In the Blink of an Eye

Rapture 4  Many people wonder about the rapture. Is it real? When will it happen? Perhaps you’ve heard someone say that the word “rapture” isn’t even in the Bible, so why does it get talked about? Or maybe your pastor hasn’t talked about the rapture at all, and you’re wondering what I am on about here. Well, the rapture of the church is a big deal and it’s probably closer than we think so it seems worth exploring a bit. So the goal of this blog is a cursory discussion on the topic.

In a nutshell, the rapture is when Jesus comes for his church. The Apostle Paul described it this way: “It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52) No one knows the exact date or hour this will happen, but it will happen suddenly, in a moment, and it will happen quickly, in the blink of an eye. First the Christians who have died are raised, then we Christians still living are transformed.

As I mentioned, we do not know exactly when this happens, but we are correct to surmise that it occurs just before the seven year tribulation period. We can confidently come to this conclusion when we analyze the Biblical text as a whole and, in so doing, we see a promise that believers will be protected from the “time of testing” as in Revelation 3:10: “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” Further, verses such as John 14:3 and Thessalonians 4:16-18 clearly do not include judgement as is found in other verses (ie: Matthew 13:34-50 and Revelation 19:11-21) about Christ’s second coming. From this we conclude the rapture is “pre-tribulation”.

But is the word “rapture” even in the Bible? Well, the word “Bible” isn’t even in the Bible, so maybe this question is more of a distraction than a legitimate inquiry. Still, the word we find in Scripture is “harpazō” which is a Greek word meaning “to snatch or catch away”. According to Vine’s expository dictionary this word conveys the idea of force suddenly exercised. It is used in several places, including Acts 8:39 in reference to Philip being “snatched away” by the Spirit of the Lord and in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 in reference to Paul being “caught up” to the third heaven. So we can dispel the argument that “rapture” is not in the Bible, for it is simply our modern word for harpazō.

The Bible tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) so because the rapture is clearly mentioned in the Bible we know it is real. Philip was raptured to God in Acts 8:39; the Apostle Paul was raptured to the third heaven, and Christians fortunate enough to be living at the right time will one day be raptured to God without ever experiencing death. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, should find this very exciting! Paul wrote to those on Thessalonica: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

So we should find the coming rapture very encouraging and we can encourage one another by discussing and acknowledging the coming rapture as our blessed hope. Space does not allow me to discuss in great depth the reasons we have to believe the rapture is closer than ever, perhaps even likely in our lifetimes (depending on how old you are now), but one “super sign” happened when Israel became a nation again in 1948. As Jesus shared in Matthew 24:32-34: “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place.”

Mark 13:32 tells us “…no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” So we do not set dates or make specific predictions, but when we do see the signs we have every reason to be hopeful, and if you watch closely, you will see the signs!

For further reading on the subject, I’m happy to recommend these resources:

Don Stewart: Educating Our World

Behold Israel

Olive Tree Ministries

Dr. Mark Hitchcock

Let us now eagerly await our blessed hope: “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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In the Shadow of the Almighty

Protector2  In today’s world, there are many situations that are difficult to face or that leave us feeling distraught, alone, and hopeless. It could be the health of a loved one, our financial situation, the loss of our employment, or any number of personal dilemmas. For some of us it could be where our next meal is coming from or whether or not we will have somewhere to sleep tonight. Still others among us might see the crumbling moral and social environment around us and experience fear over speaking Biblical truth. Still others face severe persecution just for worshipping our Lord and Savior.

Whatever situation you are in at the moment, if you are a followers of Jesus Christ, then God is at your side through it all. As human beings, we like to think of God’s protection as a magic force field that keeps us from all harm, but we must remember that we live in a fallen world where people have free will and sometimes God works in ways that we do not understand. The protection God promises us sometimes comes in the form of His peace in the midst of difficulty; other times we may feel His peace and strength as an ending because God sees things on the horizon that we cannot see.

