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Author: V John

Lenten Reflections 2021: Jesus Christ and His Work as An Industrious Artisan

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By @johnvinod | March 2, 2021

Let us begin today by reading Matthew 2: 19-23. I know this is not a passage often associated with the Lenten season. However, as I was reading and reflecting on what Jesus did before he was tempted in the wilderness, I came to this passage in Matthew 2. This account is of Joseph and Mary’s return from their sojourn in Egypt to the village of Nazareth in Galilee after king Herod died. The four Gospels are almost silent about Jesus’ early life and youth in his family and hometown. What was it like before Jesus launched his public ministry? What was he doing? Where did he study? What work was he involved in?

There are several myths and stories about the early life of Jesus that have circulated from the first century. None of them is credible enough to provide us with authentic details. However, when Jesus returned to Nazareth with his parents, it is realistic that he was raised in their religious home, like an ordinary Jewish child, in Nazareth, and later on in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13). There is no indication in the Gospels to believe that his earthly parents were people of means. They were an ordinary couple from a working class of people who toiled hard to make ends meet.

Mark 6: 1-6 informs us that when Jesus began his public ministry of teaching and healing, the Jewish people took offence at him because he was an ordinary “carpenter” from Nazareth about whom they knew all the answers that was to be known.

I wonder why God did not plan for Jesus to be born in a priest’s home or a Pharisee’s home where he would have spiritual upbringing and status in the community. Why did God sovereignly assign Jesus to a hard-working ordinary home?

We must realize that Jesus spent almost 30 years in his hometown doing what ordinary people did to support their family before he launched his “full-time ministry”! That is six times more than he spent in the public ministry! Jesus Christ did not only perform amazing healings and miracles; he was not only a rabbi and taught with authority, but also, even much before all these ministries, Jesus subjected himself to the will of God by doing what his family expected him to do.

Tradition informs us that Joseph died while Jesus was still a young man. Joseph’s responsibility as the breadwinner now fell on Jesus’ youthful shoulders being the eldest son. Biblical scholars believe that according to Mark 6: 3, Jesus was more of an artisan, because the word translated a “carpenter” could also mean a construction/building worker or a builder of houses, who worked with wood, stone, and metal. Thus, I can imagine Jesus stooping to pick up dirt, sawdust, wood shavings, or stone chips from the floor. You can imagine, at the end of the day, Jesus picks up a broom and patiently sweeps the floor, collecting tools, cleaning them, and arranging them in order for the next day’s job. This explains why Jesus rarely uses metaphors from carpentry while there are numerous examples of the building/construction work.

So, Jesus became completely like you and me. He faithfully worked in masonry and carpentry in all circumstances. He knows what it means to lose work and not getting paid. He understands what it means to survive through a turbulent economy like the current pandemic. On earth, Jesus lived and worked to support his family for about thirty years—a life full of joys, sorrows, drudgery, losing work, and finding work again. Therefore, friends, Jesus knows exactly how you might be going through today. Let us keep in mind that the Creator, before he raised people from the dead, stooped down to pick a broom and dirty his hands, so that we will appreciate the value of work of any kind, and learn faithfulness from him. He knows your situation, whatever it might be. Trust him to find a way out for you. Amen.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: The Spiritual Sign of Restoration is the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit and His Gifts

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By @johnvinod  | February 26, 2021

Please begin today by reading from Joel 2: 28-32, which is the closing section of Joel chapter two. We saw in yesterday’s post that after their repentance, God blesses and satisfies his restored people. Having established this outward visible blessing, Joel now prophesized the oncoming spiritual blessing and renewal, which constitutes the true restoration.

This spiritual renewal will come in the form of something unprecedented and powerful: “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh”! This is unlike what is described in the previous sections of this chapter. Those events came to pass in Israel during Joel’s time. This promise of the Spirit, on the other hand, is a prophecy in the more distant future and Joel links it with an apocalyptic event, “the day of Lord” (vs. 30-32). Notice that the prophecy is preceded by “Then afterwards” (v. 28) and “in those days” (v. 29). This is a common parallelism that Hebrew prophets and poets often employed for rhetorical effect and to emphasize the point they were making. And the point in Joel’s case is that it will come to pass sometime in the future.

