Saturday, December 31, 2011

Treasuring Christ makes every day like Christmas

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

As we close out this month, and this year, I want to leave 2011 with thoughts on how we can make everyday "Christmas" by making our life all about "treasuring Christ" in 2012.  I believe if we unfold what it means to be a "living sacrifice" as stated in the above verses,  you and I by grace can do this:

1. Receive in order to Give for Christ in 2012
I want to challenge my readers to present themselves to God through Christ, every day, for 2012.  Perhaps you are reading this blog, and have not yet by grace through faith believed on Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord and treasure.  Romans 10:8-10 tells us how to do that: what does it say? “The word is near you, in your heart and in your mouth”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  Christmas is all about giving.  As we have witnessed in these last 30 blogs, God demonstrated His infinite capacity to give to a people who otherwise were not willing to receive.  By receiving Him into your life, you will discover the only way you can begin making your life a life of giving for His glory.

2. Giving yourself in 2012  is maintained by presenting yourself constantly to Him
By its very nature, the miracle of Christ's incarnation set the pattern for all of those who would by grace through faith believe upon Him.  Christ presented Himself, quite literally as a living sacrifice.  He was born into a world that was diametrically opposed to He and His Father.  He later on, at 30 years of age, would "present" Himself for baptism by John the Baptist - who heralded Him as "The Lamb of God". (John 1:29)

3. As you present your life in 2012, keep focused on the cross
As Christ ministered throughout the regions of Galilee and Judea, He was constantly "presenting Himself" as God's living sacrifice.  Six times throughout the course of His ministry He would predict His death.  Then on the cross, He did the ultimate presentation - He laid down His life for His sheep. (John 10). 

4. In focusing on the cross, draw your strength from His resurrection power in 2012
However three days later He would rise again, demonstrating that He was not the God of the dead, but of the living.  In His Humanity He still could say he was the living sacrifice.  As God, He could decree as much. 

5. As His resurrection power gives strength, glorify Him by coming to Him more in prayer in 2012
As He ascended up into Heaven, He has never ceased being that living sacrifice, since He ministers daily on behalf of all true believers at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 1:1-4; 1 John 2:1-2).  The Apostle John in Revelation 5:6 sees Him as "The Lamb in the midst of the Throne".  He is and will ever be the living sacrifice - the God man.

6. As your grow in prayer, make it your chief aim in 2012 to treasure Christ above all things
Thus are we to treasure Him in our hearts, just as Mary did as she watched him grow up before her sight. (Luke 2:51).  May we too be willing, as those who by grace were called and gifted by faith to believe on Him as Savior, Lord and Treasure present ourselves as living sacrifices.  Only at the cross and through the cross can this be a reality.  May you and I make everyday Christmas - imitating our Lord and Savior and Treasure Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Journey from Eternity into Time

1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

If there was ever one verse that captures the entirety of the Christmas story - 1 Timothy 3:16 is it.  In a span of one verse, the Apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, captures six statements that tells us the Journey of God the Son from Eternity into time.  This verse was most likely one of the first hymns sung by early Christians living in the days following Christ's resurrection.  Consider below the journey recorded for us in this verse:

1. The Journey was made by God  The King James and New King James tells us that it was "God manifest in the flesh".  We know from other scriptures, such as John 1:14, that this was the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, who had agreed with God the Father from all eternity to take upon Himself humanity.  God, in the person of Jesus Christ, would make the journey from Heaven to earth through a virgin's womb. (Isaiah 7:14)

2. The Holy Spirit made this journey possible.  The event of God the Son taking upon Himself human flesh was ordained by God the Father, and made possible by God the Holy Spirit.  In this one short phrase: "justified in the Spirit", we see here not only the twin truths of Christ's Deity and humanity, but also the Personality of the Holy Spirit.  It is He who would overshadow Mary, making the conception of Christ's humanity a reality in her womb.  Also to, the Holy Spirit was the Agent responsible for the miracle of the virgin birth, thus preserving Christ's human nature from the tainting of sin as seen in that term "justified".

3. The Angelic Hosts announced it  When Paul writes "seen by angels", I am reminded of angels who met the Shepherds watching their flocks by night in Luke 2.  Or we could also include the Angel Gabriel who told the news to Mary and Joseph of the Christ child being miraculously conceived in her virgin womb.  The text here tells us that the entire angelic host of Heaven was witness to all of this. 

4. Preached unto the Gentiles  When we read "preached unto the Gentiles", we are talking about the entirety of the proclamation of Christ's birth, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  Herod heard of the Savior's birth.  Then as this baby grew into a man, he lived a perfect life for 33 years and made his way to the cross.  After rising from the dead, He gave his final commission unto His followers, the disciples, to go into all the world an preach the gospel, making disciples, baptizing and teaching them everything He had done and said. (matthew 28:18-20). 

5. He was by grace through faith believed  Paul wrote these words in or around 60 A.D, almost 30 years after the events of which he records here.  No doubt he is reflecting on all those who by grace through faith believed on Christ - from those early saints gathered in the upper room following Christ's ascension to the untold thousands who were converted under his ministry.  John 1:12 tells us that as many as received Him, as many as believed upon His name, He gave them the right to be called children of God. 

6. He ascended, demonstrating that while being man, He never ceased being God.  The ascension of Jesus Christ does for Christ in demonstrating His Deity as the incarnation does in demonstrating His humanity.  He had to become man in order to pay the price for salvation with his blood.  He never ceased being God - for only as God could He be the true source of salvation to all who by grace through faith would believe on Him.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Front row seat to history

Luke 2:8 8In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

As we are beginning to wind down our month long focus on the biblical account of Christ's birth in Bethlehem, we want to consider today the place of the shepherds in the Christmas story.  We have noted throughout this past month that many prophecies from the Old Testament spoke to every detail surrounding the coming of the Savior - the shepherds being no exception.