You can rest assured, as a believer in Jesus Christ, that our new life is promised to come with His protection and there is nothing that can separate us from His love. So no matter what hardship you face, God is your provider and protector. I know well and good that there are plenty of times we are in the midst of crisis and do not immediately feel His nearness, but I am confident that we can find comfort in His Word and I want to share some verses in particular that can serve to remind us that God is with us:

2 Thessalonians 3:3But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Isaiah 41:10 – Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Psalm 5:11 – But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.

Psalm 12:5 – The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.”

Psalm 23:4 – Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

Psalm 34:19 – The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

Psalm 57:1 – Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.

Psalm 91:1-6 – Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

Psalm 121:1-4 – I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.

Psalm 138:7 – Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 – We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

2 Samuel 22:3-4 – My God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.

John 10:28-30 – I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.

These are but a handful of the verses you may choose to read during difficult times or you may wish to memorize. The Bible is rich with God’s assurances and the truth of his love for us, from which the believer can never be separated. And if you have not come to faith in Jesus yet, perhaps this is the perfect time to turn to Him, to trust in His great love for you. Find a Bible and immerse yourself in His Word, start with the Gospel of John and I am confident you will begin to feel His love wash over you.

May God bless you and keep you in good times and in bad.

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

We Are Family

we are family 3  From the very time of his birth, Jacob’s life was set to be a tapestry of trial. His very name means “supplanter” or “deceitful”. He was a twin, born grasping his brother Esau’s heel in what seems to be a fight to be first. Of course, being first born in ancient Hebrew culture had very significant meaning and carried with it certain birthrights. But Jacob did not come out first. Making him, even if by only a few seconds, the younger brother.

But when opportunity came, Jacob took the advantage and conned Esau out of his birthright; though it seems Esau did not take his birthright seriously at this point in his life. Jacob and Esau are, perhaps, the classic example of sibling rivalry. Esau being the outdoorsy, sportsman type while Jacob was mild-mannered and more domestic. Their parents, Isaac and Rebekah, didn’t help matters much, as Isaac clearly favored the more traditionally manly Esau, while Rebekah had preference for Jacob, her baby.

The Bible doesn’t go into great detail about their family life but, we can probably imagine Isaac and Esau spending time together outdoors – hunting, fishing, camping, and so on while Jacob stayed home spending time with his mother around the house. Perhaps we get our best glimpse of parental favoritism when Isaac becomes old and nears the end of his life. That is when he instructs Esau to embark on a hunt so he can make some wild game stew, Isaac’s favorite, and a meal after which Isaac will pronounce his blessing on Esau.

Rebekah, desperate to secure the patriarchal blessing for Jacob, overhears the conversation and launches a plot to deceive her own husband into blessing the younger brother. She hatches her deceptive plan with Jacob’s obvious consent and, while Esau is still away hunting, they make a goat stew, form an elaborate disguise for Jacob, and send him in, pretending to be Esau. Isaac suspects a problem, but instead of coming clean with the deception, Jacob navigates his way through his father’s inquiries, completing the con job. Isaac, being too old to see for himself, is convinced and offers his blessing to Jacob.

Of course, Esau eventually comes home with the wild game, only to uncover the web of deception that occurred in his absence and cost him his birthright. I do not quite understand how the blessing works, but it is apparent that once given it cannot be revoked, and though given in deceit it still had force of law. Esau wept bitterly and experienced great sorrow. Eventually, Esau’s sorrow festered into deep resentment and he began to launch a plan to kill his younger brother, but Rebekah sends Jacob away to his uncle Laban.

Those of you familiar with the story know the family dysfunction did not end there. Jacob goes to the land of Laban, falls deeply in love with Rachel at first sight, and seeks to make her his wife. He asks his uncle the price for her hand in marriage and agrees to work seven years for Laban so he can marry Rachel. After the seven years pass by, Laban throws a marriage feast, after which he gives his daughter to Jacob to be his wife. There must have been some alcohol involved, because Jacob apparently doesn’t notice (or perhaps in a drunken stupor loses the ability to care) that it is Laban’s older daughter Leah that he sleeps with.

