Promised beforehand

“Don’t take my word for it–check it out!” With the important things in life, that’s the approach we take, isn’t it? When we buy a home, we don’t just take the owner’s word that the house is in good shape; instead, we have the home inspected. There’s too much at stake, so we check it out!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could “inspect” Christianity, if you could check out Jesus to see if he’s the “real deal”?

We have that opportunity, because hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, God made a bunch of promises about Jesus. Now we can make an inspection–does Jesus match up? Does He “check out?” There are more than 50 such promises–here is a sample:

  • Promise: The Savior would be from the bloodline of Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3), Isaac (Genesis 21:12), and David (Jeremiah 23:5). Reality: Jesus’ lineage included each. (cf. Matthew 1 and Luke 3)
  • Promise: The Savior would be severely punished and pierced through (Isaiah 53:5). Reality: Jesus was whipped, then crucified. (Matthew 27:26)
  • Promise: The Savior would ride a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). Reality: When Jesus entered Jerusalem in a formal, final way, he rode a donkey. (Matthew 21: 1-9)

Interestingly, a number of promises concerned things over which Jesus had “no control”. For example, it was promised that he would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and he was (Luke 2: 1fi). Again, it was promised that Jesus’ garments would be divided up along with a casting of lots (Psalm 22: 18), and the soldiers who crucified him did just that (John 19:23-24). Could Jesus have controlled the actions of the soldiers? Not from a human perspective. So even in things Jesus “couldn’t control,” we see fulfillment after fulfillment.

Peter Stoner takes us into the science of probabilities, picking out just eight promises: “We find that the chance that any man might have…fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.” Stoner then illustrates: “Take 1017 [100,000,000,000,000,000] silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now, mark one of these silver dollars and stir up the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in one man” (Josh McDowell, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” Here’s Life Publishers Inc. 1979, p167).

All of which leads us to conclude what? Either, Jesus is THE most unbelievable, incredible coincidence ever. Or, much more plausibly, this Jesus–he’s the real deal. After all, he checks out!

Born of a virgin

“If you could pick the ultimate boss, what would that person be like?” We’d want our boss to be smart, to have clout. Additionally, we’d like our boss to be “one of us,” to have worked the job we have so that he/she could understand our particular challenges. Certainly we’d want a boss who “had a heart” for the employees, so that our best interests would be served.

Then we had suggested: “Wouldn’t we want our Savior to have similar qualities?” Of course! Since Jesus is truly God, we know that he’s smart, incredibly so. And talk about clout – wow!

But what about those other qualities–being one of us, having a heart for us–does Jesus have those qualities? Well he would … if he’s one of us. If he’s a human being, like us, then he would completely understand us; he would understand our challenges, stresses, hopes, fears, dreams, goals. All of that would be true … if Jesus is a real human being.

Listen! “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son” (Luke 2:6-7). Jesus was BORN! Like you were born, like I was born–he was born. Which means what? It means that Jesus is a REAL human being–like you, like me. And that’s great! Since Jesus is a real human being, he understands what it’s like to be human. He understands what it’s like to get hungry and thirsty, to get tired and stressed. He understands what it’s like to have friends turn against you, to lose loved ones, etc. He understands, because as a human being, he has experienced all these things!

But remember, Jesus is also true God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. So put those two thoughts–that Jesus is both true man and true God–together. Since Jesus is truly human, he understands us. He has a heart for us because he’s one of us. But since Jesus is God, he can DO things for us! And since he’s God, he’s “really smart,” so the things he does will be the things which make sense for us. In Jesus we find exactly what we need–a Savior who is truly man, but also truly God. As a human being, he understands us. He “gets it.” But as true God, he can do something about it! Most importantly, he can do what we really need–he can save us from our sins.

Jesus is My Savior from Fear

The angel said to [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11

Isn’t it interesting that God’s angelic announcement of Christmas begins with, “Do not be afraid”? What do fear and Christmas have in common? Based on people’s Christmas anxieties, plenty!

December fills many with depression. Some are overwhelmed by what their Christmas celebration should feel like, look like, even sound like. Thoughts of creating the perfect Christmas celebration fill many with stress.

Some dread Christmas due to money issues and the pressure to spend more than they can afford. Other have lost loved ones, making Christmas a painful trigger of past memories and missed loved ones. There is pressure to attend Christmas gatherings. As anxieties grow, so do shame, guilt and the gaping hole of depression.