The Spirit is understood as God’s Spirit, the Holy Sprit in the New Testament. The primary meaning of the outpouring of the Spirit on his people is a divinely inspired spiritual ecstasy which enables them to find a transient prophetic fervor and make prophetic utterances. We can also find examples of this in 1 Samuel 10:10 and 19:24 in the time of Judges in Israel. God had used this phenomenon earlier also with seventy elders of Israel under Moses’ leadership for the purpose of endorsing their calling and leadership:

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. (Numbers 11: 25 NRSV).

However, quite unlike the previous occurrences, in Joel’s prophecy of 2: 28-29, notice here the promise is for “all flesh” irrespective of their age, leadership, social status, or gender. Primarily, it was meant for the people to whom Joel prophesied and their descendants. However, in God’s economy of salvation the promise has been extended to the whole humankind irrespective of our race, class, gender, or status in society.

The outpouring or pour out means to cause to flow freely and implies that God will give the Spirit in abundance, as he always does, without reservation.

The Apostle Peter unmistakably applied the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy to the events of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Before his ascension, Jesus Christ had promised the Holy Spirit to his disciples in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1: 8. So, in Acts 2 when the disciples along with the Twelve Apostles received the promised Holy Spirit, they were ecstatic and filled with a divine prophetic passion. Peter, one of the Twelve, addressed the astonished crowd of thousands who had gathered in Jerusalem saying:

But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Acts 2: 15- 21 ESV).

However, this was just the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy of a spiritual renewal that Joel prophesied. It did not cease with the Day of Pentecost. In the book of Acts and in the rest of the New Testament, the outpouring continued throughout Israel and then in the rest of the world until this day.

This Spirit, the Spirit of Pentecost, is the Spirit of missions. He is the Spirit of transformation of lives, institutions, and cultures. The renewal the Spirit of missions creates is evident throughout the world which has experienced the outpouring of the Spirit down the centuries. And God’s Spirit is still moving around the globe in the most unanticipated ways and in the most unexpected places and among the most amazing people groups, just as it was prophesied. The threefold signs of the spiritual renewal are evident wherever the Spirit is outpoured.

People are prophesying, that is, bringing God’s word to those unreached people groups who have never had the opportunity to hear it until now. Praise God that this noble calling is no longer restricted to a privileged few from a certain social class or people of certain color, but God’s Spirit is using ordinary people for the proclamation of the Word.  

People are dreaming, that is, dreaming of being and becoming what they have never been before. Dreaming and finding an identity as God’s own people, loved, lifted, and dignified. Dreaming of breaking off slavery, colonialism, and the fetters of oppression of all sorts throughout all cultures. And this is made possible today by the Spirit of God.

People are visioning, that is, seeing the possibilities and hoping for a liberated future that they have never envisioned before. They are reassured by the presence of the Spirit that it is now possible for their dreams and visions to become a reality by the power of the Almighty God who delights to abide with them. Praise be to the Holy Spirit! Despite the constant bad news of the pandemic and devastation, there is an extensive outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our day and age. Are you aware of it? Are you part of it? Does this excite you to participate in it?

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Lenten Reflections 2021: A plague followed by the day of the Lord!

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By Vinod John @johnvinod | February 23, 2021

Let us begin today by reading chapter 2 of the book of Joel. Having described in graphic details, employing poetic personification, the terrible nature of the locust plague and its vast devastation in Israel Joel now declares that the “day of the Lord” is imminent:

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain!

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—

a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!

Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes;

their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come (Joel 2: 1-2 NRSV).

Joel proclaimed “the day of the Lord” representing God’s judgement, not upon others, not upon the invading armies or natural disasters, but upon His people (2:1). Notice that in the previous chapter, Joel referred to the beasts and wild animals panting and wailing because of the lack of food and water. Now, as he announces the day of the Lord as a day of judgement upon his people, he is obviously suggesting to the readers: how much more than the beasts, you, as God’s people, should cry out to the Lord in repentance through fasting and prayers (2: 13-15).  Also notice that in 1:15 Joel had already alluded to the coming of the “day of the Lord.”

