Born is the King of Joy

What is the greatest news you’ve ever received? I’ve had plenty of good experiences. I’ll never forget the day my wife said “Yes!” Or the day I found out I was getting my dream job. I remember hearing that a sick loved one was healed. I remember getting accepted to college. I cherish game 7 of the 2001 World Series and every Lakers’ championship.

Happiness is the natural response to good news. And not only that, but happiness is something we all want. According to a recent study, 84% of adults in the US, and 66% of practicing Christians, agree that “the highest goal for life is to enjoy it as much as possible.”

The good news for us is that happiness is a gift from God. The gospel of Jesus is good news of great joy for all people.

Sometimes life’s circumstances try to rob us of our joy, and the temptation can be to try and find happiness in a new circumstance: a relationship, or a shiny new purhase, but those are only temporary fixes.

Jesus is the only gift that can make our hearts sing. The Ellen Show may give amazing gifts for 12 days of Christmas, but Jesus has new mercies for us every day, all year long. Jesus is the one worth talking about. He is the ultimate treasure.

Joy is possible. In fact, anyone who has actually understood and embraced the gospel of Jesus is guaranteed to have joy that surpasses circumstances.

Jesus brings joy because His advent is the best news in human history. In Jesus, God bends down from heaven to bless lowly shepherds. Jesus alone brings rescue and forgiveness. He is perfectly loving and good. He is our God and King; He has all power and perfect justice. Jesus is the answer to every human struggle – He forgives our sins, comforts us in our suffering, changes us from the inside out, sets all things right, and grants us eternal life.

Make Jesus your most valued treasure this holiday season, and be amazed at all the reasons He gives you to rejoice!

Jesus Wins

Thoughts About What We’re Reading!

This Advent season we are studying the book of Revelation.

Advent (meaning coming, or arrival) celebrates that Jesus came once to save us and is coming again someday to reign and rule over the earth. We live after the time when Christ came to suffer for our sins, and we wait for His 2nd advent, when He will return in glory and power.

In our previous blogs we learned that Revelation is the final chapter in God’s great story. One day, King Jesus will institute justice on earth through judgment on this evil world system and the creation of an eternal paradise. These judgments happen in the context of a great conflict, which reminds the reader of the Serpent and the evil city of Babel from Genesis, who stand in opposition to the savior Jesus. God’s Kingdom and Satan’s earthly kingdom are at war, but there is a clear and definite victor at the end of the battle.

For those of us who live “between the times” of Christ’s first advent and his future return, we rejoice in the hope that one day every wrong will be set right.

As you finish the book this week, it is important for you to note three very important events.

1. The Return of Christ (Revelation 19)

In language that invokes the promise of the son of man from Daniel 7, and Jesus’ promise that “the son of man will come on the clouds of glory” we see that a King will ride a horse from the skies to defeat the armies which oppose God and to throw a victory banquet. Some see this as a recapitulation of the battles described in the preceding chapters, others see it as a distinct battle which begins the millennial reign of Christ, and others equate it to the final battle described in Revelation 20:7-10.

2. The Thousand Year Reign of Christ (Revelation 20:1-6)

The fulfillment of the promise of Christ’s Kingdom is described here. Some (called pre-millennialists) view this as a future, literal kingdom on earth to occur after the return of Christ. This view says that the culmination of the tribulation will be the return of Jesus to literally reign on earth for 1,000 years before the final judgment. Others (called amillennialists) interpret it to symbolically refer to the current reign of God’s Spirit over believers’ hearts in the midst of conflict with the world. This view variously interprets Revelation 6-19’s times of judgment as past events, on-going, or yet to come. Others (called post-millenialists) believe a time is coming of a glorious symbolic reign of Christ in people’s hearts that will manifest itself through a world and society that is radically transformed to Christ-likeness as people everywhere increasingly bow to Jesus as Lord, culminating in his return.

In light of these various views, it is wise to remember what one theologian said, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Though the pre-millennial view is the view you will most often hear preached in this church, we acknowledge that there are wise and godly believers who hold to other views. These views have different perceptions of the timing of Christ’s return and the nature of this millennial reign, but all can agree with the essential Christian doctrine that an ultimate and final judgment still awaits.