If you’ve ever been fearful or anxious at Christmas, you’re in good company. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds all felt fears.

No warm, safe, sterile birthing suite or medical team would help Mary give birth to her first child. Instead she faced the stress of childbirth with only Joseph to help her. No room at Bethlehem’s inn meant a barn was the best shelter Joseph could find for Jesus’ birth. Imagine the anxiety this couple faced when Jesus was born.

The shepherds were filled with fears too. “Terrified” described their reaction to a sky full of angels. They might have wondered, “Did God send the angels to punish us?”

God knows your fears. That’s why the announcement of Christmas begins with an amazing command, “Do not be afraid!” This is good news for you! God has come in the flesh to erase all your fears!

Ever fear not measuring up? Jesus came to forgive you from all your past faults or present failures. Anxious over a life situation? God says, “Do not be afraid!” You don’t have to do life on your own. God came at Christmas to prove his love and to assure you, “Never will I leave you or forsake you!”

Peace comes from a life free from fears. God’s Christmas comfort is, “Do not be afraid!” Rescue has come. A Savior has been born for you!

King of kings and Lord of lords

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)

We live in a world that is often affected by tragedy and disaster. Terrorist attacks, war, crime, disease, natural disasters—these are just some of the evils that affect our world. As sinful people living in a sinful world, these are sad realities that we must sometimes face. Even if we aren’t directly affected by any great tragedy, problems still affect us all.

Evil in the world around us and problems in our own lives can make us afraid. They can make us feel weak and helpless. Sometimes evil seems to have the upper hand. Sometimes it seems like this world is out of control. We might wonder, “Where is God?  Who is in control?”

Our Savior Jesus is in control. The Bible assures us, “The Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers” (Revelation 17:14). Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” is King and Lord supreme. He is in control of all things. He rules for the good of his people. His ultimate goal is to bring us safely to our eternal home in heaven.

The evidence of his rule is seen in God’s plan for our salvation. On the cross, Jesus conquered sin, death and the devil. He wasn’t caught off guard and forced to die. He has always been in control, even on the cross. Jesus willingly gave his life for us, only to take it up again. His death on the cross seemed like defeat, but he rose victorious. He has power over life and death. His resurrection is certain proof of our salvation and assures us of his loving rule.

He remains in control today, despite how it may appear to our human eyes. The Savior, whose love moved him to die for us, is the same Savior whose love leads him to rule everything for our eternal good. That truth calms our fears. It gives us strength to face the difficulties of life.

Especially in difficult times, we need to go to the one who is in control. We need to draw near him through his Word, the Bible. There we hear his promises. There we receive his comfort and reassurance.

He is King of kings and Lord of lords. What comfort I find in that truth!

Searching For What Was Lost

Jesus told this parable, “Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8-10).

My wife works with a lady who buys her lottery tickets every now and then. One day, a rumor spread that our local grocery store sold a $100,000 ticket. We both thought, “Are we winners?” How would we spend it? Then I said, “Honey, where’s the ticket?” After a brief panic, and a 20 minute search of the house, we found it. The ticket was a loser.

When we lose something that we hold to be valuable, we search for it frantically. That’s what Jesus described in this short story about a woman searching for a coin that she lost. Without Jesus you and I are like that lost coin. Our lustful thoughts, hurting words, and loveless deeds–everything we think, say, or do that fails to be perfect–are sins that separate us from God. How frightening to be lost in sin!

Thankfully, though, there is good news! Jesus came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). God sent Jesus to find us and reconnect us to God. Jesus did that by loving us so much that he paid for all our sins by his death on the cross. That’s how much Jesus loves us!

Jesus searches for us and finds us. The angels in heaven rejoice! Jesus comes to us through his Word and takes away our fear by comforting us with the forgiveness of sins. He assures us that he has made us dearly loved children of God. Through Jesus, heaven is our inheritance.

God loves us so much that he stopped at nothing to find us and save us from eternal separation from him in hell. Through Jesus, we have the gift of eternal life, which is a whole lot more valuable that winning the lottery. How fortunate we are! We will never be lost again when we cling in faith to Jesus, our Savior.

Like heaven’s angels, we can rejoice over all that Jesus did to find us and give us life with God.

Coming again

If you want to find a Biblical subject about which there is widespread misinformation and uncertainty, the topic of the Last Day would fit that description. But it doesn’t need to be. In reality, it’s quite simple, and, for those who believe in Jesus, it’s chock-full of good news.

