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Posts tagged ‘christmas’

A Christmas Reflection…

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I wonder how your Christmas was? Did you give gifts to others, even though they may or may not have deserved it? Did you receive gifts, even if you deserved them or not?

This year we had a grace Christmas… We gave gifts to a few people we know… My wife received a couple of gifts from a couple of people at her work place… We received cards from people as gifts and we valued them all as if they were gold because people took time to write them… But apart from that, nothing… But this is being told neither as a complaint or as a plea… This is being told, because many people around the world, including Christians didn’t even get a card from anybody for the celebration of the birth of their Saviour, Jesus Christ.

It is also a reflection of God’s grace… God gives, gives more and gives even more still… Yet rarely does He receive – particularly the totality of lives who claim to follow Him… His demands are easy to identify if you claim to follow Him… He wants all of your life – not just the parts you want to give Him… Is it difficult to do? Yes! But that is one reason we were given the Holy Spirit – to help us become more like God the Son, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, whose death and resurrection we celebrate at Easter and whose sacrificial death we remember in the Communion or Eucharist…

In this new year of 2014, please do desire to give over to Jesus, who is to be your Lord & Master, those areas of your life you are holding back on?

Why Christmas?

whyjesus

What is the message of Christmas?

Why did Jesus come?

Watch this 1 minute video to find out! Let us know what you think!

You can also download it directly from http://davegroberts.podbean.com/mf/web/53tm2c/Christmas2013-whyJesus.mp4

12. 12 Days to Christmas – Messiah’s Kingdom

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12.Twelve Days to Christmas

Messiah’s Kingdom

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Please do read Zechariah 14:1 – 21

As we saw on Day 11 of this series, from Isaiah 61 to 63, God has commenced doing a good thing through the Servant Messiah. At His first coming as a baby, this Servant Messiah ushered in the Year of the Lord’s favour. We live in that period of time now, and it will continue until the Servant Messiah, Jesus Christ, comes again in glory and majesty. He will take those obedient followers to the City of God. For those who reject Him and the free offer of God’s grace, there is the Day of Vengeance. Now in Zechariah 14, we get a different perspective. We get a vision of the Kingdom of God at that tie in the future. So let us take a flight with Zechariah, into the future to see what this Messiah’s Kingdom is like, where Jerusalem where mentioned, is in fact the New Jerusalem, the City of God!.

God Will Be King!

God will be king and lead the battle (Zechariah 14:3)! The original hearers and readers of this letter would remember how in times past, God has done mighty things for them! Things such as the parting of the Red Sea in order to escape the rampaging Egyptians. Just as God caused the Red Sea to split in two, so says Zechariah, God will split a mountain in two, and leave a valley in the middle to escape their enemies! The Almighty and Living God is coming with His legions of angels and the saints! You can almost feel Zechariah getting caught up in the ecstatic vision!

That day, as described in Zechariah 14:6-7, will be unique and special. That day is only known to Yahweh! There will be a special and unusual light! Then in Zechariah 14:8, there will be living water permanently. The old Jerusalem had poor water supply, but the New Jerusalem will have a permanent supply of Living Water! This day sees the end of the “Year of the Lord’s Favour” and leads in the new heavens and new earth we discussed a couple of days ago.

Zechariah 14:9 “Yahweh will be King over all the earth. In that day Yahweh will be one, and his name one.” God will not just rule over Jerusalem, but will rule and reign over all the earth. There is a day approaching with all the world, whether they want to or not, will acknowledge the Messiah’s lordship, glory, beauty, majesty and authority to rule over them. There will be One Lord to rule over all. Remember the ancient Israelites used to quote the Shema “Hear O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

Enemies Defeated!

What of those who stand against God and against God’s people? They will be defeated and as God’s opponents, they will not be able to stand, and won’t be able to see or speak. Decay has overtaken them as plaque and panic confuse and debilitate them. So it is with the enemies of God and His people, they wont be able to travel and flee as their transportation will also have decayed. .

