01 Dec

Jesus Is the Answer – Hope

 

Advent - Jesus Is the Answer

This week we begin our season of Advent, which is the Christian season of preparation for Christmas. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” In the Advent season, we keep in mind both “advents,” both “visits” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come.

Our theme this year is “Jesus Is the Answer.” This week we focus on Read More

28 Nov

How Long, O Lord? – Hope

This week, we begin our season of Advent.  “Advent” is from the Latin word for “coming” — translated from the Greek word parousia. Speaking of the second coming of Christ, we find parousia translated in the following passages: Matthew 24:3,27,37,39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1,8; James 5:7,8; 2 Peter 3:4,12; and 1 John 2:28.  Typically, the Advent season reenacts and remembers how the Old Testament saints longed for Messiah to come, but it is appropriate for those of us this side of the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ to look forward to Jesus’ second coming during Advent.  It’s for this reason that our theme this year is “How Long, O Lord?” as we meditate on and long for Christ to come again.

We find the phrase “How long, O Lord?” in the book of Revelation, chapter 5, verse 10, where the Christian martyrs cry out to the Lord, How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Revelation 6:10).  These martyrs are eagerly awaiting the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Our hearts certainly cry out as well because as we light the first candle of Advent this week, we are awaiting the Second Advent with much eagerness too.  God’s faithful waited for Christ to come the first time, and now God’s faithful are waiting for Christ to come again.  So, we say to God this Advent season, “How long, O Lord?”

We have no idea how long it will be, but Jesus has promised us that He will come back to receive us unto Himself, and with that promise comes much hope.

We read in John 14:1-6, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

This week, we light the CANDLE OF HOPE.  Jesus Christ has come, and He is coming again.  He has shown us the way to Heaven and has prepared a place there for all who believe on Him.  We don’t know how long, O Lord, but we know Jesus , and we know His promise:  He will receive into His glorious presence all who come by faith in Christ.

May your hope be great and unshakeable because it’s founded on Jesus Christ, who is coming again.

03 Apr

Balance Grief with Hope

Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that in this lifetime we will have trouble, and in the wake of trouble comes grief.  Grief is a common human experience.  We all know what it is because we’ve all been through it or are in it now.  So, the real question is not “Will I experience grief?”  Live long enough, and you surely will.  The real question is “Will I handle my grief biblically?”

That question is massively important.  As you well know, grief is a heavy burden and can crush you if not handled rightly.  It can lead to depression, despair, and making a shipwreck of your faith.  I pray these four lessons will help you become equipped to handle grief biblically and battle for joy.

This week’s tool for handling grief biblically is the hope of resurrection.  Lazarus got sick and died, and I assume from the context of John 11 that his death was way before folks normally died in those days.  Surely, Jesus could have healed Lazarus’ sickness.  Even if He couldn’t have travelled in time to Bethany from where He was, He certainly could have healed Lazarus from afar like He did the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:5-13).  But Jesus didn’t.  When Jesus arrived, He found Mary and Martha grieving deeply and rightly so.  They loved their brother.  Grief is a natural and good response to loss.  However, they and the townspeople were all saying the same thing to Jesus, “If you’d been here, he wouldn’t have died,” (Jn 11:21,32,37).  But, Jesus had a greater purpose:  to demonstrate the hope of resurrection.  And resurrect Lazarus He did!

Let me point you to four truths from our text that will help us grieve biblically.  First, death is not final.  Notice that Jesus likens it to sleep in John 11:11, and that’s a very fitting metaphor.  Sleep is just for a little while, and then you awake.  It’s the same way with death.  For believers in Christ, after the soul separates from the body and goes to be with the Lord, that body lies in repose for a relatively short time but will be reunited with the soul and resurrected when Christ returns (1 Thes 4:14-16).  Undoubtedly, you miss those whom you love, but death is not final.  There’s life after death and eventually a resurrection of the body.

Second, God weeps when you weep.  I find great comfort in John 11:35.  Here’s Jesus with all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling bodily, and He’s weeping because His heart is broken for Mary and Martha.  Friend, I don’t believe that was just a one-time event.  The heart of God is moved when you face loss and grief.  You have a God who loves you and desires to comfort you.  I pray that you’ll turn to Him and let Him whisper into your heart, “Resurrection is coming.”

Third, there will be a reuniting of loved ones.  The text doesn’t tell us, but I bet there was tons of hugging and rejoicing at Lazarus’ resurrection.  I believe the same will be true at our resurrection. I pray that we’ll fight to desire to see our Savior first and foremost, but one of the gifts and joys of Heaven is reuniting with our believing loved ones.

Fourth, God is glorified through the resurrection.  Notice what Jesus says there in John 11:4.  God will be glorified by the resurrection.  This truth should cause us to be inwardly, joyfully expectant when our believing loved one dies.  God is going to glorify Himself and do something awesome in the resurrection, namely triumph completely over sin and death.  It’ll be a glorious day, and death is a whetstone, sharpening our expectation and hope.

May you add the hope of resurrection to your toolbox against grief.

-This article first appeared in the March 30 edition of the Baptist and Reflector, the official newspaper of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, as a commentary on the April 3, 2011 LifeWay Sunday School curriculum Bible Studies for Life, and can be accessed through the B&R website at http://www.tnbaptist.org/BRARticle.asp?ID=3766.  The article has been slightly edited here for westmainbaptist.com.

30 Nov

The Songs of Christmas – Hope

visitation2This week we begin the season of Advent by focusing on the thought of hope.  Our 2009 Advent theme is “The Songs of Christmas,” and each week we’ll be looking at a song from the gospel of Luke surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Our song this week comes from Luke 1:46-55.  This is Mary’s song, the mother of Jesus:

46 And Mary said:  “My soul exalts the Lord,

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.

50 “and His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him.

51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.

52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.

53 “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed.

54 “He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy,

55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

This week we focus on the hope of Christ.  This song that Mary sang came in response to her visit with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.  When Mary entered the room where Elizabeth was, John, who was still in Elizabeth’s womb, jump for joy, and Elizabeth began to prophecy, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”  Indeed, Mary was blessed.  She would be used by God to bring forth the Messiah, the Christ, who had long been promised to Israel and to the entire world.  She knew that growing in her womb was her only hope and the only hope for the entire world.  In the knowledge of the hope to come, she overflowed with song from her heart, and her soul exalted the Lord.  This Advent season, may we be overwhelmed by the hope that is found in Christ.  We know that He is the only savior yesterday, today, and forever.  May we with Mary exalt the Lord!