THE LAST DAY OF THE YEAR

Jn.7:37 – On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink”.

Everyday, from the Lord’s perspective is important. You can see it in today’s verse, the scriptures specify that the Lord’s appeal came on the very last day of the feast. No one knows how many days they have on this side of eternity, we do know this is the last day of the year. For some, today is just a day for another party or another opportunity to get high. Maybe there is something else that matters on this New Year’s Eve. Rather than fireworks and party trays and adult beverages maybe there is something else, something more satisfying. That is exactly what Jesus was saying in today’s verse. For many, this Jewish feast was a chance to go on a trip, not to have to work, and hang out with friends and family. The Lord was calling out that there was something more. He was begging His hearers to come drink from Him, drink living waters that will quench the thirst of your soul. This living water would not only quench your thirst, it would flow out to others. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes it.

“Patience had her perfect work in the Lord Jesus, and until the last day of the feast he pleaded with the Jews, even as on this last day of the year he pleads with us, and waits to be gracious to us….Pity expressed herself most plainly, for Jesus cried, which implies not only the loudness of his voice, but the tenderness of his tones. He entreats us to be reconciled. We pray you, says the Apostle, as though God did beseech you by us. What earnest, pathetic terms are these! How deep must be the love which makes the Lord weep over sinners, and like a mother woo his children to his bosom! Surely at the call of such a cry our willing hearts will come.”

Maybe 2019 was not all you hoped. Maybe you are happy to say goodbye to whatever the last year held. Don’t enter 2020 the same way. Listen to the crying out of Jesus. “If anyone is thirsty come and come to Me and drink!” Just come to Him, take the thirst that was directed at other activities and turn it to Jesus.

DRINKING AND RENEWAL

Rev. 21:6 – Then he said to me, “It has been accomplished! For I am the Aleph and the Tav, the beginning and the end. I will give water to all who are thirsty. As my gracious gift, they will continuously drink from the fountain of living water.

When you begin to see the work of the Lord, the work of transformation and renewal all around you, it produces a thirst for God and a desire to participate in His amazing plan. Being an observer on the sidelines will never do, we are being transformed and also involved in His work of renewal at the same time. This is the beauty of the work of redemption, it starts the moment we are born again but His work of renewal is continuous. Drinking in His goodness by praying in the Spirit and worshipping and feasting on God’s word, assures that we will experience His continued renewal in our lives. At the same time we become vessels or coworkers with the Lord. He uses us in His plan of making all things new as we share His love with broken hearts all around us. Here is how the Expositor’s Bible Commentary describes this verse.

“Using the same word that declared the judgment of the world finished, God proclaims that he has completed his new creation: “It is done”. The names of God, “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” emphasize his absolute control over the world as well as his creatorship of everything. To those who thirst for him, God offers the “water of life” without cost. Here salvation is beautifully depicted by the image of drinking at the spring of life…..John knows that the visions of God’s glory among his people, proclaimed as the Word of God, will create a thirst to participate in the reality of this glory. Nothing is required except to come and drink. Those who respond to this invitation and remain loyal to Christ as overcomers will inherit all the new things of the city of God. They will be God’s children, and he will be their Father. This is the essence of salvation–unending, intimate relationship with God himself.”

This is what you were born for, to know Him intimately and enjoy Him forever. This is the great discovery of your life. Knowing and enjoying Him will define our lives for eternity.

GOD’S NEW THING

Rom. 8:18,19 – TPT – I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us. The entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning to see the unveiling of God’s glorious sons and daughters!

The Old Testament Hebrew prophet Isaiah had an interesting theme that weaved all throughout his book. He saw creation restrained but existing in a state of anticipation. Isaiah also spoke in great detail of the birth and death of the Savior. Even though Isaiah lived about seven hundred years before Christ appeared, he lived in a state of expectancy. He saw the appearance of the Messiah as imminent and His appearance marking the beginning of God’s new day. In today’s passage the Apostle Paul takes up Isaiah’s theme. From Paul’s perspective the Messiah has appeared and the glorious day of the Lord is upon us. Paul acknowledged the suffering and the day to day struggle we experience was part of creation’s anticipation. He said it was like the suffering of a pregnant woman anticipating the birth of her child. Glory is about to break in on the world, it has already broken in to the lives of God’s sons and daughters. Here are some thoughts from the Passion Bible on today’s verses.

