Advent Day 15 – Everlasting Father

“He is able to save forever those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25).

Genealogy is big business these days.  And entire industry has been created to help people track down their ancestral roots and national origin.  Spit in a vial and you can find out if your heritage is African, Asian, Scottish, German and so on.  We want to know where we come from. Still this is not a new fascination – the Middle Eastern tradition has long held to family lineage.  The Old Testament frequently pauses to review family history.  This was an important aspect of Jewish history.  Genealogy assured rights to land and position.  Two of the Gospels present the earthly genealogical record of Jesus as proof of His royal roots (Matthew 1:1-17) and His humanity (Luke 3:23-37).

As we dive further into the proclamation of Isaiah 9:6 we find the designation of this Child as “Everlasting Father.”  This title corresponds to our discussion of ancestry because the prophet is focusing on the Messiah as the timeless originator of our eternal salvation.

Let’s clarify one point that always seems to hang us up here: Isaiah is not trying to say that the Messiah is the Heavenly Father.  Anytime we study Scripture we need to remember to look at the original terminology as the speaker or author would have used it – context is vital.  In the original Hebrew, the phrase “Everlasting Father” is speaking to eternity from before the world began and of Messiah as the forefather and founder of our eternal security going forward.  John the Revelator expresses this powerfully in calling Jesus “The Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).  Jesus’ death on the cross was not a knee-jerk reaction by God to the unexpected sin of mankind.  It was planned and completed before God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).

Jesus is rightly our Everlasting Father because He is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is the Originator of eternal salvation and everlasting life.  He is Everlasting as from of old and he is Everlasting for ever and ever and ever.  He is “the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8).

Nothing and no one can take away what Jesus has done for you as your Everlasting Father.  He secured eternal life for you long before you ever entered the world, long before you fell into sin, long before you ever knew you needed a Savior.  He established the future from days of old for all the days yet to come.  Because He is our Everlasting Father.

Read Hebrews 7:21-28

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Advent Day 7 – JOY to the World!

“And the angel said unto the, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 KJV

This time of year, we greet one another with a joyful “Merry Christmas!”  We sing the Christmas hymn, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”  We delight to see joy on our children’s faces as they take in the sights and sounds all around them.  There are joyous shouts as gifts are unwrapped around the tree.  Christmas is truly a time for joy.

But is our joy merely in the lights and gifts and festive activities at this time of year?  Do we truly understand the reason for the joy of the Christmas season?

The angels brought the good news of the birth of Jesus with a proclamation of joy.  This baby was the fulfillment of a promise from God that the Jews had clung to for centuries.  The LORD had said He would send them a King – the Messiah – who would rule in righteousness and justice, who would save His people and restore all that God had given to them.  And they were right about the coming Messiah – yet they were also wrong.  The Jews lived for hundreds of years under the oppression of enemy nations; the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and, at the time of Jesus’ birth, the Romans.  Their beloved Jerusalem had been taken hostage by this sometimes cruel and evil nations, Rome being the worst.  The Jews expected a Messiah who would break the Roman rule and restore Jerusalem back to its former glory in the days of David and Solomon.

But the true enemy of the Jews was the same enemy you and I have today.  Our own sinfulness.  Sin is what kept the Jews in bondage, and it is what keeps you and me in bondage today.   The Messiah of God came, not to break the back of an enemy nation, but to break the bonds of sin that keep mankind imprisoned.  Jesus came as an infant, not to give us a reason for a party, but to bring freedom from the curse of sin.  And that is the true JOY of Christmas.  The baby Jesus in the manger is the Savior Jesus on the Cross, and the Risen Jesus who has “proclaimed freedom for the prisoners, release for the oppressed” and the JOY of “the Lord’s favor.”

Don’t let your Christmas JOY stop at the tree.  Look beyond the tinsel and wrappings and see the Messiah in the manger, the Savior on the Cross and the Risen Christ who has come to set you free.  JOY to the world, indeed!

