The End of the Christmas Story

nativity

What is the end of the Christmas Story?

Perhaps when Mary was treasuring these things in her heart and the shepherds were  returning and praising God? (Luke 2:19,20)

Or maybe when the magi were worshiping and presenting their treasures? (Matthew 2:11)

Too often, that is where we stop celebrating in December.  A sweet baby (the Son of God) is born in humble surroundings and certain segments of the population respond with fitting praise and wonder.  The end.  But, as we have seen in our devotions this week, that is far from the end of the story.  I have enjoyed reading through Luke especially at this time of year to see once again what we are REALLY celebrating.

Jesus came as a baby – and what a great opening act that was (you, know the opening act that followed thousands of years of God setting the stage)!!  And 30 years later all sorts of people (fishermen, tax-collectors, sinners, chief priests, foreigners, the sick and diseased, teachers of the law, governors and kings and politicians, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, men, women and children)  all prepare to meet this traveling preacher, teacher, healer, miracle maker, story-teller, leader, servant.  His favorite topic is always the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1).  Through his teaching, his parables, and his miracles, the world sees a clearer picture of God than they have ever seen before.  The son truly has his Father’s resemblance.

And, he also is committed to doing his Father’s will – even when that means death on the cross, crucified as a criminal, to take away the sins of the world.  His followers are crushed as they were sure this Jesus was going to set up the Kingdom on earth and begin his reign right then.  How could they have been so wrong?

Thankfully, that is still not the end.  Three days later…the tomb is empty!  Joy to the World!!  Jesus appears to his disciples and uses Scripture to explain to them again how the Old Testament foretold what must take place.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.   Luke 24:22-28

A way was needed for both Jews and Gentiles to be washed clean before they could be full citizens of God’s Kingdom.  And Jesus’ death made the way.  And his resurrection gives the hope for a future resurrection.  For there is one more key element that must take place before Jesus will begin his reign over all the world and the Kingdom of God will fully begin.  This is hinted above in Luke 24:47 and spelled out in Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

There have been many godly men and women who have died while preaching the gospel – but still the good news has not reached all people in all nations.  The Church of God mourned the death of a very special and faithful pastor, Rex Cain, just this week.  But the mourning was not without hope because the Christmas story isn’t over yet.

In the final verses of Luke (24:51), Jesus ascends into heaven.  When the same event is recorded in the book of Acts (Luke’s sequel) the disciples are told, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).  The best is yet to come!

The end of the Christmas story is a new beginning.  A beginning that is still to come.  When Jesus breaks through the clouds at his Second Coming this will be the start of his reign on Earth over all who have been faithful.  The dead in Christ will rise and we will see Jesus coming – not as a babe but as a triumphant warrior and king.  A new heaven and a new earth will worship him and his Father.

I pray I will be found ready.  And I pray you will be found ready.  Let’s get to work and tell the nations!

“Come, Lord Jesus!”(Revelation 22:20 b)

-Marcia Railton

 

Advertisements

Joy to the World – Up From the Grave He AROSE!

Luke 24

JOY to the WORLD!

In yesterday’s devotion, Jesus died.  And the world –  the centurion, the sky, the women, the crowd – took notice and responded.  Even the crowd that had not been Jesus’ followers, some of whom may have earlier shouted, “Crucify Him!”, now, “beat their breasts and went away” (Luke 23:48).  There was something very different about this man Jesus and the way he died.  Though they did not understand at the time that he had died for their sins – and not only theirs – but the sins of the world.

If Luke’s gospel story had ended there, we could still be forgiven people today – able to have a relationship with God because of the sacrifice of Jesus carrying our sins to his death because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  BUT – there is even MORE good news to come in Luke 24!  A great gift of God is set before us – eternal life in Christ Jesus our RISEN Lord.  Without a risen Lord there would be no future hope for a resurrection for his followers.

When the women brought news to the disciples that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.” (Luke 24:11,12).   He was going to search it out and find the truth.  Likewise, the two on the road to Emmaus had many questions and were confused about what they had seen and heard.  Jesus walked with them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27).

Today, news of his resurrection and the resurrection to come still brings great joy to his followers.  There are those who say it sounds like nonsense.  There are those who are questioning.  Be like Peter and seek out answers.  Like Jesus, dig into the Scriptures and reveal them to others.  Declare the good news of Jesus’ birth – but then so much more – his death and resurrection.  Share the Joy!