“Interestingly, the Greek word used for “unveiling” (apokalypsis) is the same word for the full title of the last book of the Bible, “The Revelation [Unveiling] of Jesus Christ.” The created universe is but the backdrop for the dramatic appearing of God’s sons and daughters unveiled with the glory of Jesus Christ upon them. The verb tense in the Greek text is clear that this “unveiling” is imminent, soon to happen, and destined to take place. Christ’s glory will come to us, enter us, fill us, envelop us, and then be revealed through us as partakers of the glory. Although God will not share his glory with any other, we are no longer “another,” for we are one with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.”

The great culmination of everything that the Bible points to is breaking in upon us. Don’t be surprised at the struggle and adversity you face living out the Christian life. It is all part of the struggle. We are all groaning in anticipation of the great appearing of our Lord. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

A WHOLE NEW WORLD

Rev. 21:5,6 – And God-Enthroned spoke to me and said, “Consider this! I am making everything to be new and fresh. Write down at once all that I have told you, because each word is trustworthy and dependable.” Then he said to me, “It has been accomplished! For I am the Aleph and the Tav, the beginning and the end. I will give water to all who are thirsty. As my gracious gift, they will continuously drink from the fountain of living water.

Renewal is constantly happening by the hand of God. The Lord will not rest until the devastating results of the fall on all creation is finally swallowed up by His work of redemption and renewal. The end of a year and the beginning of a new year gives us a glimpse or a foreshadowing of God’s beautiful work of renewal. As we close out 2019 we are grateful for all the Lord has done but, like Paul, we are forgetting what lies behind us. We forget the victories and especially the disappointments. All of 2019 is finished and now we enter into God’s new chapter for 2020. This work of renewal is pointing toward the end of this age and the beginning of God’s new age. The ESV Study Bible points toward this new day in its commentary on this passage.

“The removal of the first heaven and earth eliminates the fatal infection of evil in the cosmic order and gives way to God’s creation of a new cosmic order where sin and suffering and death are forever banished. The old order was in “bondage to decay” and “groaning … in pains of childbirth until now”, awaiting the day when “the heavens … will be dissolved” and “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell” will be established to forever replace the old. This represents the specific fulfillment of the prophecy given to Isaiah: “Thus says the Lord GOD … ‘I create new heavens and a new earth …’”

So maybe you have had one of those rough seasons in life. Close that chapter, let the Lord wash that season away. Come and drink from His fountain of renewal. You will experience increasing strength and a glimpse or vision of His new day in your life. I have a great expectancy in my heart for 2020. I believe this will be a historic year for all of us.

RUSHING MIGHTY WIND

Acts 2:1-3 – When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

This is the classic passage of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that birthed the New Testament church. I wonder if these manifestations were more than just spiritual sensations? I believe they were. It seems that the outpouring was so dramatic that it effected the physical world. Apparently there was fire literally seen on the heads of those gathered in the upper room. It also indicates that there was a noise, a violent rushing wind. This violent wind seems to have made a real sound. Adam Clarke seems to agree. Here are some interesting comments from his commentary.

“The passage of a large portion of electrical fluid over that place would not only occasion the sound, or thunder, but also the rushing mighty wind; as the air would rush suddenly and strongly into the vacuum occasioned by the rarefaction of the atmosphere in that place, through the sudden passage of the electrical fluid; and the wind would follow the direction of the fire. There is a good deal of similarity between this account and that of the appearance of God to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:11,12, where the strong wind, the earthquake, and the fire, were harbingers of the Almighty’s presence, and prepared the heart of Elijah to hear the small still voice; so, this sound, and the mighty rushing wind, prepared the apostles to receive the influences and gifts of the Holy Spirit. In both cases, the sound, strong wind, and fire, although natural agents, were supernaturally employed.”

If you think about it there were other examples of physical effects of the Spirit. In Acts 4 the building where the church was praying shook. In Acts 16, the earth shook and prisoners shackles fell off. In Acts 8 Phillip was translated many miles by the power of the Spirit. Of course people were raised from the dead by the Spirit, many diseases were healed by the Holy Spirit, and John at Patmos (and others) fell to the ground by the power of the Spirit. Our world is ripe for another great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Maybe it will take radical demonstrations like those in the Bible to turn this generation back to the Lord.