What is special about our shepherd friends in the fields outside of Bethlehem is the fact they were predicted to be on the "front row" of the appearance and announcement of the Savior.

The Bible predicted the Shepherds would be the first to hear of His coming
Micah was a prophet of Israel who lived over 700 years before the record that we read of in Luke 2.  In Micah 4:8, we read this prophecy: “As for you, tower of the flock, Hill of the daughter of Zion, To you it will come—  Even the former dominion will come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem."  The place called "tower of the flock" was located right outside of Bethlehem where Christ would be born.

The significance of otherwise insignificant people
This particular spot would be where the Shepherds of Israel would lead and feed their flocks.  Shepherds were considered the lowest people on the social ladder.  In fact, Shepherds were so despised that their testimony was not accepted in a court of law.  However there was one very important job these Shepherds had - raising all of the sheep that would be used in the sacrificial system in the temple in Jerusalem.  In the eyes of men, these Shepherds were the lowest and least important.  Yet in the eyes of God, they would play a key role in prophetic history.

Christmas' front row seat
Micah writes in his prophecy that, concerning this location of the "Tower of the Flock", "To you it will come".  When we come to Luke 2:8, we see the fulfillment of Micah's words.  For the angelic host suddenly appeared in the fields where they were watching their flocks by night.  Those famous words were spoken: "Unto you this day is born, in the city of David, the Savior, Christ the Lord.". 

Those who were raising lambs for the Spring slaughter would be the first to hear of the coming of the Lamb of God.  These who were but paupers in the sight of men were treated as prinices.  They had hearts of faith.  The hearts of the priests and teachers of the law had been hardened by religious tradition. Yet the hearts of these men, who were never allowed to walk in the temple that they raised sheep for, would be the first human beings outside of the family of Mary and Joseph, to hear of the birth of the Savior.  They were treated to History and Eternity's front row seat. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Star of Bethlehem

Matthew 2:2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

Today's blog is going to attempt to deal with the question: "What was the star of Bethlehem?"  Whenever you begin to dive into this subject, you come away with three general explanations.

1. The star was a natural phenomena.   In reading the literature on this subject over the years, I have found all kinds of explanations, some of which range from the purely ridiculous to the downright intriguing.  Some have suggested that the celestial object witnessed by the Magi may had been a comet or a brightly exploding star called a supernova.  Recent computer programs that can depict the appearance on the sky over any location on Earth have have run back to the period of Jesus' birth (7 b.c to 2 b.c) and have discovered the alignment of three planets: Jupiter, Mars and Venus. 

Could these astronomical phenomena been used by God in guiding these wisemen?  It would seem that as suggestive as this may be, it is not adequate to explain what they saw.  The object in question, accordng to Matthew's record, "guided them" and then "stayed" over the spot where Jesus and his family were living. 

2. The star was a supernatural phenomena  On the other end of the spectrum of explanations lies the supernatural explanation.  Many will point back to the times when the people of God were led through the wilderness by "a pillar of fire" by night.  Certainly we cannot argue that when the Magi explain this object as guiding and leading them, and then "standing over the place" where the Christ child was at, that thise object is of supernatural origin.

When one does a word study for that word "stand" in Matthew 2:9, we discover that the star not only just "stood over" the place of Christ's dwelling, it "stationed, positioned itself".  This tells us that the object in question had some level of intelligence (perhaps an angel for instance).  The only issue with this view is that like the completely natural explanation, we don't have enough information to make a judgment on what exactly the star was.  However, we can at least say that the object possessed intelligence of some sort.

3. The star was both natural and supernatural  If we take both the natural and supernatural explanations together, we can say that whatever the Magi saw that night entailed God communicating through both the night sky and the supernatural realm.  In a past blog I demonstrated how the prophet Daniel, over 600 years prior to the Magi in Matthew 2, had injected the prophecies of the Messiah into the thought life of these Persian Astrologers.  If you look at Matthew 2 once again, the quotation of a particular prophecy helps us to arrive at an explanation that includes the scriptures, the specific means through which God communicates saving truth. 

4. The Star definitely had prophetic significance
Theologians have noted that God communicates to human beings in two ways: General Revelation and Special Revelation.  General Revelation is the witness of God that we have in creation and the conscience.  It proves His existence and our responsibility to Him, but it does not identify Who He is nor does it lead to salvation.  This is where we need "Special Revelation" from the scriptures to fill in what is needed to lead a person to saving faith in Jesus Christ. 

When you scan the account of the Magi in Matthew 2:6, they do quote the prophecy in Numbers 24:17 concerning a star arising out of the tribe of Judah in Jerusalem.  This suggests to us that they were operating on what they first detected from General revelation - the positions of certain things in the sky (as wells as some time of supernatural phenomena), beginning over 800 miles at where they lived and them following that over a period of two years to where Christ was.  Then with them already possessing ancient copies of the Jewish scriptures handed down through their number from the days of Daniel, God at that moment used a particular text in His Special revelation to persuade them to worship the Christ child. 

We must remember what they ultimately sought and the only proper response
Although we could offer a pretty plausible scenerio for what the Magi saw in the night skies over Babylonia and Bethlehem - one thing is sure - the star in question was but a Divinely given natural/supernatural means, and beholding God in Human flesh was the true goal.  By the time they reached Him, the Spirit of God, through the scriptures, had convinced them that this was the One they sought.  They worshipped Him, and then went away exceedingly glad.  May that be our response to Christ throughout this season and the rest of lour lives: worship and exceeding joy. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Connecting Christmas and the Cross

Luke 2:34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed".

In this fifth and final song of Luke's account of Christ's infancy, we are brought to that one word spoken by Simeon before he disappears of the pages of scripture and history: behold.  As we have noted in the last four blogs, this song has a title from the Latin Vulgate: "eius ecce" or (behold this).