The New Age Has Come

In the Kingdom of the Messiah, under His rule, reign and authority, all will be holy. As a result there will be no more sin, death, destruction or decay. Everything will be devoted to the Lord God and His Kingdom. All has been transformed, for the glory and sake of the Servant Messiah.
How is Jesus this Messiah?

Jesus describes this day in Mark 13:24-27 “But in those days, after that oppression, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out his angels, and will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky.

Jesus is the light of the world and giver of Living water! Remember just a few days ago, we discussed this! In Zechariah 14:7, we see again that light of the world shining in the evening and the New Jerusalem flowing with Living Water!

Paul writing in Philippians 2:5-11 says “Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When Jesus ascended into the heavens in Acts 1:1-14, two angels appeared to the disciples saying “You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky.

When in the final book of the Bible, Jesus says these words in Revelation 21:5-7 “Behold, I am making all things new.” …”Write, for these words of God are faithful and true.” …”It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son.

May it be so, Lord Jesus, and help all of us who love you to overcome and be obedient to You! Through these twelve brief studies in Isaiah and Zechariah, we see the promises of God being fulfilled in the Messiah Servant, Messiah Shepherd, Messiah King, Messiah Prophet, Messiah Priest and Messiah Disciple. This is only fulfilled in and through that God-man, Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate. But also remember that this Jesus, is no longer a baby in a manger, but will be coming back again one day to rule the world with justice and grace to the praise and glory of Almighty God.

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Harmony of the Nativity

Harmony of the Gospel accounts

telling the birth of Jesus Christ

Pre-existence of Christ – John 1:1-18 – Natalie
Gabriel visits Mary – Luke 1:26-38 – James
Mary visits Elizabeth – Luke 1:39-56 – Bryony
Angel visits Joseph – Matthew 1:19-24 – Amber
Birth of Jesus Christ – Luke 2:1-7 – Milly
Shepherds visit Jesus – Luke 2:8-20 – Toby
Magi visit Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12 – Sharona

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The Christmas Gift – John 3:16

John 3:16 – The Christmas Gift

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes In Him should not perish but have everlasting life… John 3:16

Play the video to see the most famous verse in the Bible clearly explained!

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11. 12 Days to Christmas – Messiah’s Proclamations

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Day 11. Twelve Days to Christmas

Messiah’s Proclamations

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Please do read Isaiah 61:1 – 11; Isaiah 63:1-6

In this passage from Isaiah 61 through to Isaiah 63, we have two contrasting certainties. They can be found in Isaiah 61:2. The two certainties are “the year of Yahweh’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God”. There will be the year of favour and the day of vengeance. The year of honour, as we shall see has already started. We don’t know when it will end, but we know that it will. The day of vengeance will be in the future sometime. Again we don’t know when that will be either. But we know it will all happen quickly, suddenly and without warning (Isaiah 60:22). Therefore people need to be ready and alert! The time of when it will occur is not known, but it is known who will end it – Almighty God.

Messiah’s Good News

The Servant Messiah speaks without being introduced this time, and is the preacher in the year of the Lord’s favour. This preaching is probably a referral to the rams horn that ushers in the Year of Jubilee as established in the Mosaic Covenant (Leviticus 25:8-55). The Servant Messiah’s preaching will usher in a time of grace, justice and freedom – just as the ram’s horn introduced the Year of Jubilee. The phrase to “proclaim liberty” is used in both the year of Jubilee and in this the year of the Lord’s favour. This proclaimed year of the Lord’s favour starts when the Messiah comes the first time and will cease when He returns again. The word year, is not a fixed period of time as we know it, but is rather symbolic of an extended period of time. This Servant Messiah is anointed with the Holy Spirit of God. This Good News was to be preached to the humble, the poor and poor in spirit – the Good News is news of freedom, liberty, grace and justice! The comfort they will receive should the offer be taken up, is one of being released from condemnation for sin through the Messiah’s offer of forgiveness – that is grace! Because of this grace, three things will be occur for these people who have accept the offer, here referred to in Isaiah 61:3 as “trees of righteousness” : they will display or reflect the Lord God’s glory and splendour; they will be priests of the Lord God service; and will inherit all things!

