic direction, and He was assuring them that He was with them – notice the words “let us”. And because He was present, their journey was assured. When the storm came up, their fear caused them to doubt that they would survive. But in truth they were expressing a deeper doubt that Jesus could accomplish what He said they would all do, which is “go over to the other side.” They allowed the storm to drown out Jesus’ words, and all they knew is that the wind and waves meant certain death.
This is Satan’s favorite tool, to cause us to doubt and question God’s Word, His promises, His commands and His authority. We can see this clearly in two snippets of Scripture:
Genesis 3:1 – “Did God really say…?” and  Matthew 4:3 & 6 – “If you are…?   In these two brief lines, Satan is casting doubt on what God has said, first to Eve, and in the Matthew passages to Jesus. Satan was causing Eve to question God’s command in the Garden, and cast doubt on the goodness of God’s heart toward them. Notice that when the serpent questioned Eve about God’s command, she began to get confused and twisted the words of God, “God did say ‘You must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’” (Gen. 3:3, emphasis added). God had commanded they not eat from this tree, but, in her answer to the serpent, Eve added a little bit of her own thoughts, and the doubt was sown. Have you ever wondered “Did God really tell me this, or am I hearing my own voice and my own words?” This was the beginning of the slippery slope of doubt for Eve – Satan knew it, just as he knows it when we have the same doubts – and he uses it to his advantage. He also tried to cause Jesus to doubt His identity and who God had declared Him to be at His baptism – “You are my Son…” (Mark 1:11). Satan succeeded in leading Eve astray, but Jesus knew without a doubt what God had said, and who He was. Matthew notes how Jesus repeatedly refuted the devil by saying “It is written…” for He knew exactly what God’s Words said – He was their Author.
Now, let’s look at one more – John 11:40 – “Did I not tell you…?” This passage comes from the resurrection of Lazarus. Remember that Jesus had told Martha, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life…whoever believe in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25). He even asked her, “Do you believe this?” Now, when Jesus commands that the stone be rolled away from the grave, Martha questioned Him. That is when Jesus said “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). “Do you remember what I promised you Martha? I am going to fulfill it right before your eyes!” Isn’t it amazing how quickly the warmth of His words cooled in her heart; from the time of Jesus’ speaking until they came to the tomb, Martha had begun to doubt.
God has spoken great and precious promises in His Word, promises for this life and for the life everlasting. He has spoken through the pages of the Bible and He speaks through His Holy Spirit that dwells in every believer. He speaks to give you and me assurance and promise and hope and peace and comfort. He speaks to guide and direct us, leading us into the  “Promised Land” He has ordained for His beloved children. Perhaps God has, at some point, told you that He is going to do something in and through you; and time, circumstances and the enemy are casting doubt on that word. Just as the disciples and Martha forgot what Jesus had said He would do, I wonder if Jesus stands before you and asks “Did I not tell you…?” Perhaps His word to you is right at the cusp of fulfillment. Child of God, will you continue to trust that God will do what He has told you?
Holy Father, when You speak, Your word is fulfilled. Lord, When my mind wanders, when the storms blow, when the enemy tries to cause me to doubt; please help me to hold fast to what You have promised, and to trust You to bring everything You have said to completion. Amen.

The Hope of Salvation

“Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us.  This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

The nation of Israel looked and longed for the salvation of the Lord.  He had promised to send them a Savior, and so they watched and waited with an eye always turned toward the Temple, the Sanctuary of God.  Today we will look at the Hope of God’s salvation in this fourth day of Advent.

The prophets of Old declared the Word of the Lord; a Word that foretold both coming destruction and coming salvation.  The Jewish people would soon fall to their ruthless enemies and suffer great oppression.  But they had hope, because they had God’s promise for salvation from their enemy.  And so they waited for their deliverer.  They waited, not with a “wishful” hope, but with an expectant hope, confident that the Lord their God would fulfill His promise.  And He did – but not in the way they expected.

You see, Israel’s greatest enemy was not a foreign nation.  Israel’s greatest enemy and ours is death-and Israel, like all mankind needed a Savior who could defeat death and give us life.  That Savior is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The Advent season is traditionally one of preparation and waiting – waiting with that expectant hope and confidence in the faithfulness of God.  Two people are highlighted in Luke’s Gospel as great “waiters,” Simeon and Anna. Scripture says of Simeon, “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel…it had been revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:25, 26)  When Jesus’ parents came to the Temple to dedicate the Holy Infant, Simeon recognized the Promise of God and, taking Jesus in his arms, he praised God – “My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation…”(v. 30-31). Anna was a long-time widow who gave herself night and day to worship, fasting and prayer.  Verse 38 says “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.”  Did you catch that – “to all who were looking forward to the redemption” (emphasis added).

We live in a world fraught with evil, sickness, hatred and despair.  But we are not hopeless.  We have the fulfillment of God’s promised salvation in the God-man, Jesus Christ.  He alone is our hope for salvation.  It is not a vain hope, for Jesus has already defeated our enemy.  By His death, we are free from eternal death; by His resurrection we have eternal life.

As we rush through stores and celebrations and parties, let us commit to keep one eye always trained on He who is the Hope of all mankind, the Promise of God, Jesus Christ – our Salvation.  The greatest Christmas Gift of all.

Oh Lord my God, You alone are “mighty to save (Zech. 3:17).  I rejoice in Your promise of salvation, a promise You fulfilled through Jesus, born as a tender infant, born to save and redeem me.  My hope is in You, my Savior and My God.  Amen

Between Death and Life

“It was preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.  The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how His body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”                          Luke 23:54-56

It was the darkest day in their lives.  It was the day after Jesus had been crucified on the cross.   They’d heard the as the nails were driven into His hands and feet.  They saw the soldiers pierce His side and watched as the blood and water drained from His battered body.    They had seen Him give up His Spirit.  Their Jesus was dead.

What must this day have been like for these women?  Were they numb with grief?  Or was it the kind of sorrow that aches deep in the bones?   Don’t you imagine they felt fearful and confused? This day must have left them empty inside.

As we look back from this side of the Cross, we know these grieving women were entering a time of waiting.  We want to tell them, “Just hold on! Don’t grieve. Everything is going to change tomorrow.”  As Paul Harvey says, we know “the rest of the story.” We know death could not keep its grip on Jesus. We know they will soon find the tomb empty.   But they didn’t.  They thought it was all over.  Jesus’ death was final.  The man they believe was going to change the world was dead.

They didn’t know they were only waiting.

No long ago, I felt “dead” – both emotionally and spiritually.  I thought my life and my dreams were gone. I became buried in a dark grave of depression, fear and anxiety.  Feeling of hopelessness and sadness threatened to suffocate the very breath from me. I felt God was done with me.  Earlier I had not answered God’s call to ministry.  I had let it die.  I believed my dead dreams could never be resurrected.  Like the women at the tomb, I was grieving what I thought was lost.  But like them, I too was entering a time of waiting.

But in recent months, God has begun stirring something wonderful and alive in my spirit. His call on my life was not dead.  Just like the women leaving the tomb, I didn’t know there was more to come.  I was only in a time of waiting for God to fulfill His plan.  It wasn’t death – it was the day between grief and resurrection.

Don’t mistake the waiting season in your life as the death of your dreams. Hold on. God promises that an abundant new life is coming through the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Holy Father – You are the Master at bring life from death.  By Your resurrection power, Jesus was brought back to life – and by that same power you will give life to my hopes and dreams.

Amen.