So, what was the day of the Lord for Joel?

First, it was both a day of shock, surprise, as well as hope.

Second, he saw the day of the Lord as God’s tribulation and judgement upon his people as he exclaimed, “Alas for the day!” (1:15 and 2:1). People of his day assumed that despite their disobedience, rebellion and unfaithfulness, God would be merciful, gracious and protect them. However, Joel proclaimed that God would come on His day to punish them to teach obedience.

Third, Joel believed that the purpose of the day of the Lord was to drive the rebellious people to true repentance and provide them an opportunity to reorient to God and align their lives to his covenant.

Fourth, Joel assures that it is a day of hope, because God will indeed turn His face toward them and shower his mercy upon them if they be remorseful. He will even restore the damage caused by the plague, if people lament and return to Him:

 Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people. In response to his people the Lord said:

I am sending you  grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a mockery among the nations.……

I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. (2: 18-19; 25)

Fifth, Joel revives the hope that through the day of the Lord, God would indeed bring about a spiritual revitalization, leading people to realize that there is only one living God—Yahweh. And he loves to abide with them (2: 27).

Sixth, Joel reassures that the day of the Lord is additionally a day of hope for God’s people because it has the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirt:

Then afterward
    I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days, I will pour out my spirit (2:28-29).

Lastly, even though the ominous signs and wonders will precede the day of the Lord, it will ultimately turn out to be a magnificent day of salvation and renewal (2: 30-32).

Like so, for us this day, I consider these days of death and destruction everywhere caused by the current pandemic would turn out to be the days of opportunity, if we carry out what the prophet Joel demanded of the people of his time. And if we shall also obey what Joel summons us to do in 2: 12-17, we, too, shall be revived, and God will even restore to us what the pandemic has devoured in this past year or so:

The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,…..(2:24-25 ESV).

Amen.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: How to be the Church in a Covid World?

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By Vinod John @johnvinod | February 22, 2021

Please begin today’s devotion by reading the book of Joel again. I am sure you must be asking why there was a plague of locusts and what purpose did it serve for the people of God in Joel’s time? These are relevant questions to contemplate because of our own situation today, particularly when the worship, liturgy, gatherings, and in-person fellowship of the believers is adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most churches, pastors, and worshippers are struggling. Some are completely denying that we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic even though they cannot deny the apparent disruption of life, death, and devastation it has caused. Some Christians are furious over the restrictions, have grown weary, and some have become so skeptical of their governments, authorities, and even medical professionals/scientists that they are easily falling prey to believing and spreading harmful conspiracy theories.

In Joel’s theology, one of the primary causes of the locust plague was the corruption that has set in the Old Testament Church—their liturgy, worship, and the ministry of Yahweh God in the Temple. The nerve center of Judaism was the Temple and what happened in and around the Temple influenced the life of the Jewish people. Joel preached that it was both the immoral life of believers whom he calls “drunkards” (Joel 1:5) and the corrupt attitude of the priests that was responsible for the plague. The priests become cavalier in their approach to their ministry and the dereliction of their God appointed duties has led to the dilution of the sanctity of life and liturgy at the Temple. Moreover, the drunkenness of the people, participation of farmers in the fertility cults, idol worship, and the lack of purity in sacrifices had not only perverted the worship, but it also led to syncretism and undermining the uniqueness of Yahweh as their only covenant God. Joel says that to grab their attention, God let the plague get so severe that it disrupted the continuous sacrifices and offerings at the Temple to the extent that the very existence of the temple liturgy and priesthood was at stake.

Nevertheless, the message of Joel is not that the Temple worship must be completely abandoned because it was corrupted and threatened by the plague. On the contrary, Joel preached that it must be revamped and transformed by restoring “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12: 14 ESV). And for Joel, this begins with the priests and worshippers alike repenting, becoming humble before the Lord, asking forgiveness from the Lord, forsaking their sinful ways, and renewing their covenant with their only God, Yahweh. For Joel, even though the prophets like himself have condemned the corporate worship and ungodly liturgy of the Temple, their purpose was to ultimately reform it rather than reject it entirely. How can we say this with confidence? Well, if you carefully read Joel, and some other prophets like Hosea and Amos, you would clearly note that their message is of hope rather than doom and destruction. They proclaimed the “Day of the Lord,” and the coming of the Holy Spirit on all flesh and thus God would return, restore, and abide with His people on his holy hill!