The connection between Christmas and the cross
I find it interesting that the things spoken of here by Simeon have details that correspond remarkably to the time of Christ's crucifixion"

1. Behold This same word was spoken by Pilate when he presented Christ to the crowds who had been demanding his crucifixion.  In John 19:5, we read of how Christ, when led out before the crowds with a crown of thorns on his head, was heralded by Pilate with these words: "behold the man".

2. This child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel  Simeon reminds the couple that this beautiful child upon whom they gazed was born to bring salvation.  As a result of Christ's crucifixion, the temple system would fall apart, Judas would hang himself for his betrayal of Christ and the whole Roman empire would never be same. 

3. A sword will pierce even your own soul  These words would find their fulfillment as Mary, 33 years later, would be standing beneath the cross, gazing in grief strickeness at the mangled body of Christ in his humanity. (John 19:26-35)  Though the cradle at Bethlehem was heralded by angels as glorious, the shadow of the cross was never that far. 

Despite the grief that lined Simeon's words, hope could not be eclipsed.  For it was in the death of Christ in His humanity that the God of glory in His deity would be shown victorious over death, Hell and the grave. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

God's grace personified in Christmas

Luke 2:29-32 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; 30For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.”

The joy of unwrapped presents
I'm sure many of you reading today's blog have experienced the joy that follows the unwrapping of that favorite gift.  Seeing the very things you had been anticipating for weeks and months evoked an eruption of joy once you opened and unwrapped the treasures under the tree.  No doubt this is in a very small way pictures the type of emotions that welled up in Simeon when he beheld the Christ child.

The song that speaks of sweet release and fulfillment of God's promises
It has been eight days, and Mary and Joseph brought their son, Jesus, to the temple to have performed upon him the rites of the Old Testament circumcision.  From the very beginning of Christ's birth, the theme of fulfillment marks his life: fulfillment of prophecy, time and the law.  Themes such as these would accompany Him 33 years later to the cross.  In the Latin text the name of Simeon's prophecy is referred to as "nunc dimittis" (now release). 

The significance of Simeon's words
I love this title for it signifies the release from the confines of something.  The Lord had given Simeon a word that his life would not expire until He saw the salvation of Israel.  As in all of the five songs recorded here in Luke 2 and 3, this fourth song carries with it tremendous scriptural gold that points to Christ's identity as revealed by God's grace:

1. God's Grace brings freedom.  When Simeon saw the Christ child, he was "released".  When you and I by faith behold the Lord, we are set free.  We are free to truly fulfill everything God calls us to do when He is brought to us by the working of grace in our hearts by the Spirit of God. 

2. God's Grace brings faith  How did Simeon know this was the One whom He was looking for?  The text states in Luke 2:29 - "according to your word".  It is the word of God that the Holy Spirit uses to bring the faith needed to trust and rely upon the Savior. (Romans 10:17)

3. God's Grace goes from being a principle to a Person. Up until we are brought into contact with Christ by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit through the gospel, God's grace is a principle that we have heard about.  However Simeon beholds the very Promise that centuries had been predicted by the Old Testament Prophets.  God's Grace had truly appeared.   Grace goes from being a principle to a person; from a power of God working towards men to becoming a Person who would dwell among men.   

4. God's grace brings light into darkness  As Simeon rounds out this portion of His prophecy, He quotes from Isaiah 9:2.  In that same chapter we are given information regarding the human and Divine natures of the Messiah. (Isaiah 9:6-7)  God would send His Son into this world to bring light into the darkness of sinful man.  Unfortunately man unaided by grace shrinks from the light, and is not able nor desirous of receiving it (John 1:3-11). 

5. God's grace enables to hear God and believe.  Simeon, the speaker of this prophecy, has a name whose meaning is: "to hear God".  Though we never hear of this precious old saint of God ever again, the one thing he is noted for is that he not only heard God, he saw Him!  In human flesh He saw the creator of worlds. 

Would it be dear friend that the world's memory of you and I would be that we are people who heard and saw God by faith and yearned to live out the last of our lives to see Christ cherished by those around us. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Largest and Shortest Concert in History

Luke 2:13-15 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”   15When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

The Glory of Christmas
Merry Christmas to those who are reading this blog today.  It will be another 11 years before we have Christmas occur on a Sunday.  Yesterday we began to look at the musical side of the Christmas story.  We noted two songs in Luke's record that spoke of Christ's coming: "The Magnificat" and "The Benedictus".  Today's blog features the third of five songs recorded by Luke in Luke 2:14, which in the Latin Bible would had begun with the first word "gloria" (hence its title in some of today's Bibles).  You may recognize that this word is where we derive our word "glory".  To glory in something means to think or regard someone or something with the highest thoughts possible.  No doubt, this shortest of the five songs tells us something profound about the night Christ in his humanity would be born.

It took all of Heaven to tell of His glory here on earth - The Biggest Concert Ever
The number of angels in Heaven, though not specifically given to us, are roughly revealed to us in scripture.  In passages such as Daniel 7 and Revelation 4 and 5 we discover that there are in upwards of 100 trillion angels sings praises to God, day and night. 

Now here on planet earth, we have over 7 billion people.  To just give you an idea of how big the heavenly hosts were, 100 trillion angels would be enough for every person on planet earth to have over 14,000 angels.  To put it in another perspective, in order to have a room big enough to accomodate 100 trillion people, you would need a room that would be over 60 million miles long and wide!

No doubt, what the Shepherds saw in the short burst of Heavenly glory would had no doubt frightened them.  The angelic host, bringing the news of the Savior's birth, would had stretched literally from Heaven to earth. 