After confronting Laban over his trickery, Jacob ultimately takes Rachel also as his wife and agrees to work for Laban another seven years. At this point, I’d like to say the pattern of destructive behavior finally came to an end, but it would continue, seemingly ad infinitum. Leah and Rachel experienced sibling rivalry of their own, ultimately leading to even more sexual sin as they both have Jacob sleep with the personal servants. And the twelve children that result from this cavalcade of corruption find their own sibling rivalries that ultimately see their brother Joseph sold into slavery. And this family dysfunction ultimately leads to the entire Hebrew nation becoming slaves in Egypt. Talk about far-reaching consequences!

But perhaps young Joseph ultimately sums it up best when he tells his older brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Genesis 50:20) And the point of me recounting all of this is simply to point out that, at one time or another, all of us have experienced some amount of dysfunction in our families. We live in a fallen world and such chaos must be expected. As painful as conflict with our loved ones can be, we can be confident God is present within us and able to carry us forward. In fact, as Christians, we can bring the light of Christ to our family situations.

You can read about Isaac & Rebekah and their descendants starting in Genesis 24. Most people think the Bible is a book about perfect people but it is anything but that. It tells the stories of imperfect people and how God interacts with them. Imperfect people just like you and I; and our imperfect families and friends. So if you find yourself struggling with dysfunction in your personal relationships, remember that when we are weak, when we struggle, often that is when God’s work in our lives becomes the most profound. As the psalmist wrote, “He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:23)

And as Isaiah wrote: “Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!” (Isaiah 53:4) And the Lord told Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

It is our sincerest prayer that you will find the sustaining power and love of our Lord Jesus in all areas of your life and especially in your trials. For His love endures forever!

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

With Fear & Trembling

Fear & Trembling 3 Have you ever wondered to yourself, “Am I really a Christian”? Perhaps you recognize you have fallen for that same old sin once again or you’re just not sure there has been that much change in your life. Or maybe you feel you’ve been a Christian all your life but you are now beginning to question your salvation. Whatever may be the reason you have engaged in such self-reflection, I want to assure you it is a good thing!

Paul instructed Christians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. (Philippians 2:12 NIV) This direction refers to sanctification, which is the process of bringing to fulfillment that which started with our salvation. So, becoming a Christian begins with justification, which happens when we first accept Christ as our Savior, and continues with our growth in holiness, or sanctification. Once a person is saved, changes begin to occur. For some these changes may come more slowly than for others, but they always come.

When Paul refers to “fear and trembling” he is referring to the attitude with which the Christian is to pursue his or her sanctification. It involves a healthy fear of being offensive to God and a conscientious awe and respect for Him. Peter likewise tells us to “work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen” (2 Peter 1:10) and that “the more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)

So, asking yourself the question “am I really a Christian” can be part of the process of sanctification in your life and is, therefore, a good thing. Though you may also wonder: “isn’t being a Christian just a matter of asking Jesus into your life and then you are saved?” And we should address that first. Yes, once we repent of our sins and believe in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, we are saved and thus we are saved by faith alone and not by works. However, the issue lies in that little word “repent”.

The Greek word from which we get our verb “repent” is metanoeō and signifies a changing of one’s mind or purpose for the better and includes remorse for sin. So when we “repent” we change our minds about the way we are living and we accept that God’s way is true and correct. King David displayed true repentance in Psalm 51 concerning his sin with Bathsheba: “For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.”

Wondering if we are truly saved, then, can start with reflecting on our repentance. Did we truly repent?  Are we truly remorseful? Are we truly seeking to live God’s way now? If you cannot point to a specific time and place where the answer to these questions became “YES” then perhaps you are not truly a Christian yet. You may still be at the justification stage, and I encourage you to really work through this. But if you can point to a specific time and place where you repented, you are likely in the sanctification process and reflecting on your spiritual growth is healthy and productive.