3. The Great White Throne Judgment and the Eternal State (Revelation 20:11-22:5)

One day, every human who has ever lived will be raised from the dead to a new physical body and will stand before the Lord. Those who rejected Christ will live in eternal, physical torment in the lake of fire. Those who put their faith in Christ will enter into a new earth and live in a perfect world, with a perfect body, experiencing perfect relationships in the presence of God, forever. This will be the final restoration of God’s good design. This will be a return to Eden, when God said that all things in creation were “very good.” This is the eternal rest we all look forward to, and is the hope that even if we die on this earth, we will live forever.

Resources for Further Study

– Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

– Three Views on the Millenium and Beyond by Darrell Bock

– Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul

 

Andrew

A Message of Joy

As I thought about this idea of “The Ultimate Christmas Story,” I couldn’t help but think about my own love for good stories. Good stories have a way of pulling the listener into its world. In a good story you feel what the characters feel and experience the raw emotions that the plot dictates. Every story, both good and bad, sends the listener away with some kind of emotional feeling. I personally like stories that send me away feeling good and joyful inside. I’m not a fan of sad endings or unresolved conflicts; instead I like happy endings and clear conflict resolution.

What I love about the Bible is that it is a big, epic story, with a happy ending! Not only that, but it’s a story that all people throughout all of time participate in. The interesting thing about this story is that we know in advance how it ends. If you fast-forward to the book of Revelation you will see that the Bible ends with two major events. (1) God resolves the great conflict that sin brought upon the world. He rights all the wrongs of creation. (2) He throws a great party in celebration of heavens victory.

These two future events will be marked by one overwhelming emotion, and that emotion is JOY. In Revelation 19 we get a glimpse of the great joy associated with the Bible’s happy ending. We read that multitudes upon multitudes are so overwhelmed with joy that four times they shout out “Hallelujah!” Their resounding Hallelujah is so powerful that the heavens shake at the sound of their voices. Revelations 19:6 says it this way: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.’”

The great joy of this future day will be so overwhelming that all the sorrow we have ever experienced in this present world will simply vanish. Jesus compares the joy of this future day to the joy of childbirth. He says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:19-24 ESV)

The sorrow that we experience now will be completely overpowered by the joy of this future day. Every doubt, every hurt, every regret, every fear, and every sorrow will disappear at the sight of Jesus. This day will be unlike any other day in our entire existence.

The question is, are you ready for this day? Are you ready to see Jesus? Will you be welcomed into His joy? These are questions only you can answer.

Ricky

Between the Times

Thoughts About What We’re Reading!

This Advent season we are studying the book of Revelation as we learn what it means to live “between the times.” Advent (meaning coming, or arrival) celebrates that Jesus came once to save us and is coming again someday to reign and rule over the earth. Christ came once as a suffering servant and will return again someday in glory and power.

The weekly group devotional is designed so you can share what you are learning with family and friends, but we’ve designed the reading plan to dig deeper into the events surrounding Jesus’ future return.

In last week’s blog, we learned that Revelation describes the final chapter in God’s great story and that the book ends with the description of a future time of final judgment and eternal paradise. We saw that John wrote the book to Christians who were trying to live out their faith in a world that didn’t follow Jesus.

As you read this week you will come across the outpouring of God’s justice on an evil world system. Revelation uses words like judgment, wrath, woe, and plague to describe God’s actions.

These judgments are organized by the releasing of 7 seals (Revelation 6:1-8:1), the blowing of 7 trumpets (Revelation 8:6-11:18), and the pouring out of 7 bowls of plagues (Revelation 15:1-16:21). Each set of 7 judgments includes 4 judgments on earth, plus 3 cosmic judgments.

These judgments happen in the context of a great conflict which is described that reminds the  reader of the Serpent and the evil city of Babel from Genesis, who stand in opposition to the savior Jesus. God’s Kingdom and Satan’s earthly kingdom are at war, but there is a clear and definite victor at the end of the battle.

This section also includes several interludes which remind the reader of God’s heart for His people. We read about the sealing of the descendants of Israel, of vindication for the martyr, and of Christ’s witnesses being resurrected from the dead.

Though there are many different interpretations of the exact nature and timing of these events, the intended message is clear for those of us who live “between the times” and await the final return of Jesus: On earth we are engaged in a temporary struggle. This world and our flesh war against the Creator, but one day the King will institute justice. For those opposed to Him, His justice will be poured out in judgment. For those who put their faith in Jesus, His justice will be poured out on our behalf to rescue and redeem us.

