The blogosphere and social media world have recently been filled with news of atrocities taking place all over the Middle East (some of which are just rumors spread by social media). One of the affected cities is Mosul, Iraq where a Muslim group, ISIS, has taken control. Christians have been driven from their homes and forced to renounce Christ at the penalty of death. Syrian Christians have recently also been heavily oppressed by Muslims.

If we were Christians living in the Roman empire in the first century, persecution would have been much more commonplace. History records much antagonism towards Christianity and ruthless actions of emperors like Nero, Domitian, and Marcus Aurelius. It was under Nero that Paul the Apostle was executed in Rome in 67AD.

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“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
(Colossians 1:27–28 ESV)

"Christ in you, the hope of glory" is a phrase that is becoming increasingly misunderstood, especially in some Charismatic circles in the body of Christ today. It's important to have clarity on what this phrase means from the Bible, especially if we as Christians base our message and lifestyle on the truths of Scripture.

In the narrow context of the verse, Paul is expounding on one facet of the "mystery" that was revealed to him - that even the Gentiles, through the simplicity of faith in the Jewish Messiah Jesus, can participate in the promises of "blessing" made to the Jewish patriarch Abraham (Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:6).

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In the past several years, few verses in scripture have been as beautifully disruptive to my heart as 1 Peter 1:13:

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
(1 Peter 1:13 ESV)

Peter opens up his first epistle with a eulogy lauding the mercy of God towards His people. He reminds his readers of their coming inheritance (verse 4-5) as they remain faithful to Jesus through trials (verse 6-7), recalling the words of the prophets as they spoke of the glory of the age to come (verse 10-12). In light of the present difficulty and the future glory, he exhorts them to have a singular, undivided, all-consuming hope - Christ's return and the grace to be given on that day.

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The Christmas story evokes so many beautiful emotions in us this time of year. For those who have eyes to see, Jesus' humble birth fills us with joy and stuns us with amazement. What churned in the heart of the LORD of glory to be born in such lowliness?

Amazement was also a common reaction of many in the four Gospel accounts. Whether it was because of Jesus' gracious words and wisdom (Luke 4:22) or His miraculous deeds (Matthew 8:27; Luke 9:43; Luke 24:41), the crowds, single individuals, and His inner core of disciples were constantly astonished by Him.

The events surrounding His birth revealed yet another group of stunned onlookers - angels. After Luke describes how an angel visited shepherds in the fields to speak to them about the birth of "Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11), he writes:

“And suddenly there was with the angel [that appeared to the shepherds in the fields] a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!””
(Luke 2:13-14 ESV)

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Call it "devotions", "secret place", or "quiet time", our hearts always seem to struggle to maintain time alone with God. If our weak heart and the devil's distraction is not enough, our modern society and culture is also geared to pull us away from solitude. As I wrote about last month, there's enough trinkets, toys, new models, new movies, and new things coming out to numb us to our boredom. Sometimes we find it almost impossible to find that "alone" time with the Lord because there's always one more person to network with, one more email to send, one more phone call to make, or one more item on the to-do list. Then when we actually do have that free moment, we are too tired to open our Bibles and actually talk to Jesus. I know we can all relate to that in one way or another!

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