Read: Psalm 72

Advent 2015 – Day 6 – Hope That Never Fails

Advent candle 1This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance . . . we have put our hope in the living God who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.  1 Timothy 4:10

“Oh I hope it doesn’t rain out the picnic today!”  “I hope I did well on that Biology exam.”  “I hope she will go with me to the prom.”  “I hope . . .” It’s like saying “I’d like for it to be so, but I just don’t know.”  In our ever-changing world, there are very few things we can count on anymore.   In the past quarter-century we’ve seen our society change at a break-neck pace, and not always for the better.  Isn’t there anything or anyone we can put our hope in that won’t let us down?

God.  God is the only sure and solid foundation for hope.

He is El Khi—the Living God and the source of all life.  Would you rather put your hope in a living God or in “chance?”  Chance is shifting sand.  Only the Living God is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

He is the Soter—the Savior of all men.  The greatest need all humans have is for a Savior, someone to rescue us from our sin.  God sent His one and only Son, the Babe we honor in this Christmas season, to pay the penalty for our sin.  He gives us hope because He is our Savior.

These things are true – they are trustworthy.  We can put our hope in God because He is faithful.  He promises salvation for all who believe, and He always—always­­­—keeps His word.  If you need a hope that never fails, hope in the Living God who is your Savior.  He is a trustworthy God and a sure foundation of hope.

JOY to the World!

“And the angel said unto the, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 KJV

As we enter into this third week of the Advent season, we focus our thoughts and hearts on JOY.  Who doesn’t delight to see the joy on the faces of children this time of year?  We greet one another with a joyful “Merry Christmas!” the word “merry” being a joyous greeting that repeats the message in our key verse – one of “great joy at the birth of Christ”.  (Maybe that’s why there is such a PC battle over the traditional greeting.) We sing the Christmas hymn, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”  Christmas is truly a time for joy.

But is our joy merely in the lights and gifts and festive activities at this time of year?  Do we truly understand the reason for the joy of the Christmas season?

The angels brought the good news of the birth of Jesus with a proclamation of joy, and the fulfillment of a promise from God that the Jews had clung to centuries, the promise of the Messiah.  God had promised to send a King who would rule in righteousness and justice, who would save His people and restore to them all that God had given to them.  And they were right about the coming Messiah – yet they were also wrong.  The Jews lived for hundreds of years under the oppression of enemy nations; the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and, at the time of Jesus birth, the Romans.  Their beloved Jerusalem had been taken hostage by this sometimes cruel and evil nations, Rome being the worst.  The Jews expected a Messiah who would break the Roman rule and restore Jerusalem back to its former glory in the days of David and Solomon.

But the true enemy of the Jews was the same enemy you and I have today.  Our own sinfulness. Sin is what kept the Jews in bondage, and it is what keeps man in bondage still today.   The Messiah of God came, not to break the back of an enemy nation, but to break the bonds of sin that keep mankind imprisoned.  Jesus came as an infant, not to give us a reason to party, but to bring freedom from the bonds of sin.  And that is the true JOY of Christmas.  The baby Jesus in the manger is the Savior Jesus on the Cross, and the Risen Jesus who has “proclaimed freedom for the prisoners, release for the oppressed” and the JOY of “the Lord’s favor.”

Don’t let your Christmas JOY stop at the tree.  Look beyond the tinsel and wrappings and see the Messiah in the manger, the Savior on the Cross and the Risen Christ who has come to set you free.  JOY to the world, indeed!

Holy Jesus, Messiah, Savior, and risen King, fill my heart with the true JOY of this Advent season.  Let me ring the freedom bells of Christmas and proclaim – JOY to the world, the LORD has come, let earth receive Her KING!”  Amen.

Peace that Never Ends

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.”  2 Thessalonians 3:16

On this, our last day in the Advent week of peace, let’s recall for a moment the many ways the Lord of peace has given us His peace.  We have considered how Jesus Christ became the way to peace with God.  We have seen how the peace of God can calm our fearful and anxious hearts, and how it can bring peace to our relationships.  God offers peace in our “dark night of the soul,” bringing His light to the night that surrounds us.  We have also seen that a life focused on peace brings fruit such as unity, rest, life, strength and hope.  These are all available to us today, when we choose Jesus Christ, the true Prince of Peace.