Today, the pandemic has afforded the church, the holy bride of Christ, its believers, and ministers alike to sit back, lighten up, and rethink what the church is! Instead of taking part in the protests against governments’ restrictions and policies to keep people healthy and prevent further spread of infections, let us go back to the drawing board. Instead of choosing to suffer from a persecution complex, let us apply this time to read and research:

How and where the early church gathered and worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of a hostile and brutal Roman Empire?

How large were their gatherings?

How many times and where did they come together?

How did they celebrate their liturgies?

Was there a building or a gathering place that was called and understood as the “church”?

How did they live their lives daily in the public square?

How did they do missions in the marketplace?

As we do this research, I believe the Holy Spirit will give us insights. These insights in turn must lead us all to repent and ask forgiveness for the institutional and religious paraphernalia we have built in and around the holy Bride of Christ, the church. I believe our God has not abandoned the church today as he will never abandon His Bride. He wants to purify His Bride for the cause of His kingdom in this world. Therefore, the answer to improper worship and wrong ecclesiology is not no gathering and no church, rather it is the right and biblical church that God wishes for us to become His community of transformation on this earth until His second coming. Therefore, let us revive, remodel, restore, and refresh ourselves to discover new and innovative ways of being the holy Bride of Christ. Maranatha!


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Lenten Reflections 2021: Return to the Lord! What do you mean?

By Vinod John @johnvinod | February 20, 2021

We often hear the phrase “return to the Lord” especially during the Lent season. Unfortunately, it has become one of the phrases of Christianese that many people find meaningless and irrelevant today. Despite it coming across as a cliché, I invite you to read the book of Joel again (all three chapters in one sitting). I would like to share what returning to the Lord meant for Joel and his people in the midst of a locust plague that we have talked about and what it could represent for us amidst the current pandemic.

As we saw in the past two posts, “Return to the Lord” and “Calling all ministers of the Lord to Repentance,” prophet Joel was issuing this call to primarily three categories of people:

  1. The ordinary folks whom he calls “drunkards” (1:5),
  2. The group that suffered the most in terms of losing their crops, i.e., the “farmers” (1:11),
  3. And the clergy that could not sustain the liturgical worship at the temple, i.e., the “priests” or “ministers of the Lord” (1: 13).

Enjoying the prosperity and blessing of Israel, the people had become callous and were enticed into drinking excessively to the extent that prophet Hosea had to declare: “Wine and new wine take away the understanding” (Hosea 4:11 NRSV). Joel thundered:

Wake up, you drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you wine-drinkers,

over the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth (Joel 1: 5 NRSV).

People did not limit their drinking just to the wine as the word “drunkards” does not refer to just ordinary wine drinkers; rather, in its original language, it refers to a strong or intoxicating drink. Drinking strong drinks and debauchery had become so widespread in those days that it constrained the prophet to call them “drunkards” even as he was calling them to return to the Lord. 

Joel calls “farmers” to return to the Lord mainly because they had slipped into practicing fertility cults prevalent around them.

Joel then calls the “priests” to return to the Lord, because they, too, had failed in their ministry of keeping the worship and liturgy holy to the Lord.

However, what does it entail to “return to the Lord?”

First of all, the call to return to the Lord indicates that the covenant is broken through people’s disobedience. It means the people of God have rebelled against Him and his law. For a detailed description of the sacrilegious rebellion, please see the book of Amos and Hosea.

Second, by inviting people to return to the Lord prophet Joel means turning away from their immoral and wayward life and walking back to their covenant God Jehovah! His call is precise. They must unambiguously make their way back to Jehovah, and not just to any god or any religious cult:

Yet even now, says the Lord,
    return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
    and relents from punishing. (Joel 1:12-13 NRSV)

Third, a genuine return to the Lord must be accompanied by distinguishable signs that everyone may be able to see.  Joel says, some of these signs are: fasting, weeping, and mourning over their sins and disobedience (Joel 2: 12).