Think about Jesus’ ascension. Jesus had led the disciples up onto the Mt. of Olives, he’d lifted up his nail-marked hands and blessed them. As he was blessing them, he powerfully ascended up into the sky, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

Then we read, “Suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'” (Acts 1:10-11 NIV)

What’s going to happen on the Last Day? Very simply, Jesus will come back! Come back how? The same way he left–with his hands upraised in blessing, with the nail marks clearly visible. Does that sound like something to fear, or something to eagerly expect? Obviously, the latter! At least, for those who believe in Jesus it’s something to which to look forward.

The Bible gives us a few more details: there will be the voice of the archangel and the trumpet-call of God will be heard. All those who have died before the Last Day will be raised up, their bodies and souls will be rejoined, and their bodies will be made glorious. Those who are alive when Jesus returns won’t die – their bodies will simply be changed. The believers will be gathered to be with Jesus, and the unbelievers will be sent to suffer eternally in hell, separated from God. And all of it will take place so quickly that we’ll hardly know it’s happened until it’s done.

When will this take place? God tells us that Jesus will return suddenly, like a thief in the night. Could it happen today? Absolutely. Could the world last another 100 years? Yep. Could Jesus wait millions of years before he returns? Sure.

But what you know for sure is that when he returns, it will be great. After all, it’s JESUS who’s returning! The nail marks on his hands will still be there. He loves you, loves you so much that he was willing to die for you, to pay for your sins. If he loved you enough to die for you, will he also love you enough to take you to be with him in heaven? Absolutely!

So we pray the prayer which is found at the end of the Bible: “Jesus says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20 NIV)

(For more on the Last Day, read Matthew 24-25, 1Corinthians 15, 1Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11. For some neat pictures of heaven, read Revelation 5, 7, 21-22.)

Ascended into heaven

Why are class reunions fun? Certainly part of it is seeing people whom you haven’t seen for a while–and seeing how they’ve changed! Without fail there’s a person or two whom you don’t recognize, because they just don’t look the way they used to look. It’s true–we tend to remember people the way they looked the last time we saw them.

So what’s the last “sight” that the disciples saw of Jesus? It happened like this.

After Jesus rose from his grave, he spent some time with his disciples, but not a lot. He would appear, teach and talk for a while, and then he’d allow them to “be on their own” for several days. This happened for forty days.

When those 40 days were over, Jesus took the disciples to the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem. There “he lifted up his hands and blessed them.” What would the disciples see on those hands? Why, of course–the nail marks from the crucifixion.

Then while he was blessing them “he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” Can you imagine? All of a sudden he just goes up into the sky! What power!

And notice, the account doesn’t say that he eventually got so far away that they couldn’t see him. Rather, the cloud covered him, so that–even though they could no longer see him with their eyes–he was still there.

Now remember–this was the last time the disciples would see Jesus, so this was the sight which would stick with them. Do you think it would help them?

Well, think of all the truths of which Jesus reminded them. By ascending up into the sky, Jesus reminded them that he’s all-powerful, that he rules all things. The hands up, in blessing, reminded them that he is watching out for their good! He will always have their best interests in mind. The fact that the cloud covered him reminded them that he really was with them, always. And don’t forget the nail marks, the proof that the disciples’ sins were forgiven! Because of that, that they’d spend an eternity with Jesus in heaven. Do you think that all this would have helped the disciples as they faced the days ahead? Without doubt! And certainly that “sight” of Jesus lifts our spirits too.

But there’s one more point about Jesus’ ascension, a point which we’d hate to miss … that he is coming again!

Our Righteousness

“In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:6

There is nothing that feels better than a crisp, clean set of clothes. I’ve been trying to take up running. After I come in from a three mile run, my shirt is gross! It’s smelly and drenched with sweat. It feels so good, after I’ve showered, to put on a shirt that is dry and clean.

We have all made our spiritual clothes sweaty, dirty and gross. Our unkind words and self-centered thoughts are like mud caked on our spiritual shirts. God is not going to let us into his house (heaven) wearing those kind of clothes!