When we repent and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are given the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And it is the Holy Spirit that works in us during the process of sanctification, helping us to change the way we think. In Romans 12:2 we read: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” When Paul says “let God” in this verse he implies a willingness, on our part, to let God act in our lives. We certainly can, at times, have less such willingness than at others. But, if we are truly Christian, the Holy Spirit nudges our conscience and we eventually grow in the direction of God’s Word and we come to know that “the old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

To the Galatians Paul wrote: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:24-25) When we repented, we agreed with God that the way we were living is wrong (and thus we nailed our passions and sinful desires to the cross of Christ), but that doesn’t necessarily mean we immediately overcame the sin in our lives. That process, the process of sanctification (following the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives), takes a lifetime and we are never 100% free of sin until we are in heaven with Jesus.

But Paul did provide a list of the results of our sinful nature (we’ll call this the “bad things” list). According the Galatians 5:19-21, the bad things are – “sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.”

And he also provided a “good things” list, in Galatians 5:22-23, the good things (fruits of the Spirit) are – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

These lists may be a bit of a theological oversimplification in our context here, but if you can point to that specific time and place of your true repentance and you can honestly say you are desiring and realizing more from the “good things” list in your life and less and less of the “bad things,” then it is likely you can honestly answer that you truly are a Christian. A true Christian also recognizes that the Bible, God’s Word, is the final authority for all things right and wrong. For it is written that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

I hope this provides you some insight into “working out your salvation with fear and trembling”. If you desire more information, we recommend the following resources:

KnowGod.org

Grow Your Faith

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

A Joyous New Year

2019  How many times have you made a steadfast New Year’s resolution, saying to yourself, this time it’s going to stick? Perhaps you even told your friends, made a pact with a family member, or in some other way determined to assure success. Were you trying to quit smoking, lose weight, stop drinking, or maybe shop less? Maybe you wanted to spend more time with your spouse, or avoid relationships altogether. Maybe you resolved to drive closer to the speed limit? How many times has your resolution failed mere days or even hours after you made it?

Often at this time of year we find ourselves focused on what we want to change about our lives. We look in the mirror and want to change what we see or we gaze at our bank account balance and focus on changing what we spend our money on. Some of us will devote real time and energy into a new diet plan or exercise routine while others may focus on improving our relationships. Still others may decide now is the time to find a new job or make that big geographical change we’ve been dreaming of. Without a doubt, New Year’s has become the time to look forward and plan for the changes we long to make.

But what if tomorrow never comes? Mathematically speaking, the probably exists that at least some of us reading this right now may not live to see New Year’s 2020 and it is in light of that possibility that I wish to emphatically urge each of you reading this to consider the chance that you will not see tomorrow. Psalm 39:4 states: “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.”

The Bible tells us it is appointed for all to die once, and then face judgment (Hebrews 9:27) but that Jesus Christ was sacrificed to take away our sins (Hebrews 9:28) that we might have eternal life with God in heaven (John 3:16). Whether you believe that or not is irrelevant because “For the Scriptures say, ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.” (Romans 14:11)

Every knee will bow; every tongue will confess. That is the reality facing each of us when we die – whether or not we choose to believe it now. The difference is this: those who believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him for their salvation will be saved. And then there is everyone else. As it is written: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:12).

So with the finite nature of our earthly lives as a back drop, I want to implore each of you to consider the brevity of your mortal life on this planet, to recognize that physical death is not the end, and to challenge you with the task of accepting the free gift of salvation that is available through Jesus Christ, if you haven’t already. For the temptation, when it comes to our relationship with God, is to assume we have another day…or another hour. The fact is, we may not even have another minute. Please, please, reach out to God now, while there is still time.

And know that accepting Jesus Christ as your savior is a New Year’s resolution that will never fail!

Here are some resources that may help you:

NeedGod.com
Church Finder
Lee Strobel
Answers in Genesis

Take the time, do the research, learn for yourself the truth about God. But do it now, for tomorrow could be too late. Of course, we’re always happy to help answer your questions, too. Email us anytime at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

God bless.