Fourth, the result of returning to the Lord is a changed life. And it must be seen in one’s worship and service of God (2:14).

Fifth, a genuine return to the Lord implies abandoning not only our sinful ways, but also forsaking our idols, whatever they may be in either material or ideological form. It means acknowledging the covenant God as the only God to believe, worship, and serve. Joel stresses that the returning devotees must recognize what Jehovah says: “I am your God and there is none else” (2: 27 and 3:17). In fact, for this emphasis, in just three chapters of his book, Joel repeats the phrase “your God” seven times (indicating perfection in the Hebrew Bible)! In the aftermath of a locust plague this was a huge assurance that people needed that God has not abandoned them, despite their rebellion and sins; however, he is still their God if they would return to him in penitence.

Finally, a sincere return to the Lord would result in an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit of God upon His people (2: 28-29) to declare that God loves the contrite hearts and would dwell in their midst through His Spirit, if they truly repent and return to Him. The gift of the Holy Spirit would be the greatest blessing to people.

In the midst of our current pandemic, I believe God has provided a unique opportunity to us, especially during Lent, to sincerely return to the Lord as Joel proclaimed to the covenant people. And in doing so, may we too receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to abide with us. I hear a great deal about revivals breaking out here and there all the time; however, let us be clear, there is no revival, no renewal, and no pouring out of the Holy Spirit without the genuine return to the Lord. Amen!


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Advent: Wait and trust in God’s timing

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Advent: Wait and trust in God’s timing
Please read Luke 24: 44-53

Waiting upon the Lord is what the Hebrews did for centuries before the coming of the Messiah. God also rewards those who wait upon him with much strength and vigor. Nevertheless, waiting upon the Lord can be one of the hardest things for you and me. During this Advent season, we are reminded that we, too, as believers are to wait upon the Lord until Jesus Christ returns back to this world. In fact, with the promise of his return, Jesus Christ asked his followers to wait and be patient. Even as the disciples waited, they were eager to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 20-28) given by their Lord just before his ascension into heaven. However, even before going out to fulfill the Great Commission, the Lord asked his disciples to wait: “And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24: 49).

Now, waiting on the Lord has quite a few benefits for us. Waiting helps build up our complete trust in God. To wait is to trust God and to take his Word and his promises at face value. It means we trust that God is doing and will do what he has promised in his Word as well as his individual promises to you and me. This Advent, make some time to list all the promises you may have received from God in the past. Make a clear list and then pray over it. Once again, claim each of those promises and patiently trust God to fulfill them in your life.

Waiting on the Lord actually helps take the burden and stress off of our shoulders because it proves that God is in control and he is still in charge. If I know that I am not in charge of my life, it becomes really quite liberating. Try this Advent season to lay your life, plans, and your future at the feet of God and make him in charge. You will be free to live! And you will love the fact that you are no longer in charge—you are not God; rather God is in charge.

Waiting on the Lord is also helpful in that it releases us from the unnecessary stress of predicting the exact dates and times of the Second Coming of Christ. We can never get it right, because only God knows about the perfect timing for his coming. If I am not God, why should I even bother about predicting when it’s the ripe time for Christ’s return? Thus, waiting means I learn to trust in God’s perfect timing for all decisions in my life and even for the return of Christ. It teaches me that God’s timing is the best.

May the Lord help each one of us to learn to patiently wait for the Lord, to trust him that he is in control, and to trust in his perfect timing.
Come Lord Jesus!

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Advent: Those who wait shall renew their strength

waitingAdvent: Those who wait shall renew their strength

Please read Isaiah 40: 9-31

As I wrote yesterday, Advent characterizes patiently waiting for the Lord. The Israelites had to wait for a very long period of 400 years after the last prophet spoke to them. The prophets played a key role in the lives of Hebrews. In fact, the prophets were one of the three religious institutions in the Old Testament; the other two being the priests and the kings. The prophets, therefore, played a pivotal role in building anticipation for the Advent of the coming Messiah—Jesus Christ. In times of trouble, darkness, silence, and hopelessness, the prophets brought hope and encouragement to the people of God. The prophets keenly observed the world around them and declared what was wrong with it. They also preached that a better world was needed. In order for a better world, the prophets proclaimed, they needed a better King who would act justly and establish justice. The prophets also preached that people, who contributed to making the world a corrupt and unjust world, needed to repent and turn from their sinful ways. Only when the people repented and accepted the new order that the Messiah brings in will they be able to usher in a new and better world.