This huge concert lasted less than five seconds
In the original Greek of Luke the angels sung 11 words.  Why so short?  If we know one thing about the God of the Bible, He can communicate an whole lot in a few words.  Moreso, if the glory of God, being refracted and reflected through these angels had been in that field any longer, the whole world and universe would had been destroyed!  Isaiah for instance tells of a vision He saw in Isaiah 6, where the foundations of God's throne room in Heaven "shook" at the singing of his glory by the angels.  So if the environment designed to withstand the continuous praise of God's glory could hardly sustain such glory, imagine the result for this world.

What did the angels sing?
This enormously short concert communicated an enormous amount to these shepherds.  When we unpack Luke 2:14, here is what we learn about the incredible good news brought that first Christmas night:

1. God's Glory in human flesh is mind blowing.  In the original language we could translate the first part of the angel's song as: "Glory is in the most high God".  These angels, as powerful and as smart as they were, marveled at the miracle that took place on that first Christmas night.  Their Creator was going to manifest himself as a creature.  The One whom they had worshipped as sharing the eternal undivided Divne nature with the Father and Holy Spirit would be revealed in frail humanity.  1 Peter 1:12 records that the angels are still blown away by what God did, for Peter writes at the end of that verse: "things into which angels long to look". 

2. God's Grace among humanity is most beautiful.  The next part of their song has these words: "and on earth peace".  When angels normally showed up in scripture, unless they specifically said so, their showing up usually meant judgment.  In a much lesser way, if I saw a row of police cars and firetrucks coming toward my house and pulling into my driveway, I would be alarmed, for I would wonder why it is they have come. 

However, if the police and fire rescue told me they had come to surround me to protect me from an approaching firestorm sweeping accross the county, I would find their flashing lights and blaring sirens most beautiful.  I would have no fear.  When Christ came that night, he was heralded by Heaven's Angelic Servant Squad!  He came to accomplish salvation that would shield all those who would believe on Him from the fiery wrath of God that is coming on this world. (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 3)  We can tell by the Shepherd's excitement that this news was beautiful to hear - God Himself has come to the rescue. 

3. God's Gospel announces salvation to all who by grace believe. The last part of the angels' song tells us: "among men with whom He is pleased."  How is a person made pleasing to God?  It is not by good moral living. (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Its not by keeping the ten commandments. (Romans 3:20)  Its not by going to church, being baptized, joining a civic organization or any other method of man's righteousness. (Isaiah 64:6).  There is only one way one can be pleasing in God's sight - be as good or as "much in the right" (i.e righteous) as God is! 

Now the Bible is pretty clear, there is no human being who could ever attain that level of moral and spiritual goodness.  However there is only one human being who was indeed as right as God - for He is God - that One is Jesus Christ.  Everything He merited before God can be credited to you when you by faith trust in Him.  That is what the angels were singing.  "On whom His favor rests" means that God's grace has come, calling out to you to believe on the One whom He sent. (John 3:16; John 17:3)

Therefore in order to receive everything that Christ ever accomplished into your life, there is only one means by which you can be declared "in the right" with God - faith alone.  That is not only good news, and not only great news, but that is news worth singing about!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Musical Christmas Eve

For the past 23 days we have been taking time to consider the true message and meaning of Christmas.  We have done so through the Bible's prophecies, pictures and patterns that outline the plan of God in Christmas.  We have crisscrossed our way back and forth between the Old and New Testaments - focusing more on the Preparation leading up to Christ's birth.  Christmas Eve is special - and so I thought what we would do today is to begin considering the role of Music in Christmas. 

The Praises of Jesus' birth in Luke
The infancy narratives in the first two chapters of Luke's Gospel record for us five songs and poems sung by various saints or angels that praise the arrival of God in human flesh.  The first two that we will consider occured right before Christ's birth.  They are found in Luke 1:46-56 and Luke 1:67-79. 

Strange names but Magnificent meaning
If you notice in some of your Bibles, these particular portions of scripture have weird sounding titles.  For instance the first song, the song of Mary, is called "The Magnificat".  The reason for this is because these are the first words of Mary's song as it is recorded in the Latin Bible - The Vullgate.  This was the version of the Bible used for 1,000 years in the Old Roman Catholic Church and the influence of that version carried over into some of the terms we use in describing details of the Bible.  "The Magnificat" is Latin for "The Exultation".  You may recognize from the word our English word "Magnificent".  No doubt, what Mary sings and Who she sings about is the one who is God, coming through her womb as a virgin born human being.

The second song in Luke's record is the song of Zecharias called "The Benedictus" (meaning blessed).  Perhaps you have heard of an opening prayer where the persons asks for God's blessing on a given event as being called a "benediction".  Like the first, the meaning is profound, in that Zecharias is praising God for his sending of the forerunner through he and his wife, Elizabeth.   No doubt, the events surrounding the Savior's coming into the world were indeed blessed! 

The Wonder of the Magnificat (Mary's song)
We can note three things about Mary's song in Luke 1:46-56:
1. The Savior in her womb is personally meaningful  Notice how often Mary uses the words "my" or "me" in 1:46-49.  Mary sees the profound significance of Christ's coming for her own life.  She has embraced everything spoken to her by the angel.  She has taken God at His word and is overjoyed at the fact that in her womb is the Living word. 

2. The Savior in her womb is powerfully Mighty  In Luke 1:50-53 Mary rehearses how this One in her womb Pre-existed as the God of glory throughout the history of the world.  He is Sovereign ruler over the nations. (Psalm 2).  He is God and God alone and will not share His glory with any other.  He knows how to deliver His people.  These ideas flow from Mary's lips as the Holy Spirit gives her utterance. 

3. The Savior in her womb is prophecy's fulfillment In Luke 1:54-55 Mary is thinking of all the times God promised and predicted the coming of Messiah.  From Abraham down to Malachi, God kept revealing how the Promise of Salvation would one day become the Person of salvation, born in due time.  For Mary, the literal fulfillment of that truth was now living inside of her. 