But there is nothing that feels better than a crisp, clean set of clothes! Jesus lived a completely righteous life. His spiritual clothes were never stained with a single sin. And then he said to you, “Change shirts with me.” He put on your shirt that was stained with sin, and in exchange he gave you his crisp, clean shirt. That’s what the Bible means when it says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus was wearing our sinful clothes when he suffered and died on the cross. In exchange, he gave us his sinless clothes. Now, when God looks at us, he does not see dirty, sinful clothes. Instead, he sees the crisp, clean clothes of Jesus. The Bible puts it this way: “He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

We haven’t lived a perfect life, but Jesus has. And he lets that perfect life count for us. He is “The LORD Our Righteousness,” (Jeremiah 23:6). Because Jesus’ perfect life (his righteousness) counts for us, that means that we can get into heaven!

So the next time you finish some strenuous activity, remember with joy that Jesus put on your grimy, sinful clothes. And when you open your dresser and find a neatly folded shirt, remember that Jesus has put a fresh, clean shirt on you. You are clothed in his perfect righteousness, and there is nothing that feels better than a crisp, clean set of clothes!

Blessed are the Dead Who Die in the Lord

Many things are scary. Watching your infant wiggle out of his car carrier, which you had momentarily set on the table—that’s scary. Witnessing a car swerve into oncoming traffic—that’s scary. But of all the scary things, death for many is the scariest.

It’s scary because of what we know and don’t know. We know death is certain. Its cloud hangs over us at every traffic intersection, on every consult with our doctor, and during every violent storm. What we don’t know is what dying is like. We don’t know what — if anything — happens after death.

If there is no God, then death is the end and that’s it. If so, then death may be final and sad, but it’s hardly something to be afraid of. But if God exists and is waiting to judge you for all the things you have done, if there is a life after death, then death is more than sad. It’s scary.

There are no ifs about God’s existence. He does exist and people know it, though some deny it. And the Bible explains what everyone knows in his or her heart: It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). Yes, that’s scary! So how happy can I be when I’m scared of dying?

If it were up to you find happiness in the face of death, you would be on an impossible journey. What we need to calm our fears and to find happiness is for someone to do something about death. Here’s the good news: someone has.

The God who awaits you after death, sent Jesus to destroy death. Jesus began that work by obeying God’s laws for you. Then he traded places with you. He gave you his perfect life in exchange for your sins. And so, with your sins laid on him, he suffered a most horrible death, which earned God’s forgiveness for you. With sin forgiven, death lost its power. So, three days after his burial, Jesus rose to life from the dead. He defeated death so that it can no longer hold the lives and bodies of those it has claimed. All people will rise from the dead.

Believe this good news and know for sure that the God, who is waiting for you, waits for you with open arms to welcome you into his Paradise. This is why the Holy Spirit told John to write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on (Revelation 14:13).

The unknown experience of death may still be scary for you, but because death has been conquered by resurrection and because there is a perfect life in a perfect place awaiting you, you can live happily, even now and ever after.

The Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Man Dies to Save Trapped Bunny pops up as you scroll through your news app. You tap on the video. You see what reminds you of the furry little Cadbury Creme Egg mascot. A heroic rescue follows.

You’re baffled. You’re impressed! You think…What inspired that guy to give his own life for a bunny? Come to think of it, I sometimes forget even to feed my own pet!

Try another headline: Man Dies to Save World. That headline actually does pop up when you read the Bible. At first it may sound like it’s from a too-predictable superhero movie. It seems too good to be true. But it is true! Jesus is that man. He died an agonizing, humiliating death on a Roman torture-pole to save the world. He wasn’t saving it from global warming or hunger or war, but saving it from damnation. And despite what some speculate, Jesus didn’t come to post the Ten Commandments at every town hall and enforce them. No, the world already stood condemned by the law because of its sin. Instead, Jesus came to rescue the world. By the way, “world” means everyone in it. You too!

Look at the extraordinary heroism in Jesus, this world’s Rescuer! Really, it was more than heroism. He, being true God, displayed God’s love and God’s plan to give forgiveness and eternal life to all! Jesus’ life, death, and bodily resurrection show us the very heart of God. This is a headline worth your time. It is worth hearing and reading more about. Scroll on.

Here’s a way to picture Jesus your God and Savior: Jesus is The Good Shepherd. He describes himself, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” We’re the sheep. We’ve strayed and “bleated up” life because we’re sinful. We are lost sheep needing rescue. Not just by a hired hand. Not just by any shepherd, but by The Good Shepherd. Not just a no-name hero, forgotten tomorrow. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who, being both God and man, laid down his life for you. He really did save the whole world. Your sins are forgiven.

Your life’s headline reads: Good Shepherd Dies to Save THIS Sheep. It’s a headline others need to hear about too! Share it!