-Marcia Railton

Obey Obey Obey

Friday

James 1-22

You’ve heard the message about the kingdom of God and you’ve been taught the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. You decide you want to repent of your current lifestyle and be baptized into Jesus and become a part of the family of God. There’s one question that remains. What are you supposed to do in the meantime? What should you do until his return or your death. The answer is one word: obey. A person can believe all the other aspects of the gospel but if they don’t live lives of obedience to Jesus, then the rest doesn’t matter.

“…be doers of the word and not hearers only…” – James 1.22

James 1.22 is a popular verse and many people assume that ‘the word’ being spoken here is about the Bible. Thus it reads:

“…be doers of [what the bible teaches] and not hearers only…”

However, when James is writing this, the Bible we have today did not exist. The New Testament canon didn’t become finalized until hundreds of years later, so it begs the question. If James isn’t talking about the Bible, what is he talking about? In the New Testament the gospel has a plethora of synonyms, many that we don’t pick up on when we read. Some of the synonyms are:

The gospel of God – Mark 1.14

The gospel of Christ – Rom. 15.19

The good news – Acts 8.12

The word of reconciliation – II Cor. 5.19

The word of the Lord – Acts 16.32

The gospel of the grace of God – Acts 20.24

The Message of truth – Eph. 1.13

The gospel of peace – Eph. 6.15

The word of life – Phil. 2.16

The word of truth – Col. 1.5

The promise of life – II Tim. 1.1

The faithful word – Titus 1.9

The word of God – Heb. 4.12

The word – James 1.22

Instead of James saying that we need to be doers of the Bible, what he’s really saying is that we need to be doers of the gospel, not just a hearer. However, what does it mean to be a doer of the gospel? I thought the gospel was just something I experience once at my conversion and that is it? Well remember, the gospel is not just about Jesus’ death and resurrection but it is also about the kingdom of God. And the kingdom has two aspects, the future hope and the present reality. God’s reign and rule bursts into the present when we obey Jesus. When we obey Jesus, we obey him and the gospel he preached. When we obey Jesus, we become “doers of the word”.

Jesus wants all of you. Not part of you, not some of you, and not only on Sundays and Wednesdays. Not only when it’s convenient for you and not when you feel like it. Jesus wants all of your heart and mind and soul and body and he will not accept anything less. He demands that every aspect of your life be in subjection to him and his father.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel’s will save it” – Mark 8.35

Obedience can be tough and difficult and not the easiest choice to make. But obedience is rewarding. When you obey Jesus and God you spread the kingdom influence and power to those all around you whether you know it or not. God blesses your loyalty and trust in him, when you obey. And lastly, when you truly repent and embrace the new life God has given to you through Jesus, your heart changes and you desire to obey. It doesn’t become a hassle or a chore. It’s a choice you want to make.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered. And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation– Heb. 5.9

-Jacob Rohrer

 

 

The Resurrection

Thursday

I Corinthians 15-26

Everything hangs in the balance with the resurrection. Whether the claims of the resurrection are true or false, the outcome has unparalleled consequences. If true, then everything Jesus said about himself, about God, and about the human condition is true. If false, billions of people have been deceived into believing a lie and Jesus turns into another great moral teacher of history and nothing more. There has been work done to provide a defense for the historicity of the resurrection. If you are curious into learning more about this go to youtube and look up William Lane Craig or Gary Habermas, concerning the resurrection. The evidence they provide for the resurrection may surprise you. It is not something we just have to take on “faith”, but there is reasonable evidence to believe Jesus really did rise from the dead. For the purposes of our devotion, I’ll assume that we hold Jesus really did rise from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is the next aspect of the gospel that we’ll look at.

In the gospels’ accounts the only gospel message that is being preached is the kingdom of God, which we have seen from earlier this week. However, after Jesus is raised his disciples for the first time proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection as gospel alongside the kingdom message they heard and preached with Jesus. We see this most clearly in the book of Acts:

“…this man delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put him to death. But God raised him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for him to be held in its power” Acts 2.23-24

“But you disowned the holy and righteous one…[and] put to death the prince of life, whom God raised from the dead to which we are witness” – Acts 3.14-15

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because he has fixed a day in which he will judge the world through a man whom he has appointed having furnished proof to all men by raising him from the dead” – Acts 17.30-31

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures” – I Cor. 15.3

The resurrection is essential for many reasons, however today we’ll review two: one, the resurrection provides evidence that Jesus was who he really said he was. And two, because Jesus was brought back to life, those who are in Christ will rise again too. Acts 17.30-31 is a great verse because in it Paul says that God has given evidence to the world that Jesus is his son because he was raised back to life! This means everything Jesus said would be true then. Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life, he tells us to repent and believe in the gospel, and he says he will execute judgement.  And all this is true because God raised him back to life. Why should Jesus have authority over anyone’s life? Because God raised him from the dead and made him “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2.36).