The Wonder of the Benedictus (Zechariah's song)
With Mary praising the wonder of Christ's soon birth, Zechariah too is praising God for the fact of the forerunner - John.  With only 6 months difference between their births, God's perfect timing was truly incredible.  This song is full of statements regarding God's promises and prophecies about salvation, redemption and the Light of Hope that is seen in the coming of Messiah.  The one who would announce that coming is spoken of in scriptures such as Malachi 4 and Isaiah 40.  Truly the power of worship was declaring that the plan of God in Heaven was getting ready to touch down here on earth.  It is not long, Christmas was almost here. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Scope of God's timing in Christmas

Galatians 4:4 when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,

God's big plans included all of history
How big was the scope of God's timing in the bringing about of the Son of God into this world?  When we consider the whole of history from Genesis up to the time of Jesus' birth, it is amazing to think about everything God orchestrated to make the entry of the Son of God into the world a possibility:

1. 3600 years from Genesis to Malachi.  From Adam to Noah = 1656 years.  From Noah to Abraham = another 350 to 400 years.  From Abraham to the end of Genesis = around 250 or so years.  From Moses' day in Exodus to David's time in 1 Samuel is around 400 years.  From David to Malachi's day is another 600 or so years.  God orchestrated the rise and fall of at least four world empires, countless wars and 109 prophecies in preparation for when He would come.

2. The silent years between Malachi and Matthew.  From Malachi to Matthew we see the word of God not being spoken.  Just because God hid His face did not mean His hand was not at work behind the scenes.  In this period of time, three world empires rose and fell.  At the ned of the Old Testament, Babylon was in power.  In 539 b.c she fell to the Medo-Persia Empire.  This empire, predicted and spoken of in Daniel 2 and 7, was the first to begin the practice of crucifixion. 

Next came the Greeks, under Alexander the Great in 333 b.c.  After conquering Persia, Alexander began his program of making the whole world like the Greeks.  Everyone under his domain would speak Greek.  This language would be the language of the New Testament.  The Jews also made the world's first Bible translation - the Septuagint, in 275 b.c.

Greece gave away to Rome and the Roman empire devised the 50,000 mile roadway system throughout the Medditeranean world called "The Roman Road". It would be quite useful, especially when the early church would come to spread the goodnews of Jesus Christ. 

Rome by Jesus' day was experiencing politcal unreast in the Holy land.  Power had changed hands, and populations of people were being redistributed.  This is what prompted Caesar Augustus to issue the decree for everyone to return to their hometown to be counted.  Because of that decree, Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, as predicted in the book of Micah.

3. The prophecies of the Old Testament. When you count up all of the prophecies that predict the first coming of Jesus Christ, the grand total comes to 109!  Some of these are so extraordinary, they are worthy of mention.  Genesis 49:10 tells us what tribe in Israel the Messiah would derive - from Judah.  Isaiah 7:14 tells us He would be virgin born, with Isaiah 9:6-7 revealing Him as both human and Divine.  Isaiah 53 reveals He would suffer and die, with Zechariah 12:10 using the term "pierced" to describe the marks on his hands and feet.  Psalm 22 unfolds the words He would speak on the cross and Micah 5:2-4 uncovers the place of His birth. 

All in all, God alone can cover the scope of the timing of events, peoples and places - for He alone is Big enough, Powerful enough and knowing enough to accomplish it.  If anything, the timing of Christmas shows us that salvation is of the Lord!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas planned before Genesis 1:1

Galatians 4:4 "when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law"

When we look at Christmas - the concept of time plays a huge role in our thinking.  My children are finding time to be moving quite slowly right now!  They can't wait until Christmas morning!  We have some events going on in our lives that are making that Christmas day seemingly come quicker than we think.  Time is certainly a factor when it comes to planning Christmas.  But no one knew that more than God. 

God's Sovereign Timing for Christmas
God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit had determined the time in which the Son was going to enter History before the world was ever made.  Passages such as Acts 2:23-24 and 2 Timothy 1:9 speak of God the Father planning the cross, with God the Son agreeing with the Father to be the one to die upon it.  In Ephesians 1:11, we understand that the Holy Spirit was involved in this plan, agreeing to apply the benefits of salvation to all whom He would call and convict to believe on the Son. 

Before Genesis 1:1, there was nothing but God Himself.  The Trinity was not lonely.  God saw all of history in His mind.  He knew that the fall of Adam and Eve was going to occur and he knew that the cross would be necessary to redeem all of those whom He would call and convict to believe on Him.  The birth of the Savior was definitely pre-planned. 

Hebrews 10:4-7 records these words of Jesus, spoken in the eternal glory He shared with the Father:
         "Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,  “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU

Jesus spoke these words while preparing to enter this world from eternity!  The appointed time for His arrival was set.  God alone could perfectly time time itself - For He alone is Sovereign (that is, in control of all things).  As much as Christmas speaks about God becoming frail humanity - it also points us to the Sovereign God who, along with the One who would become man, made Christmas possible. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who is Jesus in the geneaologies?

Luke 3:23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph . . .

4,000 years is a huge block of time.  Yet in Luke's account of Christ's geneaology, in a span of 15 verses, some 72 names, spanning a period from Genesis up to the time of Christ's birth are listed for us.  Called by some "the scarlet thread of redemption", the bloodline that extends from Adam and Eve down to Christ is shown here in Luke. 

Why is Luke's geneaology different than Matthew's? 
Three reasons can be given in answer to this question. 

1. Two valid ways of identification First, if you compare the two records, they not only differ in the amount of names, but in how they arrange the names.  Matthew's geneaology is taking you from Abraham up to Christ - an ascending geneaology.  Meanwhile Luke takes you from Jesus' birth all the way back to Adam - a descending geneaology.  Both types were valid ways of determining one's identity back in Bible times. 