Messiah’s Grace & Justice

What is the outcome and result of grace? We see it in Isaiah 61:7-9. Almighty God’s grace, available only through the Messiah, will bring bountiful blessing, ecstatic joy and a rich inheritance instead of shame, dishonour and exile. Grace may well be free but it is not cheap. What was the price? The relationship bridge to God that is the Messiah, is only through the Messiah’s suffering atonement as described in Isaiah 53. Isaiah moves to justice quite naturally therefore, for grace and justice are like twins – they go together naturally. Justice is grace in action just as much as it is the judging of those in sin (Isaiah 61:8). Liberating people from sin freely (grace) is as much a part of justice as punishing those who reject the gracious offer of pardon and continue to live sinful lives. Grace and justice are also available, because God is always full of grace and justice and this is seen in the new covenant He makes with those who have heard this Good News proclaimed by the Messiah and responded by taking up His free offer.

This Good News of the twins Grace and Justice brings an offering of thanksgiving and praise (Isaiah 61:10-11)! Clothed with salvation from and through God’s Messiah, robed with the righteousness of God’s Messiah! And because God has done it for this one man, He will ensure that all those who respond from all nations will also be like that in a responsive praise and Godly righteousness.

Messiah’s Vengeance

We have been warned in Isaiah 61:2 that not only will the Messiah usher in the year of the Lord’s favour, but He will also bring vengeance with him. People today don’t like the word vengeance because it conjures up images of maliciousness and vindictiveness. This vengeance is wrought by Almighty God as punishment for people’s personal sin against Him. His anger is a righteous anger and a wrath borne of holiness. His judgment will be final and also universal – every people of every nation of all time. In particular, however, those who would persecute, mock, abhor and reject those who have taken up God’s free offer of grace through the coming Messiah.

How is Jesus this Messiah?

In Luke 4:16-20 at the beginning of His public ministry at a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus quotes this passage from Isaiah 61. This tells us that the year of the Lord’s favour has commenced. But note from the passage in Luke, that he doesn’t quote the full scripture. He stops in the middle of reading a sentence, just as soon as He says “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”, rolls the scroll back up. Why does he do that? It can only be because while now until He returns, is the year of the Lord’s favour, the day of judgement and vengeance will wait until that day in the future – when those who are His followers will enter the City of God and those who rejected Him will have vengeance wrought against them.

Jesus went around, as we know, proclaiming the same Good News Isaiah writes about (Matthew 9:35, Luke 8:1). Jesus proclaimed in his words and his life about God’s love, grace and justice. When he healed the sick, forgave sins, gave compassion on the poor, spoke and ate with the outcasts, Jesus Christ embodied this message of grace, justice and freedom. When, as we saw on a previous day, death on the cross was the act of atonement required by God in order to punish the sins of the world, Jesus Christ did not shirk back from doing that.

As for the day of vengeance, nobody talked about hell and God’s judgement more than Jesus. But God is always reaching out, coaxing people to accept His free offer of grace, if people will only humble themselves and ask for it. God’s offer of freedom is still available in this the year of the Lord’s favour. But one day, the day of judgement will come and then it will be too late. That is why Jesus commanded with some urgency that His followers would tell all nations of this Good News, Isaiah wrote about. A Good News of salvation, grace, justice and freedom.

Jesus, reinforcing what Isaiah ahs said, tells us that the day of vengeance is for those who reject the Good News he preaches and lives (Matthew 10v14-15). God’s Day of Judgment is coming said Jesus (Matthew 12:36). What’s more, Jesus said in John 5:22-23 “For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who doesn’t honour the Son doesn’t honour the Father who sent him.” Jesus claims here to openly be the Messiah, the long awaited for chosen One! An even more overt statement by Jesus on judgment can be found in John 9:39, “I came into this world for judgment, that those who don’t see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” Jesus tells us that the punishment will be both physical (Matthew 5v29-30), and in the soul (Matthew 10v28). This vengeance will consist of everlasting fire and punishment (Matthew 25v41-46) and will be Constant and outer darkness (Matthew 8v12). In other words, those rejecting the Messiah Jesus Christ, will face a lonely, impersonal God-less void. All this will happen when Jesus comes again, not as a baby like last time, but in glorious splendour.