The Prophet Isaiah in particular announced that anticipating all this to happen in our world is a matter of patiently waiting. That’s why he announces that there’s even a huge incentive for those who chose to wait upon the Lord:

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40: 31 ESV).

Notice here that Isaiah doesn’t mean we remain idle as wait upon the Lord to come back as the ruling King of his Kingdom on earth. To wait is not that we just mark our time. Rather, it’s to be active on his behalf for the kingdom, working towards its fulfillment in the here and now. That’s why he uses three verbs in the above verse: we shall “mount up… run…walk…” That provides a vivid picture of what we should be doing as we wait upon the Lord. Isaiah says the Lord knows when we wait upon him. He knows that as human beings it’s against our nature to wait. He knows that we will become weary and worn out through waiting and trusting upon God. Therefore, he has also provided for an incentive, i.e., he will renew our strength when we become weary of waiting. The incentive to renew our strength is clearly for the purpose of getting more involved in his Kingdom as the three verbs describe for us. God knows that we’re not made to be sitting apathetic but to engage with the world. Therefore, he’s also willing to supply us the needed strength, through the Holy Spirit, to mount up like eagles, to soar higher, to run faster, and to walk with sprint in our feet, to do his will on earth as it’s done in heaven!

Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

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Advent : A time to wait upon the Lord

waiting

Advent : A time to wait upon the Lord
Please read Isaiah 64: 1-9

Christmas is a time of so much rush and busyness for most believers that there are just not enough hours in a day and days in a month to accomplish all we are supposed to do for Christmas. The West has so much commercialized Christmas that we often forget what it is all about—the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, it’s high time for us that we take Advent, the holy season preceding the birth of Christ, as a time when we wait upon the Lord instead of rushing to do things for Christmas. Remember, the Israelites were sent several prophets with a clear message about the coming Messiah. But then, after the last Prophet Malachi put his pen down, there ensued a period of complete silence. It was a period of silence for 400 long years. A period that some have also called the darkest period in the history of Israel. It’s rightly called the darkest period because God was the quietest during this long time. The Israelites were used to hearing the Word of God proclaimed through the Prophets as the writer of Hebrews says: “God, at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews1:1). But after Malachi, the prophecies ceased and there was no voice of God until John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.
So Advent is a good time to begin instilling some stillness into our days in a very busy world. It’s a time to patiently wait for the Messiah to show up in our lives and transform us into his image and likeness. Prophet Isaiah reminds us in 64: 4,

“Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

The biblical God unlike other gods has attributes like patience, compassion, and long-suffering. Therefore, he’s also eager in acting on behalf of those would wait for him. I know from personal experience that waiting is not easy. I’m an impatient man and I don’t like waiting for anything. However, God wants us to wait. Advent teaches us to wait because waiting means that I continue to believe and trust in God when all others have given up. When others are no longer hoping for God to show up, waiting means I depend on God’s timing rather than my own timing. Waiting teaches us to believe in the here and now and to get involved in expanding the Kingdom of God instead of idly sitting around and hoping for the rapture to take us away from this world.

I really hope and pray that this Advent season, you will slow down and draw near to God to patiently learn to wait upon him. Christmases will come and go, what is more important is learn to wait upon the Lord and to learn to trust in him and in his perfect timing.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.

