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Encouragement

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Advent Candles

The Advent Season is upon us! You may have never heard of Advent, but it’s been celebrated by Christians through the ages. Some churches – and some families – use an Advent Wreath to observe this special time. Some families use an Advent Calendar that counts down to Christmas Day.

The word Advent comes to us from Latin and it means coming or arrival. The Scriptures looked forward to Jesus’ First Coming, which we celebrate as Christmas. But we also look forward to Jesus’ Second Coming.

Just like with His First Advent, we don’t know when His Second Advent will be. So we must always be ready. The four Sundays before Christmas and Christmas remind us to always be ready for His arrival.

Application

Let me recommend a few resources to help you to prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming during this Advent season. Feel free to do any or all of these suggestions. My only caution is to not do so many readings that you miss the reason you’re doing the readings.

  • Read one chapter of Luke each day. On Christmas Eve, you will complete your reading through the book of Luke.
  • Read through the Christmas narrative in Luke 2:1-21. This passage will take you from the announcement of the Census through the announcement of Jesus’ birth to the Shepherds and their visit to Bethlehem. (This passage is quoted by Linus Van Pelt in the A Charlie Brown Christmas TV Special)
  • Devotionals
  • The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – John Piper
    • Available for free in the PrayerMate App

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Revelation

We’re rounding third base in our Bible Reading Plan. Today we begin reading the last book in the Bible: Revelation. Not Revelations, but Revelation. John, the Beloved Disciple received one revelation of Jesus Christ and recorded it for us. John’s purpose was not to give a timetable for Jesus’ return. Neither was his purpose to hide the timing of Jesus’ return in a code for us to figure out.

Yes, some of the book is in a code of sorts. The nature of the book’s genre means that there will be a lot of picturesque language. There will be lots of symbolism. And when we read it, we need to be very careful to not force meanings onto what we read based on what we’ve previously heard they’re supposed to mean. Trust me, there’s plenty for us to see; we should just let the text speak for itself.

The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatever he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near.” Revelation 1:1–3 (CSB)

John says the reason for this book is to give us a heads-up of what will happen “soon”. Note: God’s “soon” isn’t necessarily what we consider to be “soon”. (2 Peter 3:9) John adds that those who read and keep what’s written in it will be blessed. One commentator said, that the content of The Revelation isn’t merely prediction; moral counsel and religious instruction are the primary burdens of its pages.”

Application

As you read through this book, don’t focus on trying to “figure it out”. Instead, ask God to show you what the chapter says about God. And what does it say about God’s people?

Take comfort as you read. Nothing should cause fear. Instead, as you read, ask God to give you a fresh sense of awe for Him, His ways, and His works.

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promise

In today’s Bible reading, Peter reminds us that God’s promise is sure: Jesus will return. He says that scoffers will come, trying to discourage God’s children by pointing out that Jesus has yet to return. “Where is the promise of His coming He predicted?” (2 Peter 3:4)

There will always be nay-sayers. There will always be scoffers. There will always be haters. But Peter reminds us to be vigilant and to actively wait for Jesus’ return. “Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found without spot or blemish in his sight, at peace.” 2 Peter 3:14 (CSB)

In Peter’s mind, there’s no such thing as expressing a belief in Christ and then living an unchanged life. Coming to faith in Christ will cause life change. Those who repent of their sin and turn to Jesus (in other words, actually becoming a Christian) have a job to do: stay close and stay clean. (2 Peter 3:14)

Application

OK, so how do you stay close and stay clean? Maintain a close relationship with God. And one of the best ways to do this is to practice the Spiritual Disciplines: Bible reading, Bible study, Bible verse memory, prayer, worship, evangelism, fasting, giving thanks, giving, and fellowshiping with other Believers. (These are a few and they are in no particular order)

One great book on the Spiritual Disciplines is Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. Please take a couple of minutes to listen to John Piper talk about Dave Mathis’ book Habits of Grace. I think it really catches the idea behind practicing the Spiritual Disciplines. Spoiler alert: It isn’t about doing the disciplines. It’s about loving Jesus more.

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Ministry costs money

In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that those who are unwilling to work shouldn’t eat. In other words, Believers aren’t to be freeloaders. Now, is that a cut-and-dried statement? Or is it a principle?

I think Paul intended this to be a principle. It comes down to a person’s heart, his/her motivations. If a person is able to work, but chooses not to, that’s a problem. If a person goes around constantly mooching off others, that’s a problem.

But what about someone who is “called to do God’s work”? It’s no different! If someone is called to do God’s work he/she shouldn’t wait until a paycheck comes along before doing the work. If God has called someone to do ministry, they should do ministry! If someone is genuinely called to do God’s work of sharing the gospel, Paul says they should be paid for doing the work if they so choose. If they want to work voluntarily, that’s fine. But no one should be shamed for accepting money for doing ministry. In fact, elsewhere, Paul says that laborers are worthy of their hire. (1 Timothy 5:18)

Taking on a second job in order to put food on the table is commendable; it can open up ministry opportunities as well. And a missionary or pastor shouldn’t be shamed if he does take on a second job. Neither should he be shamed for asking for financial support as his income source. Depending on the ministry, sometimes taking on a second job is impractical or impossible. And oftentimes, the people receiving ministry are unable to cover the expenses of a pastor or missionary.

Airline tickets cost money. Visas cost money. Passport processing costs money. Insurance costs money. Gas costs money. Food costs money. Ministry costs money! Fortunately, many ministries are very lean and are very good stewards. Unfortunately, not all are. And not all of the “big name” ministries are the most efficient. Beware of wolves that fleece their flocks and siphon large salaries away from those in need.

In the past, I have mentioned uniting our church with a neighboring church. This is a good thing. This is a God thing. Combining our efforts under one roof and one fellowship body will bring down the operating costs of the two churches and will free up monies to do more of God’s work. This is good stewardship! And quite frankly, I wish more churches would prayerfully consider doing the same! With the changing face of society and the declining nickels and noses in local churches, it might be the best thing to close the doors on a few dead/plateaued churches and unite the members under a new body with a new vision and new energy.

Important note: I say this having closed the doors of the first church I pastored. God was in that and He brought new life to an old building. Now, a newer, younger church is absolutely flourishing where we once floundered. God is good!

Application

Unfortunately, churches have turf wars and partnering with other churches is often difficult. It takes a lot of humility and repentance to set aside your own church and ministry preferences. We don’t like change. But oftentimes, God calls us to “suck it up” and follow Him, taking on His preferences in order to accomplish His work.

Doing God’s work requires God’s people to give. And those who work are worthy of the support of God’s people to accomplish the work.

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Martin Luther

As i read today’s Bible reading, I instantly thought of Martin Luther’s powerful hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”.

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way, and then the lawless one will be revealed. The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of his mouth and will bring him to nothing at the appearance of his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:7–8 CSB)

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,—
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure,—
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers—
No thanks to them—abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also:
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is for ever.

“A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther

Application

As you consider the Second Coming of Jesus and His judgment on the lost, are you comforted or worried? If you are a Believer, you have nothing to be worried about! Your judgment has already been dealt with decisively in the death of Jesus on a cross almost two thousand years ago! There is no sin you could commit that could undo the provision God has already given you in Jesus! There no sin that is more powerful than the love, the grace, and the mercy of God!

But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote. (2 Thessalonians 2:13–15

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1 2 3 17

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