Monday, December 25, 2023

Advent Words 2023 ~ Word 12: Love


Advent Words 2023
Word 12: Love

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7

For our last word of the Advent Words challenge, I had to return to the passage in Titus 3 that we used the other day. God’s greatest gift of love is seen in His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s greatest act of love was in His sacrifice of His Son for the sake of the world.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

God so easily expresses love because God himself is love.

“God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:8-10

God’s love is not a feeling, it’s an action. It is because of His love for us that He did not give sinful man what they deserved but, rather, He acted out of love and mercy and gave sinful man salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Love is an action, and we are called throughout the New Testament to imitate God’s love in our daily life. Motivated by love God seeks us, but He doesn’t force us into a relationship with Him. He bids us to respond to His love. When we love each other and act in love, motivated by God’s love, we help the world see who God is. God is love.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

Advent is a celebration of waiting and preparing for the event of Christmas when God sent His love into the world in the birth of His Son, our Savior.

Merry Christmas!

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Friday, December 22, 2023

Advent Words 2023 ~ Word 11: Emmanuel


Advent Words 2023
Word 11: Emmanuel

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel” (which means “God with us”).” Matthew 1:22-23

 Advent is a season that reminds us that what we long for down deep is God’s presence with us. We wait and we long and we look for it. Matthew tells us in his gospel that what we long for became a reality when Jesus was born. In Matthew 1:20-21 we are told that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him that the child Mary carried “is from the Holy Spirit…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is Greek for Hebrew Yeshua, or Joshua, which means “God saves”. His name describes who he is.

The angel goes on to tell him “they will call him Emmanuel.” Emmanuel is not to be his name but a title of who he is. We see a similar thing in Isaiah 9:6, “and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Emmanuel is a title for Jesus because God came down to us. God was in the flesh and was among us.

From the beginning of Matthew's Gospel through the New Testament until we reach its end in Revelation, the Incarnation - God came down to us - is the fulfillment of God's promise of His presence with us. 

In fact, the story of the whole Bible is about God's desire to dwell with His people. From the beginning God created a place where He could be present with His people. In Genesis 3:8, it says that God would walk in the Garden of Eden among Adam and Eve. But then sin separated them, and us, from God. From that point on God's presence was found in His holy temple or tabernacle (Exodus 25:8 Deuteronomy 12:4-14). Later in history the Jewish Rabbi's would refer to the temple or tabernacle as the "Shikinah Glory". Shikinah coming from the Hebrew word for dwelling.

 Ultimately though, God had a still greater plan to dwell with and be present with His people. He promised one who would be born and called Emmanuel - God with us.

 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

 (Side note: Immanuel is the Hebrew spelling, Emmanuel is the Greek spelling. You may see both used in the Bible depending on the translation.)

 Matthew tells us that the one promised is Jesus (Matthew 1:23). John goes even deeper saying that God through Jesus "became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14). The Greek word John used for dwelling is skenoo which means tabernacle or dwelling.  So, John literally says that God "tabernacled" among us through the incarnation of His Son.

 Through faith in Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross, we have the promise of God's presence with us forever.

 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ...In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:13, 21-22

 Through Jesus Christ God not only dwells with us, but He dwells in us through His Spirit.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.”  John 14:16-17

 “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” John 14:20

 “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:9-11

 God's people, collectively as the church and individually, are now the dwelling place of God, His tabernacle!

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

 “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19

 We are yet promised an even greater presence with God in the New Jerusalem. John paints a picture of that heavenly dwelling with God.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3

 “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Revelation 21:22-23

Glory to God in the highest ~ Emmanuel has come! God is with us!


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Thursday, December 21, 2023

Advent Words 2023 ~ Word 10: Salvation


Advent Words 2023
Word 10: Salvation

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.Titus 3:4-7

This passage in Titus has one of the best descriptions of the incarnation and the first Advent of Christ: “The kindness and love of God, our Savior, appeared." This is the goodness of God. In the previous verse, Titus 3:3, Paul reminded his readers that we once were enslaved by sin, but now, because the kindness and love of God have appeared, we are saved. We were once lost; now we are found and saved by God.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from The Chosen series. Mary Magdalene says, “I was one way, and now I’m completely different. And the thing that happened in between…was Him.”