EXPECTING GOD’S NEW DAY

Rom.8:26-28 – And in a similar way, the Holy Spirit takes hold of us in our human frailty to empower us in our weakness. For example, at times we don’t even know how to pray, or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs too deep for words. God, the searcher of the heart, knows fully our longings, yet he also understands the desires of the Spirit, because the Holy Spirit passionately pleads before God for us, his holy ones, in perfect harmony with God’s plan and our destiny. So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.

I put a lengthy passage from Romans 8 for today’s devotion, please take time to read it and ponder. There is power and revelation for those who hunger. This passage speaks of the groan of creation that lives in the heart of every born again child of God. The Holy Spirit who has come to dwell in us prays God’s powerful prayers within in us. He is praying for the fulfillment of redemption, the manifestation of the Bride of Christ. What this passage reminds me of is the personal nature of God’s plan. He has chosen me as a vessel to pray through for His kingdom plan. That’s not all, I am included in His plan. I see through a glass darkly and am often not sure how to ray. These groanings of the Spirit is actually the Lord calling for His kingdom through me and in me. Here are some observations from the Passion Notes on today’s passage.

“We find three groanings in this chapter. Creation groans for the glorious freedom of God’s children (v. 22), we groan to experience the fullness of our status as God’s children (v. 23), and the Holy Spirit groans for our complete destiny to be fulfilled (here).”

So I say let the groaning begin. Our prayer language is obviously part of this groaning. Pray in the Spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to take you to deeper places as you prayer in your heavenly language. As we yield we join in to this heavenly anticipation. The struggles in life won’t all go away, they just won’t seem like such a big deal as God’s kingdom breaks in on us.

MY CHRISTMAS THEORY

Lk.2:11,12 – For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Like everyone else, I have lots of theories. You know the routine, we all have opinions on everything. The fact is, some of our theories are better than others. I’m going to call this one my Christmas theory.

Remember those special Christmases as a child, wondering what Santa was going to leave under the tree? I remember some Christmas Eves where I hardly slept a wink. One time I snuck out to the living room to check out the tree at about 10 o’clock. That’s 10 o’clock Christmas Eve. Apparently my parents were at a Christmas party next door and I scoped everything out before they got back. That made things worse. I was totally into astronomy in those days and I saw the telescope my parents got for me. Sleeping would be out of the question that night.

We all have our Christmas stories but the thing I remember most was the almost magical feeling of Christmas. Everyone called it the Christmas spirit; today I actually think that that is the Holy Spirit. Children seem to have a special grace for that spiritual sense of Christmas until they get a little older. Teen age years tend to steal that Christmas specialness away.

At least that’s how it was for me. I lost the sense of the Christmas spirit in my teen age years. Thankfully I got it back after my conversion to Christ when I was twenty one years old. That Christmas, the glory of the Lord, the Spirit of Christmas, swallowed me up. I was swallowed in the world of the Old Testament Hebrew prophets prophesying about the birth of our Lord. The gifts were no longer what Christmas was about. I had discovered God’s great Christmas gift to the world, God’s only begotten Son of God. If you have lost the mystique of Christmas come back to Bethlehem where it all started. Maybe there you will find the portal to God’s world of mystery. Here is a poem I wrote this year. hope it helps you on your journey.

PORTAL

Angels dancing

In radiant beams of light

Mankind is sleeping

On the first Silent Night

Shepherds awakened

By a God celebration

Creation is groaning

For the Desire of all Nations

Jacob’s ladder

Has suddenly appeared

A babe in a manger

Our God has come near

Sons awakened

By God’s blinding rays

Darkness defeated

By the Ancient of Days

Creation rejoicing

At God’s portal on earth

Death has been conquered

By the Son’s humble birth

GOOD WILL TO MEN

Lk.2:14 – Glory to God in the highest,And on earth peace, good will toward men!

This is a very strange statement from the angels. Good will to men? Really? Christ was coming as a Savior. He came to offer mercy and justice. He offers mercy to those who believe on Him, to those who don’t…let’s just say it doesn’t turn out so good. This phrase from the angels is a little hard to translate but it boils down to this; our will has been damaged beyond repair by the fall of man. That is the point of the good news of great joy. The Savior came to change us and actual grant us repentance. That would be a supernatural ability to change our will. That is at the very heart of the angels’ message. Today in the city of David is born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Now we can actually have a change of will. Here is how Augustine describes this passage.