But there is a peace we have not yet considered, a peace that we will not know in this life for it is an eternal peace.  In the beloved Christmas hymn, “Silent Night” we sing, “Sleep in heavenly peace.” This is “heavenly peace.”

We live in a world that is fraught with the threat of war, terrorism, and never knowing when another unhinged person will open fire in a killing spree.  Every day the news is filled with reports of abuse, hatred, oppression, and violence.  National, world and local leaders are corrupt.  Children live and die in fear, hunger, disease and war.  Will it ever come to an end?

Yes, and it will be a spectacular end indeed.  One day, and I think not so very far away, Jesus Christ will return, and bring with Him the fulfillment of God’s promise of peace. He will come, not as the baby in the manger, but as the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He will come with power and authority.  He will bring an end to evil and wickedness.  He will bring punishment to those who love evil and hatred and corruption – to all who rejected Him in this life.

But to those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ He will bring peace.  No more war. No more disease. No more violence. No more hatred.  No one will harm another person.  No one will ever again be hungry or fearful or lonely or sad. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).  We will never be separated from God.  We will live forever in perfect peace.

Do you long for this peace? Do you, like me, ache to see an end to evil and hatred and corruption and violence?  Do you know the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, as your Savior and Lord?  This helpless baby in the manger can bring you everlasting peace if you will believe and trust in Him.  Let today be the day that you make your peace secure.

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, I want this peace that will never end. Today I turn from sin and turn to You.  By faith I receive you as my Savior and surrender my life to You as Lord.  I receive Your promise of everlasting peace.  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

The Hope of Advent

“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Advent is a time of preparation, as we prepare our homes, our menus, our gift-lists, and calendars for Christmas.  More importantly, it is a season to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.  Advent traditionally follows four weekly themes: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  Additionally, the tradition is to light a series of candles in observance of these special themes.  With all the “hustle and bustle,” shopping, cooking, visiting, and cleaning, it is easy to lose sight of the true reason for the Christmas season.  I would like to invite you to join me every day at “Deeper Roots” for a short devotional during the Advent season, which I hope, will help your keep your focus on the greatest Gift of all.

Our key verse is likely familiar as a standard during the Christmas season, for it foretells the hope of the Jewish people – and of all mankind, and it prophecies the coming of the Messiah on whom all hope rests.  In the season of Advent, the first Sunday of Advent is traditionally focused on Hope and the prophetic promises of God.

For hundreds of years the Jews had waited and watched for the birth of this special child, as Isaiah had prophesied: “The Lord Himself will give you a sign.  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel” (Is. 7:14).  The Jewish people had God’s promise, and their hope was founded on God’s faithfulness to keep His promises.

When hope was born, the Redemption of the world lay in a manger, surrounded by hay and the lowing of cattle.  This Child, the fulfillment of God’s greatest promise, was the Hope, not just of the Jewish people, but of the whole world.

There is no greater reason for hope than to hope in the promises of the Lord.  Why? “For no matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

The nation of Israel looked forward in hope to a Messiah who they believed would free them from the rule of their enemies.  Mankind today looks in hope for an end to poverty and disease and hatred.  But the true enemy of all humanity is evil – evil wrought by Satan, the enemy of God and His creation.  The Jewish people expected a military savior, and our world today looks for a political savior, but God sent to us exactly what we needed – a holy and perfect Savior who would save us from our sins, from death and from the wrath of God.

The Lord promised us Hope and Peace and Joy and Love – and He fulfilled every promise in His Son, Jesus Christ.  The hope of all mankind came, not as a military conqueror, nor as a great political leader, but as a tiny and helpless baby – Jesus, the Child of Hope and Promise.

I hope you will join me every day during the Advent season as we  prepare for the coming of the Christ Child.   This first week of Advent will focus on the HOPE we have in the promises of God.

Holy Father, my hope is in You, in Your Word and Your promises, You are forever faithful.  Thank you for this Christmas season, please prepare my heart for this special Gift of Hope.  Amen.