It is because of God’s kindness toward us that he offers us the opportunity for repentance (Romans 2:4). Because of His great love for us, he offers us the gift of salvation through His Son. He reminds us in verse 5 that we are not saved because of the righteous things we have done, “but because of His mercy.”.

Take note also that all three persons of the Trinity are involved in our salvation! God the Father, through His kindness and love, sent God the Son to be our Savior, and God the Son poured out God the Holy Spirit into our lives. And, as if all of this were not enough, Paul adds that now that we have been justified by His grace, we are also heirs, having the hope of eternal life. Through Christ, we have new life and the hope of eternal life. This is the gift of salvation!

Notice the bookends surrounding this passage:

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.Titus 3:1-2

“This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” Titus 3:8

Paul shows us how renewed people will live out their salvation. Our passage today, positioned between Titus 3:1-2 and verse 8, shows us that the gift of salvation given to us through the kindness and love of God is our motivation to respond to him by living changed lives sharing His goodness and love with others. 

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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Advent Words 2023 ~ Word 9: Glory


Advent Words 2023
Word 9: Glory

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:17-18

When we looked at the word ‘grace’ the other day we looked at John 1:14, which showed us that when Jesus Christ took on flesh he made God’s glory visible to us. The writer of Hebrews says something similar,

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” Hebrews 1:3

God’s glory expresses everything that God is – His character, His being, His attributes, His works. Jesus reflects all that God is, all His glory. Our passage today in 2 Corinthians 3 shows some of how God’s glory works in our lives as well.

We, who are in Christ, have received the gift of His Spirit which resides in us enabling us to live for Christ. Paul says in this passage that wherever the Spirit of the Lord is there also resides freedom. Part of our freedom means we have unveiled faces. This comes from the story of Moses when he would go before the Lord his face would shine with the radiance of God’s glory. But as he left God’s presence and returned to the people, he would put a veil over his face so the people would not see that the radiance from speaking to God was fading (See Exodus 34:33). We are freed from putting a veil over our faces because the Lord’s radiance does not fade because His Spirit is in us. Paul says that we also reflect the Lord’s glory.

Older translations of this passage use the word ‘behold’ instead of reflect, thus, we are “beholding the glory of the Lord”. Commentators point out that to behold something can mean both to gaze intently upon it and to reflect it. God’s Word gives us the ability to gaze intently on Christ and enables us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be transformed (changed) into Christ’s likeness. Paul says this process takes place with ever-increasing glory, or from one degree of glory to another. Christ in us enables us to be transformed – to change from the inside out!

As I was studying for this passage the words of a song came to mind.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Look full in his wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace."

We become what we behold. The more clearly we see (behold) Christ, the more we will become like Him and reflect Him to the world around us. And we, like Christ, reveal God’s glory with our lives. Keep your gaze intently focused on Christ.

Advent and Christmas give us so many opportunities to show God’s glory to those we interact with daily. His glory is expressed repeatedly in the hymns and carols of the season. There is a renewed spirit at this time of year for gift-giving and serving others in Christ’s love. Spend time beholding the glory of the Lord in His Word during this season and looking for ways to bless and serve others, reflecting His glory.


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Sunday, December 17, 2023

Advent Words 2023 ~ Word 8: Joy


Advent Words 2023
Word 8: Joy

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:8-9

Here is the promise of Advent: On the night of Jesus’ birth, an angel appeared to the shepherds and told them, “I bring you good news that will be great joy for all people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).This news of the arrival of Christ brought joy because the people knew the Savior would bring them salvation. During Advent, we celebrate Christ’s first coming with joy. Joy is our response to God’s gracious gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Joy is also a result of faith. Like the first readers of Peter’s letter, we are among those who have not seen Jesus. Yet, as Peter points out, we do not need to see him to love him. This is faith. Believing gives us eyes to see and ears to hear. Spiritual eyesight enables us to see God’s love for us through the gift of His Son. We love Him, we trust Him, and the result is inexpressible and glorious joy!

New Testament scholar Wayne Grudem says this joy Peter speaks of is “joy so profound as to be beyond the power of words." We have joy now because we have confidence that we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls. Peter stated earlier in this passage that we have an inheritance kept for us in heaven that can never perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:4). Our joy is rooted in the salvation we have received through Christ and in our hope of everlasting life with him. We have joy now because we are in His presence and have the hope of everlasting life—the joy of being in His presence forever.


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