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Advent: An opportunity to Evangelize

Advent : An opportunity to evangelize
Please read Mark 13: 1-10

Mark chapter 13 is often called the “Olivet Discourse” as Jesus taught this to his very close disciples at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. During his last week in Jerusalem, Jesus appears to have spent most of his time in and around the Temple…teaching, preaching, observing, and praying for the peace of Jerusalem. His disciples called Jesus’ attention to the grandiose Temple building which indeed was magnificent in those days. To this Jesus responded with a startling prophecy that the Temple will be completely destroyed (this was fulfilled in AD 70 under Roman warrior and future emperor Titus). Jesus’ statement led the disciples to ask of Jesus as to when this would happen and what would be the signs before it’s fulfilled. The Olivet discourse is Jesus’ response to this query.

old mapWhat pops out to me is Jesus’ statement in Mark 13: 10: “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” The parallel passage in Matthew 24:14 puts it even more emphatically: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Like Jesus’ disciples, we too could have a misplaced concern about the Second Advent, the return of Jesus Christ and preoccupation with the signs and times of his coming. The disciples wanted to know the time and the signs. And down through the centuries, some followers of Jesus have indulged in speculating the exact dates for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus rebukes this tendency by calling their attention to the mission for which he had come to this earth, i.e., the proclamation of the good of news of the Kingdom of God. To counter this tendency, Jesus categorically told the disciples that before the end comes, the church’s mission should be the evangelization of the world — taking the gospel to all people groups everywhere. What he meant by it is that the time between his ascension and his return as the ruling King is not simply a time of suffering and persecution of the church but also an opportunity to share the grace of God and proclaim the good news throughout the earth to fulfill the prophecy of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 49:6:

He says:
“It is too small a thing for you
to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Therefore, as followers of Christ, let’s spend our time, energy, and resources wisely with the sole aim of fulfilling the command of our Lord Jesus Christ that the gospel of the Kingdom is preached on earth and, then, the end will come and not before that!

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

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Advent brings hope, justice, and righteousness

hope1Advent brings hope, justice, and righteousness
Please read Isaiah 61.

In the above passage, the one whom God has anointed and sent is not identified. Yes, it’s primarily the prophet’s voice and it is Prophet Isiah’s mission that is described in these verses; however, since these are prophetic words, they have more than one fulfillment. Jesus Christ applied them to himself in his Nazareth Manifesto at the inauguration of his earthly ministry (Luke 4: 14-21). In this powerful manifesto Jesus outlines his mission as the long expected Messiah.

Jesus Christ has the required anointing of the Holy Spirit, power, and authority of God to accomplish this mission on which he has been sent to this earth. As a matter of fact, there has been no one else in the history who has either claimed this manifesto to be his/her mission or who had what it takes to accomplish this divine task. Only God’s appointed and God’s anointed can complete it.

Next, we notice that that the Anointed One is sent to bring hope. To a people in Israel who lived in hopelessness and in ruins both physical and spiritual, Jesus Christ brings the good news instead of condemnation. Noteworthy is the fact that this good news of hope is for the oppressed, to the ones whose hearts are crushed, to the captives, the imprisoned and to all who mourn. Contrary to the common belief, these people were in this state not because of their own fault. Rather, they were made to live in this situation because of historic and systematic exploitation and oppression. It’s not stated in the above verses, however, in order to reach those persons and deliver them, the Messiah must, of necessity, confront the perpetrators and sources of repression, marginalization, hopelessness and despair. In fact, the message of good news is actually bad news for the oppressors. The mission of the Messiah is to actually reverse the circumstances and effect a transformation in the identity and activity of the oppressed. In bringing the good news to the oppressed, the Anointed One also brings healing to the broken hearts, liberty for the captives, or release to those who are imprisoned by the system. If you observe closely, Jesus Christ was using the terminology of the Jubilee Year (see Leviticus 25). In doing so, the Messiah makes it clear that the liberty proclaimed is intended to be made permanent in new social and economic order and relationships that he has come to establish in and through the Kingdom of God. God’s anointed is also “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God.” This is assurance that God has chosen to act with abundant “favor” and mercy towards those who are oppressed and marginalized and to judge and defeat those who would harm them. So, this Advent, we’re reminded that the coming of the Messiah will replace the dull spirits with mantles of praise. We’re reminded that the Messiah is for the humiliated, fragmented, dispirited and exploited people and he’s working to rebuild the world as a city where righteousness and justice flourish. We’re reminded that a new future is possible because God promises to be in “everlasting covenant with them” (Isaiah 61: 8). He’ll cloth us with the robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61: 9-10) and the city where hopelessness had taken root will, by God’s spirit and by God’s blessing, sprout righteousness and praise!
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

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