What about you? When He returns will you be ready? Do you know which team you are aligned to in the midst of this conflict? Do you see godliness and faith as matters of cosmic importance, or do you trivialize them in light of more “urgent,” yet temporary values?

Andrew

The Lion & The Lamb – A Message of Peace

What comes to your mind when you think of the word Peace?

Do you picture a young sleeping baby? A dancing hippy and a Volkswagen van? Maybe you see a Miss America pageant contestant promising to pursue world peace?

Peace is when we experience calm and harmony instead of conflict. We all want peace – inner peace, peace in our relationships, world peace – and the Bible promises a time of perfect peace.

But we are a world in conflict with the Creator. Because of this, we don’t experience peace in our relationships and we suffer inner conflict and anxiety as we respond to the conflict we live in.

True peace is only possible when King Jesus institutes perfect justice, and there will never be perfect lasting peace in this world until there is an end to the rebellion against the King. To experience true peace, you must allow him to be the strong, protective Lion with total authority in your life, and you must depend on Him as the sacrificial lamb that takes away your sin and comforts you in your affliction.

If you depend on Jesus to be your Lion and your Lamb you will experience peace in three ways.

On the day of Judgment you can have confidence that you will be at peace with God. The apostle Paul writes, ”Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

Youll be able to cling to the hope of eternal peace to calm your inner conflict. The promise of eternal peace has the power to quiet your inner anxieties, fears, and struggles. You won’t give up or give in if you remember that Jesus wins. You can have confidence that this temporal conflict is part of God’s greater purpose for ultimate peace. We know that He only allows it in order to draw more people to Him, and to help us be more like Him. One day we will live in harmony with God.

Youll experience more peace in your earthly relationships. We can trust God to do what is right, and to treat us better than we deserve, so we don’t need to avenge ourselves or live with bitterness towards others. Instead, as we do all that is in our control to be at peace with all people we find out the true meaning of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

This Christmas season, remember that peace is possible when you follow Jesus as King and depend on him as Savior.

Andrew

Intro to Revelation

Thoughts About What We’re Reading!

This week marks the start of our Advent Family Reading Plan and Devotion Guide!

Advent (meaning coming, or arrival) celebrates that Jesus came once to save us and is coming again some day to reign and rule over the earth.

The weekly group devotional is designed so you can share what you are learning with family and friends, but we’ve designed the reading plan to dig deeper into the events surrounding Jesus’ future return.

We’ve chosen the book of Revelation for this study. Let’s start off with some important background information to help you as you read.

Revelation describes the final chapter in God’s story.

Revelation reveals God’s intention to keep every single one of the promises He has made. Every verse is packed with references, allusions, and quotations that are meant to remind the reader of prophecies previously made by Moses, David, Isaiah, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others. As you read, it will be helpful to use a concordance or a Bible search database like biblegateway.com in order to find the original passages that are being referenced. 

The final chapters of the book describe a future time of final judgement and eternal paradise.

While theologians disagree on the exact timing and meaning of many of the events in the book, it is quite clear what the final outcome of the story is supposed to be. There will be a time of judgment, based on the consistent standard revealed from Genesis to Revelation, and some will enter into eternal paradise whereas others will enter into eternal torment. This paradise will be a restoration of God’s perfect design, a new Garden of Eden that is completely free of all sin and suffering as the redeemed share in a perfect relationship with creation and its King.

John wrote the book to Christians who were trying to live out their faith in a world that didn’t follow Jesus.

The first few chapters describe the 7 churches who originally received the letter. Some churches were being more faithful than others as they faced temptation and persecution, but all had to learn to live by faith while they waited for the return of Jesus. Revelation is written for those of us “between the times.” We are blessed by what Jesus has already done for us, but we also take courage from the fact that the best of God’s promises are yet to come. Jesus didn’t just take off and forget about them, and He hasn’t forgotten about us. He is coming back some day to rescue us and vindicate our faith. The consistent theme of the book is that it’s worth it to hang on because there is great reward for those who overcome through their faith in Jesus. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.

A Brief Outline of the Book:

Revelation 1-3: Intro and address to the 7 churches

Revelation 6-20: God’s Judgments on the Evil World System

Revelation 21-22: Eternal Paradise and Final Instructions

Revelation 4-5: Scenes of Worship in Heaven

As you read this week about this great King Jesus and His message for his churches, remember “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)

Andrew

June 21 – Weekend Passage

Deuteronomy 6:1-9

“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)