To stay current on Reign Drops, like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReignDropsBlog/

Or follow us on Twitter: @ReignDropsBlog

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

The Reason for the Season

christmas-tree2 Christmas is here once again, and many of us are busy making those last minute shopping trips to find just the right gift for that special friend or family member. And whether you live in an area with a snowy white Christmas or a warmer tropical setting or somewhere in between, the stress of holiday shopping and the budgetary strain seems to affect us all. Between fighting the crowds at our local mall or paging through the websites of our favorite on-line retailers, the commercial aspect of Christmas can be challenging. It is amidst all this stress that I’d like to encourage you to take time to reflect on the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ.

In this regards, it is very fortunate for us that Luke took the time to thoroughly research the facts surrounding the birth of Jesus while those facts were still contemporary and that he composed those facts into a written record that is still available to us today in his Gospel. But can we really trust the record Luke left? Well, the evidence supporting the historical accuracy of Luke’s narrative is myriad, but let’s look at one specific piece of evidence right now. First, we’ll start with an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 2:1-21 – At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

This part of the Christmas story starts with a census being taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius is known to have governed Syria during 6-9 A.D. Josephus records that a census taken in 6 A.D. sparked a violent Jewish revolt, this is also mentioned by Luke in Act 5:37. Quirinius oversaw this census and played a major role in putting down the rebellion. But this cannot be the census Luke is referring to here in the Christmas story because it occurred much too late to fit Luke’s chronology. Luke was far too meticulous in his recounting of events to be accused of such a chronological error.

And, indeed, archaeology has upheld Luke’s accuracy. A fragment of a stone tablet discovered near Rome in 1764 contains an inscription in honor of a Roman official who was twice governor of Syria during the reign of Augustus. The name of this official is not found, but details listed among his accomplishments could fit no one other than Quirinius. Thus, we conclude that Quirinius served as governor twice. And other ancient records mention a “first” census being ordered by Augustus in 8 B.C. Evidently, this earlier census was not carried out in the Palestinian region until 2-4 years later, perhaps due to political difficulties between Rome and Herod. But Luke does state in verse 2 that the events he recounts occurred at the time of the “first” census taken while Quirinius was governor (obviously indicating there were more than one). Thus, Luke’s accurate rendering of these historic events is validated by the evidence and can be considered completely trustworthy.

Based on this decisive evidence, we can conclude that Luke’s telling of the Christmas story is reliable and I hope by presenting this evidence here it helps you see that Christmas really is a celebration of true historical events. And, as such, it should inspire us to pursue a relationship with our Creator who loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to live among us, to die for us, and to be raised again that we might be reconciled to Him. Yes, Jesus truly is the reason for the season!

With this in mind, then, we see that the greatest Christmas present ever is the gift of grace given by God through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Christmas season is a perfect time to accept that gift, if you haven’t already. Just take a few minutes to get by yourself and talk to God. Admit your wrongs to Him and turn your heart and mind toward Jesus (this is called repentance). Then confess Jesus is Lord and promise to follow Him to the best of your ability. As it is written, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

May you have a very Merry Christmas!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Let’s Talk Turkey

Turkey 1   Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. (Psalm 95:2)

It’s Thanksgiving time in America. Time to enjoy my favorite meal of the entire year! How can you not love the smell of turkey roasting, pumpkin pie baking, gravy simmering? Add to all that stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and you have culinary indulgence with no rival. I confess to being a bit of a foodie, but regardless of the delicious meals I might experience at other times throughout the year, nothing can take the place of that special turkey dinner at Thanksgiving time. It is, and will continue to be, my absolutely favorite meal.

But the turkey dinner is really only a side attraction to this holiday. Thanksgiving Day is really a time to gather with family and friends and remember all we have to be grateful for and who we are grateful to. And in America, most of us have more to be thankful for than we can even begin to list. The Bible tells us to “be thankful in all circumstances” (1Thessalonians 5:18) so in honor of this splendid holiday I want to share with you some of the things I am grateful for. Since an exhaustive list is beyond the allowable space, I’m going with my top five (in no particular order!).