2. Jesus is the True King and the New Adam.  Also too, Matthew presents Jesus as King, establishing Him as a legitimate heir to David's throne and as the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham.  Therefore there was no need to go back further than Abraham - for it would not had suited Matthew's purpose in what He was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Luke on the other hand is presenting Jesus as the New Adam, the perfect man.  Thus it makes sense to show how He is related all the way back through Adam - since he is the one who came to represent Adam and his lineage on the cross.

3. Jesus is the literal and legal heir to the throneFinally, Luke is presenting Jesus' bloodline as it pertains to Mary's side, since Luke was demonstrating that Jesus had a physical bloodline connecting back to David, through Abraham, all the way back to Adam.  Though Mary Jesus received the bloodline from her that is directly connected back to David, thus qualifying Him as a physical heir to the trhone of David.  In Matthew's account, the concern was establishing Jesus'  as the legal heir of David's throne.  Thus Joseph was not nor did not have to be Jesus' actual father.  However he was Jesus' legal guardian, therefore Jesus was, touching his humanity, legally qualified to assume David's throne. 

Who is Jesus in the geneaologies?
Therefore we can conclude that Jesus Christ, as seen through the lenses of His genealogies, is the: True King (Matthew); the New Adam (Luke); The Fulfillment of Abraham's promises (Matthew); the Savior of Adam's race (Luke); the Messiah of Israel (Matthew) and the Savior of the World (Luke). 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The beauty of those first words

Matthew 1:1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

400 years had passed since God had spoken a word in Israel.  Not one word of God was heard in all the land or the world.  God's hand was working behind the scenes, guiding both history and the specific bloodline of Jesus Christ.  In Matthew's Gospel we see a total of 52 names, three sets of 14 generations, depicting the bloodline of Jesus Christ from Abraham up to the birth of the Messiah.  Many folks are tempted to skip over these geneaologies that occur in Matthew and Luke, however, all scripture is profitable for instruction, for correction, for rebuke and for training in righteousness.  (2 Timothy 3:16).  To get the most out of this first chapter in Matthew, let the reader note the following key features:

1. Abraham, the head of the first 14 names, represents the Promise of salvation.
Abraham heads up both the first leg of this geneaology, as well as the whole list of names mentioned by Matthew.  We read of Abraham's life in Genesis 12-25.  It was to Him that God promised a nation (Genesis 12) and a ultimate redeemer or "seed" (Genesis 15).  God's promise of salvation, first mentioned back in Genesis 3:15, is brought into sharp focus through the life of Abraham.  Found over 100 times in the Bible, Abraham is used to illustrate what it means to trust in the Lord by faith (Romans 4) and to live out the life of faith through obedience to the word (Hebrews 11).

2. David, the head of the second 14 names, represents the Prophecy of salvation
In Matthew 1:6-11 records the next fourteen generations of Christ's bloodline, beginning with David.  In 2 Samuel 7:13-16 God gives David a prophecy through the prophet Nathan that from his bloodline would come a descendant to rule and reign.  This descendant's kingdom would last forever.  In other scriptures, such as Psalm 2, 45 and 89 we see God expanding and explaining this prophecy.  It is God's prophecy about David that takes the promise of Abraham and gives it flesh and bones.  Clearly the promise of salvation will indeed be the Person of Salvation. 

3. Jeconiah, the head of the third set of 14 names, represents the Problem addressed by salvation
Anyone who reads the story of Jeconiah will understand the fact that he had been cursed by God as a result of treachery against God and the throne of Israel.  His bloodline was cursed and thus he represents the problem being addressed in God's sending of His Son - the curse of sin.  Jeremiah 22:24-30 records God's words against Jeconiah and his descendants. 

The miracle of Christmas reveals that a sinless Savior would indeed be born from an otherwise long line of sin, treachery and failure.  Just as the light of the sun is not affected when it shines upon a trash heap, so it is that the Virgin born Son of God could be sinful despite coming from a curse bloodline.  If anything, to bear the curse of sin was the very reason why God the Son came to be born in a stable. (Please compare Galatians 3:10,13) 

4. Jesus, the final name in the genealogy, is the solution to the problem of sin, the fullfillment of every prophecy and the personification of the promise of salvation
Therefore it is fitting that even the geneaology of Jesus Christ would tell the saga of salvation:  God began with a promise, reinforced it with prophecy, to address the problem of sin with the solution: Jesus Christ.  Truly those first words of the New Testament would be God's final word on all that pertains to what He was accomplishing through Jesus Christ. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Bible's Unbroken Chain of Christmas

God's promise of salvation from Genesis to Revelation
In today's blog I want the reader to witness some of the major prophecies that stretch from Genesis to Revelation to reveal God's purposes and plans that He had in the sending of God the Son to this earth.

Beginning the Journey - the first mention of the Gospel
In Genesis 3:15, we begin our journey.  Called by many the "protoevangel" or "the first mention of the Gospel", we discover that God had a plan ready to go.  Knowing that Adam and Eve would break the covenant of works, wherein He knew they would disobey His commands to them, God killed two animals in their place, offering them a covenant of grace.  In Genesis 3:15, we see the concept of "seed", that is, God promised that a redeemer would come through the bloodline issuing forth from Adam and Eve.

Noah, the flood and the promise
In our next stop we come to Genesis 5 and 6, where in a period of 1656 years, or ten generations, God speaks to Noah to build an ark.  Following the flood, one of Noah's three sons, Shem, would be chosen by God to carry on the specific promise of salvation in his blood line.  We see a narrowing effect of God's promise, going from humanity in general to a branch of humanity.

The Patriarchs and the promise
From Shem we come ten more generations to Abraham in Genesis 12.  It is at this chapter that God narrows the bloodline of redemption down to a family.  From Abraham would come Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs of the nation of Israel.