But for all those who accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah and have grasped hold of the Good News message of grace, justice and liberty, there will be another place. According to Jesus, this heavenly city of God is only for those who are righteous (Matthew 5v20). In doing so, he concurs with Isaiah. This righteousness is not their own, but the robe righteousness declared upon them through the Messiah.

This heavenly city of God, Jesus proclaims to us is a place of ecstatic Joy (Luke 15v7-10), total peace (Luke 16v19-25) and a reward (Matthew 5v11-12) – all themes we have heard in these books of Isaiah and Zechariah.

There is one more study to come. As this is released on Christmas day, you may wonder why. My reason for doing so, was that yes we celebrate Jesus Christ coming to earth as a baby. Yes, His incarnation whereby God took on human flesh in the human form of Jesus Christ is important. That iw when the year of the Lord’s favour commenced. But that is only half the story, because this Jesus Christ is coming back again in splendorous glory, in order to gather all those who have responded obediently to the Good News of God’s grace, justice and freedom. For those, the heavenly city of God awaits. But for those who reject Him now, He will reject them and the day of vengeance proclaimed in Isaiah will be a terrible day. That is why even as it is now the year of the Lord’s favour; it is not too late to respond obediently to God’s free grace. It is also not too late for you, if you are already counted as one of the Lord’s followers to tell others of this free offer and the rewards of acceptance and consequences of rejection.

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10. 12 Days to Christmas – Messiah’s Rejection

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10. Twelve Days to Christmas

Messiah’s Rejection

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Please do read Zechariah 11:1-17

So far in our journey we have seen that the future is glory for the Servant Messiah and all those who choose to follow Him! It is a future of hope, joy, excitement, awe, wonderment and glory. But that is only one side of the future. In Zechariah 11, we come to another part of the future; the part of the future which is for all those who would reject God’s Servant Messiah. While Zechariah talks in picture language and symbols, the overall message is startlingly clear: those who reject the Messiah, will in the future be rejected by Him! But we are not given the full details here, but rather are told the why it will happen.

Judgment is coming

Here in Zechariah 11:1-3 we see this judgement coming. The strong barriers of the door are removed! There are no barriers strong enough to escape the judgment of God Almighty. Fire will destroy the mighty cedar trees (Zechariah 11:1), tall pines will fall wantonly (Zechariah 11:2) and fertile land will be decimated as will the places where lions inhabit (Zechariah 11:3). Why are the shepherds crying out in dismay and angst? Not for the land, the trees and animals! No! They were crying out in anguish because of their loss of income! They were too busy ripping off those the people they were meant to lead, rather than leading the people rightly and righteously. They were leaders only for what they could get out of the position they held. They were corrupt, deceitful and arrogant. How were the mighty cedars destroyed and barriers broken down? History tells us that the Roman Empire swept through Lebanon, subduing the entire Lebanese leadership & independent authority under its mighty power.

The Good Shepherd

Now in Zechariah 11:4-14 we see God offering one last opportunity for the leaders of Israel to obey Almighty God. The leaders of Israel were not looking after the people. Instead they were abandoning them and looking only after themselves. These leaders, or shepherds, as they are referred to here were selling their own people into slavery of other nations and getting very rich because of it (Zechariah 11:5)! It was the height of hypocrisy because they were even praising God for their wealth achieved by disobedience, deceit and lust for money.

Zechariah is asked now to play a role – representing the Shepherd Messiah feeding the sheep (Zechariah 11:4). God issues judgment against the people of Israel, particularly the leaders, and will hand them over to their neighbours. Since the leaders showed neither pity nor mercy, neither shall God show mercy or pity on them (Zechariah 11:6).