Because Jesus is alive those who are in Christ will be raised back to life:

“…he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus…” – II Cor. 4.14

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” – I Thess. 4.16

Just as Jesus’ death is essential for us to be in the presence of God, so to is the resurrection. Without the resurrection, we would die forgiven, but there would be no future hope of any kind (I Cor. 15.15-19). At the resurrection those who are in Christ will be changed and given the gift of immortality (the ability not to die), this allows us to be in the presence of God and Jesus in the kingdom:

“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the last trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” – I Cor. 15.50-53

The resurrection of Jesus is the most significant event in history and it resides in the greatest message the world has to hear, the gospel.

-Jacob Rohrer

 

Life Everlasting

John 10-11

john 11

Monday, May 29

Yesterday we saw Jesus give a man sight; if you thought that was cool, get ready to have your mind blown!
Jesus had some good friends. We know about Peter, James and John, who were his closest disciples. They went with him when he was “transfigured.” (Remember this story from Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9.) These guys saw Jesus do things that no one else saw, which is pretty amazing. But Jesus’ friendships didn’t only include his disciples. In the city of Bethany, south-east of Jerusalem lived two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. These three people seem to be good friends of Jesus. These people trust in Jesus (11:21-22) and know that God will raise the dead (11:24). But when Lazarus gets sick, Jesus doesn’t go to visit him and Lazarus dies.
Now, Jesus is the man who has saved people from the brink of death. This is the man who walked on water. This is the man who has constant communion with the God of the universe. This is the man who is the Resurrection and the life. But what does this man do? He weeps. Jesus does not bottle his emotions, he does not try to put on a happy face and “celebrate the life” of Lazarus. He weeps. Jesus knows the sting of death.
But then Jesus changes everything. There are miracles of children being raised to life from death in scripture. But, the Jewish belief at the time of Jesus was that after three days they were gone. There was “no hope” after three days, and even these trusters-in-Jesus seem to think so. Martha says, literally “Lord, he stinks. It’s been four days.” This is the man beyond all hope, but Jesus is bigger than even our hope. He simply speaks the words, “Lazarus come out” and out he comes, alive and struggling out of his grave cloths. Jesus proves who he is, Jesus is not simply a good man, but he is the RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE!
Again there are some take away thoughts that I’d like to have rattle around in your brain:
First, death is awful. Seriously, it sucks. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether it is your pet cat, your grandmother, your mom and dad, or your child, death is terrible, horrific, evil. Death is an enemy. If you have lost someone, allow yourself to feel the loss. Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life Himself did not try and cheer everyone up. When you have lost someone, you need to grieve as God has made you to grieve. Do you weep in a corner? Do you play sports until you can’t stand? Do you write music on a guitar and play until you fingers bleed? This grief is acceptable. Allow God to speak into your grief, but don’t feel ashamed.
But, secondly, that’s not the last story. There is life again. Death doesn’t win! Spoilers, God kills death. What a beautiful irony! God takes the thing that destroys the people he loves and destroys it. “Death” is not the final word; the final word is “Life” with God in Christ!
You can experience this. It is not hidden and unaccessible to you. This life is available for anyone and everyone. Do you want to have Resurrection and Life? Can you say what Martha said?  “Yes, Lord. I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.” (John 11:27) Does this sound familiar? John 20:30-31 reads, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.” Do you believe?
Do you want this life? It’s not JUST for the future. This week we also read “10:10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” Do you want life? Do you want an abundant life? Christianity is not just good life for later, but abundant, God-bathed life now and eternal, blissful life later. That is not just good news. That is GREAT NEWS. May you believe in Christ and begin to experience the abundant life that overflows into eternal life by believing in his name!
In Christ,
Jake Ballard
(Photo Credit: http://presenttruth.info/the-resurrection-and-the-life-january-2016/)