The promise is reinforced by prophecy
As we travel from these three men we come to Genesis 49:10, where we discover that one of Jacob's twelve sons - Judah - is given the prophecy of the Messiah coming from his lineage.  Jacob's twelve sons of course would be the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Out of those twelve tribes, the tribe of Judah would be the one from whence the Christ child would come.

God's symmetry and orchestration of History as the backdrop leading to the promise
As we fast forward ten generations from Judah, we arrive at David.  In 2 Samuel 7:13-16 we see God's promise of a descendant sitting upon his throne.  Once we come to the Gospel of Matthew, we find a summary of the entire Old Testament in the geneaology of Jesus - From Abraham to David - 14 generations; from David to the end of the Old Testament 14 generations and from the end of the Old Testament to Jesus' day - 14 generations.  In all, roughly 2,000 years or more stretches from Abraham to Jesus.  In Luke's Gospel the geneaology there goes back even further to Adam.  From Adam to Jesus stretches some 72 names, or over 4000 years.  

Consider the New Testament's picture of the first coming
But now what about the rest of the New Testament?  What does it have to say about Christ's first coming and God's plan of salvation?  In the Gospels, we discover that the baby born in Bethlehem was to die on the cross and be risen from the dead.  Following His resurrection He would ascend and be seated at the righthand of God.

In Romans 9:1-5 we discover he is descended from David, as well as God over all, forever to be praised.  Galatians 4:4 tells us that Jesus Christ came in the fulness of time.  Ephesians reveals that Christ was pre-existent from all eternity.  Philippians unfolds the truth of God the Son taking upon Himself Human flesh.  Colossians tells us that He is the fulness of the Godhead bodily.  

1 Timothy 3:16 gives us the jurney of Jesus from the moment he left the presence of God's Holy angels in Heaven, to His birth, His life and His ascension.  Hebrews 10:4-5 actually records the words Christ was speaking when he had journeyed from heaven into the Virgin's womb.  1 John records how the apostles handled and saw the God-man.  2 and 3rd John emphasize that God coming in human flesh is a fundamental article of Christian faith.  Revelation, the final book of the Bible, gives us 40 different names of Jesus in the first chapter alone, connected to the fact that He had taken upon Himself human flesh and that He is now and forever the eternal Godman - soon to return.  

By the time you compute all of the prophecies concerning His birth and first coming - you uncover 109 of them!  God orchestrated all of them - with the goal of glorifying Himself in the Son and among all who by His grace, through faith, would believe upon Him. (John 3:16, 6:40, 17:3)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Poem - God's Revealed Savior

God’s Revealed Savior
God Veiled His Son from human view
God drew a plan on what to do
The Son and He saw humanity’s curse
Mankind’s sin would only grow worse
A bloodline from Adam and Eve had been decreed
From Adam to Abraham came the Seed
A nation born from slavery’s hate
Israel would grow and exist as a gate
God the Son would open the door assigned
In Mary’s womb humanity and Deity did align
The One Who omnipotent, with worlds at His command
Would be veiled in weakness, with soft infant hands
Omniscience whose knowledge knew no bounds
Would be veiled in frailty uttering cooing sounds
The One who Omnipresent in time and space
Would limit Himself to human space
Though veiled in flesh His deity remained
A cross was his destiny, with his blood to be stained
Revealed he was, died he did
The guilt of sin, its penalty to rid
He rose and ascended, his body now changed
            The Revealed Savior accomplished what had been arranged

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where did the Magi come from?

Daniel 2:12 Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

How God worked through a teenage boy to preserve a critical element in history
So who were these mysterious Magi from the East?  Many have offered their theories over the years - but the one that has stood the test of time more than any other is that these who came to worship the Christ child, two years following his birth in Bethlehem, can be traced back to the days of Daniel.

We first meet Daniel in his book when he was but 15 years of age.  He, along with his fellow Jews, were taken away captive to Babylon in 605 b.c (that's over 600 years before the birth of Jesus).  In Babylon there was a religion that was dedicated to worshipping various Babylonian deities, chief of which centered around the false god Marduk and astrology. 

An angry King is soothed by God's word
King Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the Babylonian Empire, had a dream one night that frightened and alarmed him.  When he consulted his counselors and magicians, none could give him the meaning.  God was showing that the religion of Babylon was more of smoke and mirrors than reality.  When the King issued a death decree on all the wise men of that day (including Daniel), Daniel, the text tells us, gained favor in the sight of the chief executioner. 

With God there are no surprises and no accidents
All of Daniel 2 records how Daniel spoke to his three other friends (the guys who would be cast into the fiery furnace in Daniel 3) and prayed to the Lord for wisdom.  God gave him the interpretation and Daniel spoke to the King about the meaning of his dream.  What God had shown Nebuchadnezzar was the entire sweep of history leading up to the days of Christ's birth.  Furthermore, as a result of God's work through Daniel, the King was convinced to drop the death decree and spare the lives of the Magi in Babylon.

Babylon would be conquered by Persia, but the Magi would still remain
In Daniel 5 we see the final night of the Babylonian empire.  In history the fall of Babylon to Persia occurred in 538 b.c.  By this point Daniel is in his eighties, and the Jews have been in exile for nearly 70 years.  Still clinging to the Lord, Daniel is shown in Daniel 6 being thrown into the lion's den.  After God preserves Daniel through the night, sending his angel to shut the mouth's of the lions, King Darius decrees that the governors of the now new empire, Persia (called Satraps), be cast into the Lion's Den.

So where are the Magi?  Undoubtedly Daniel is still working among them.  At the end of Daniel 6, Darius issues a decree that all people everywhere are to dear the God of Daniel.  Many scholars believe Daniel may have given Darius the words to write.  This act of toleration enables Daniel to act as a missionary among the court of the Magi.