My wife. I have discovered that Donna isn’t just an extraordinary wife, she’s an extraordinary human being. Her kindness, elegance, grace, and consideration know no limits and she’s well-read, intelligent, thoughtful, engaging, and fun. We have so much in common that we easily find things to do together and spend as much time with one another as we can. On many occasions she has demonstrated her outstanding character and her loving demeanor, not just with me but with everyone she encounters. She is accepting of others, finds the best in people, and is always there when I need her. She isn’t just my wife, she’s my best friend and God’s special gift for me!

My parents. My father passed from this life earlier this year, but my mother and father were amazingly loving parents and I learned so much from them. I actually have good manners and can hold my own in virtually any social situation thanks to my mom. She taught me all kinds of social graces and the kind of respect for others that most of us want our children to have. My dad loved my mom and loved our family and was the finest example of a man I could ever imagine. As a teen I freely admit I was a difficult child, and I really didn’t get much better until about age 30, but my mom and dad never gave up on me and were always there for me. God chose the perfect parents for me.

My sobriety. There was a time where I was a rebellious, self-centered, obnoxious man who was rarely sober and not much good to anyone. I had an ego as big as the moon yet I was a coward to my very core. Without alcohol coursing through my veins, I couldn’t face the world and with alcohol I didn’t want to. That was my life at one time. It’s now been more than 27 years since I last took a drink. So many people have helped me along the way it would be impossible to name them all. And God truly has done for me what I could not do for myself.

My job. Not to show my age too much, but I have now worked in the plastics industry for 30 years. It’s perhaps not the most glamorous occupation, but I have been extremely blessed to work in such an industry. I have produced parts for trucks, tractors, mini-vans, heart valves, surgical equipment, hearing aids, windows and doors, motorcycles, and so much more. Along the way, I have had the privilege of working with some very talented people that help me learn and grow and make each workday as enjoyable as a work day can be. Many of these fine folks are more than coworkers, they have become lifelong friends. Praise God for the work He gave me to do!

Our Pastor. I am very thankful for Pastor Mark Henry’s seemingly endless energy and tireless efforts to minister to our congregation at Revive Church. He has an unwavering commitment to preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word that we might know and stand on the truth. And Mark’s servant spirit doesn’t stop at the doors of our little church, he is involved with several other ministries, both locally and internationally. Through his efforts, over 5 million people have heard the Gospel worldwide! Pastor Mark truly is a man of God sharing the Gospel wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. His conviction and energy are infectious and he is as fine an example to us as we could ever hope for. I always thank God for Pastor Mark.

It is written in 1 Chronicles 16:34, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” Without a doubt, my list could go on and on. I am blessed beyond anything I could ever have a right to hope for and I praise God for all my blessings. But almost certainly, the greatest blessing of them all is the grace and forgiveness that is available through Jesus Christ. The Bible reminds us that we are all sinners (see Romans 3:23) and I truly believe each of us knows this about ourselves deep down inside. But God doesn’t want to punish us for our sins (see Ezekiel 33:11 & 2 Peter 3:9) so He made a way for us by sacrificing His very own Son that we might be saved.

Of all the things we have to be thankful for, salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ is the only one that will be with us eternally. So this Thanksgiving season, my sincerest prayer is that you will accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, if you haven’t already. It couldn’t be easier; just stop trying to be good enough on your own, admit to God that you have sinned, and that you need Him. Ask God to forgive you and tell Him you believe in Jesus Christ. If you are finding it difficult to have faith, then ask God to help you believe; for Jesus said in Matthew 7:8, “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Here at Reign Drops, we’d like to wish you and your family a blessed and happy Thanksgiving from the bottom of our hearts. And we thank you for reading Reign Drops Blog. We’re grateful for each and every one of you! God bless.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.