“Who’s the perfect candidate to will and to carry out what one wills? No one but the Lord? Well, He’s the One who’ll help us, inspiring us to do what we should. Just know that His mercy has preceded our every step, cutting a swath before us. The result? We who wanted to will but weren’t able to are nonetheless called by Him and given the power by Him to do what we thought we couldn’t.

Another malady, from Paul to the Romans.

“I saw another law holding court in my member, legislating against the law of my mind, even convicting me of doing some good, which has now become a capital offense” (7:23).

A remedy, again from Paul to the Romans.

“Yes, I can “will my way out it, but not without help” (7:18).

Yes, O Lord, I want peace on earth to men of good will.

On this holy day, then, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, these are the things we should be saying, the things our reading evokes and our piety provokes.”

So this is actually the best news of all. I am not only forgiven but I am changed by the grace of God. That is actually why Christ came and the fruit of His work of redemption.

“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace, good will toward men!”

HAPPY ANGELS AND HAPPY PREACHERS

Lk. 2:10,11 – And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

This angel could be considered the first messenger to preach the gospel. The word gospel means to preach good news of great joy. The scene in Luke describes jubilant angels overflowing with joy. Didn’t Jesus Himself say that all of the angels break out in joy when one sinner repents? What else could angels do when they realized the One who had created them, the One they had worshipped since the day they were created, had become a human baby. Not just a human, but He had become the promised Savior of the world. It was impossible for them to restrain themselves, they exploded on the scene near Bethlehem with shouts and singing of joy. What was their purpose? They were to announce good news of great joy for all who would believe on Him. Here is how Martin Luther describes this scene.

“With these words the angel demonstrates the gospel most clearly and that nothing else is to be preached in Christendom….He does not say, “I preach to you,” but rather, “I speak gospel to you; I am an evangelist; my word is gospel.” Thus the word gospel means a good, joyful message which is the proclamation of the new covenant. What does the gospel say? Listen. He says: “I bring you good news of great joy; my gospel speaks of great joy.” Where is it? Listen again. “To you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord, today in Bethlehem in the city of David.”

See here what the gospel is, namely, a joyful sermon about Christ our Savior. Whoever preaches him rightly preaches the gospel and pure joy. How can a heart hear of greater joy than that Christ is given to him as his own? He not only says that Christ is born, but he also makes his birth our own by saying ‘your Savior’.”

I love what Luther says about this angel’s message, it was good news of great joy and that anyone who preaches rightly also preaches a gospel of pure joy. Why is it so joyful? He is our Savior. We were once slaves of sin, slaves of bad decisions and addictive behavior. We are now not only forgiven but forgiven and set free. Anyone who gets this will join the band of happy angels and happy shepherd preachers with a gospel of overflowing joy.

FOLLOWING THE STAR

Matt.2:1,2 – Jesus was born in Bethlehem near Jerusalem during the reign of King Herod. After Jesus’ birth a group of spiritual priests from the East came to Jerusalem and inquired of the people, “Where is the child who is born king of the Jewish people? We observed his star rising in the sky and we’ve come to bow before him in worship.

What would cause these powerful men to leave their families, home, and responsibilities to venture hundreds of miles at great expense to bring a quite expensive gift to a child in another country they had no way of knowing even existed. The only explanation was faith. They believed the ancient prophecies about a messiah to be born in Israel. These men felt like this trip would result in the defining moment of their lives, they wouldn’t be disappointed. From the day the star first appeared in the sky there was no question what they must do, they had to see the promised one for themselves. The story of these wise men from the east has been repeated countless times over the last 2000 years. Maybe you too have a stirring in your heart this Christmas season. If you do, like the wise men of old, you won’t be able to rest until you meet Him for yourself. Here is some amazing information from the Passion Notes.

“These wealthy priests would have traveled with an entourage for protection as officials from the East. The Greek word magos is taken from the Mede language and means “spiritual advisors” or simply “priests.” They were appointed by Darius over the state religion as priests of Persia, which is modern-day Iran, and served as official advisors to the king. By the time of Jesus’ birth, Persia had been conquered and was being governed by successors to Alexander the Great. It is possible these Magos came from the Mesopotamian region of Seleucia….It is probable that these Magos were descendants of those who had been taught by Daniel, and because of his prophecy of the Messiah being “cut off,” they may have been able to decipher the date of his birth along with the interpretation of his star rising.”

When these priests found themselves looking at the infant Savior of the world they could never be the same. They may have returned to their homeland, but they carried a joy with them the rest of their lives.