Zechariah continues his role as the Good Shepherd, performing much the same way the Shepherd Messiah will do, when He comes. He tends to caring for the lost, oppressed, poor and afflicted. Just as we have seen earlier that the Shepherd Messiah will do. Now Zechariah takes too staffs, naming one ‘Favour’ and the other ‘Union’ (Zechariah 11:7). As part of his work, three of the false leaders or shepherds are disposed off within one month. These leaders could have been kings, priests or prophets. Disposed off, because when the Shepherd Messiah comes, He will be as we have seen a Messiah King, Messiah Priest and Messiah Prophet, all simultaneously.

But now, in Zechariah 11:8, Zechariah as the Good Shepherd is rejected! The same way that the Shepherd Messiah will be rejected as we saw in Isaiah 53.

Good Shepherd Judges

Eventually Zechariah the Good Shepherd tires of the people’s disobedience and recalcitrant attitudes and behaviour. In Zechariah 11:9-11, he says “I will not feed you. That which dies, let it die; and that which is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let those who are left eat each other’s flesh.” I took my staff Favor, and cut it apart, that I might break my covenant that I had made with all the peoples. It was broken in that day; and thus the poor of the flock that listened to me knew that it was the word of Yahweh.” So because of the leadership’s disobedience and self-righteousness, God is stopping the covenant between them and this is symbolized by breaking the staff called ‘Favour’. God has always kept His word and was always faithful in keeping His covenants with people and Israel. But because of the Israel’s disobedience the covenant was now void and invalid. The Good Shepherd is rejected.

The Foolish Shepherd.

Now Zechariah is to play a foolish Shepherd. This foolish Shepherd has no time for people who are lost, oppressed, poor and afflicted. He is only interested in himself and his own gain. He will not look out for the sick in order to heal them or feed those who are hungry. This foolish Shepherd is the contrast of Zechariah as the Good Shepherd and of the Shepherd Messiah to come. What is the judgement upon this Foolish Shepherd? His power will be taken away and his intelligence dimmed. The staff, called ‘Union’, is broken in order to symbolize the break up of the nation of Israel into north and south.

Where is Jesus the Messiah in here?

Jesus was offended and dismayed by the behaviour of, and the active disobedience by, the leaders of Israel. He frequently told the Pharisees, Priests and other leaders that they were oppressing the poor, didn’t care for the lost, neglected orphans and widows. For example, Matthew 12:34 You offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Or Matthew 15:3, where Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, saying “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” Yes, Jesus spent time judging and condemning the leaders of Israel for their selfishness, deceit and dishonesty.

In contrast to the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus as the Good Shepherd, did seek the lost, the orphans, widows and oppressed. He desired to spend time with them, having compassion upon them. He healed the sick, fed the masses, gave wise counsel and proclaimed love to those who were the unloved of society. Jesus when he looked over the crowds, commented that they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9v36).

Jesus said in John 10v10, that He gives His life that all those who follow Him, will have it more abundantly. Jesus as the Great Shepherd came to earth in order to bring sheep back into the fold; that is to bring people back into a full relationship with God. Jesus here in John 10, is looking ahead to His death on the cross as a means of facilitating the way for people to come back into a living relationship with God. Jesus fed people, but not only physically, but spiritually! Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Shepherd Messiah as enacted by Zechariah.

Jesus the Shepherd Messiah was rejected! Rejected by the leaders of Israel, who accused him of being demon-possessed. Rejected as He hung on a cross for the sins of the world. Rejected because of who He was – the Shepherd Messiah, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, the people of the world. Jesus, the Shepherd Messiah who is also priest, prophet and prince. Priest because He mediates between humanity and God the Father. Prophet because He spoke forth God’s word. Prince, because He is a King Messiah and is the Prince of Peace.

This Jesus, who through the Holy Spirit, beckons people to come back into relationship with God. Just as a shepherd cares for sheep and seeks any that are lost, so too does Jesus seek out those who are lost and still reject Him. One day it will be too late, and if Jesus is rejected in this life, then in the judgement to come, He will reject all those who reject Him now.

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