The prophecies of Israel are made known to the Magi
When we come to Matthew 2, over 600 years later, the Magi relate to Herod that they were following a star that had appeared to them in the East some two years before.  This star evidently pointed them to one "born King of the Jews".  Now where did these otherwise pagan Magi, of the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, derive their understanding of the "King of the Jews"?

Undoubtedly there is only one conclusion:  God used Daniel some 600 years before to relay to them of how God was going to send a Messiah to Jerusalem from a Jewish bloodline.  Though the Pagan system of the Persians would persist, this one truth from scripture would be preserved up to Jesus' day. 

The East would bow to the God man
It would then come, in the fulness of time (Galatians 4:4), that a star (or something like it) would appear in the skies over what is now modern day Iran.  For two years these Magi would travel.  The star would lead them to a home in Bethlehem.  There they would meet Mary, Joseph, and Jesus - the only sinless toddler!  Undoubtedly God had been orchestrating this meeting for over 600 years!  Through the life of a young boy Daniel, God would preserve a group of Pagans who down through the centuries would preserve a nugget of truth whose fruit would not be born until the days of Jesus. 

What the facts about the Magi tells us about the significance of Christmas
Once the Magi arrived, God's grace led them to the God man - whom they bowed down aand worshipped.  If anything, Christmas reminds us that God's plan to seek and to save that which was lost involved time, involved unlikely characters and involved the scriptures.  Truly God's Word does not return void - since the written word points us to the Living word - Jesus Christ.   

Friday, December 16, 2011

How God's love would triumph over Satan's Hatred

Revelation 12:7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,

In this third and final episode of John's vision in Revelation twelve, we see him doing a couple of things:  first he is expanding in more detail upon the previous scene in Revelation 12:4-6 and second, he is including some of the details from the scene in Revelation 12:1-2.  When he does this, we are getting a complete picture of history as scene from both the visible and invisible realms.  Clearly one of the themes associated with this vision is the wrath and hatred of satan for God, Christ and the people of God.  All of these events center upon the moment when Christ entered into time on that Christmas night.  The question we want to know the answer to is: why does satan hate Christmas?

1. Satan was expelled from heaven.  Michael, the archangel and chief guardian over the nation of Israel, led the offense against the angelic rebellion.  We cannot imagine the scale of the battle - being that the combatants would had numbered in the trillions.  We cannot imagine the power involved in such a fight, since scripture records how one angel for instance would wipe out 185,000 human soldiers. (2 Kings 19:35)
That ancient battle did take place, and as a result, Satan and his minions have been on the assault ever since as a result of their defeat.

2. Satan hates the nation of Israel
There are two reasons why Satan would hate Israel.  First is because Michael, the one who led the effort to cast him out of heaven, was assigned guardianship over Israel (please note Daniel 10).  Undoubtedly Satan's memory is still fresh.  But even moreso Satan's hatred for Israel stems from the fact that through that nation, and through the bloodlines of men like Judah and David in its history, God brought God the Son from eternity into time.  No doubt Satan tried to foil God's plan, but of course as scripture reveals, Christ was born, was crucified, raised from the dead and will return once again.

3. Satan hates God's people
As you look at this text, you find out that Satan as turned his attention to accusing and persecuting the people of God.  Revelation 12:11 reveals - “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death."  We read of further details in Revelation 12:17 - "So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus." 

These verses points to the saints of God who have lived throughout the ages of the Old Testament as well as this current church age.  They also speak of those saints who will endure to the end of history leading up to Christ's return.  All believing Jews and Gentiles in the Lord Jesus Christ embody the reality to which the hope of Christmas points: the victory of God through Jesus Christ. 

As we close today's blog, I'm reminded of a 500 year old hymn written by Martin Luther entitled "A mighty fortress is our God".  In that hymn we find these words:

"But still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe; his power and wrath are great, and armed with cruel hate, none on earth is his equal."  Then later on in the hymn we find these words: "were not the right man on our side, the man of God's own choosing; Just ask who that may be, Christ Jesus it is He; Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He will win the battle."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christ's defeat of Satan and the demonic realm

Revelation 12:3-4 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

Demons, Angels and the war in the heavenlies
John, the human author of the Book of Revelation (along with the Divine Author, God the Holy Spirit), takes us now into "Episode Two" of this grand vision of history leading up to and beyond that Christmas night.  It is here that we get a clear view of the origin of the demonic realm, the great fight in the heavenly realms leading up to Christ's birth, and the warfare that will continue until the end of time.

1. The Great Red Dragon. This is none other than Satan himself.  We see him appearing as a serpent in Genesis 3:1.  His nature as a Dragon, as "that serpent of old", is full and complete, as seen in the repetition of the number seven.  According to Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, Satan was not always Satan. He was created as an angel, a chief Angel, perhaps the chief choir director of the angelic hosts.  He was "Lucifer", the "enlightened one", who in focusing upon his created beauty became prideful.

2. A third of the stars.  According to John, Lucifer rebelled and seduced 1/3 of the angelic host to follow him in a massive revolt in heaven.  This revolt might very well had occured either between days 1 and three of the creation days described in Genesis 1, Psalm 104 or perhaps shortly after the completion of the creation described in those same chapters.  We know that angels are described as "stars" since we see such description in Job 38:7. 

Some of these "fallen ones", these demons, had reblled so badly as to "lose their former estate" and were chained in the darkest regions until the time of the final judgment. (Jude 6)  Others of these fallen angels were permitted by God to roam over the earth and torment people, as seen in the eight or nine occassions where Jesus performed exorcisms in Matthew, Mark Luke and John. 

Lucifer Himself is currently "Prince of the power of the air" and "a god of this age".  (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).  He is roaming to and fro over the earth, along with his demonic hoards, seeing whom he may torment, destroy and blind to the truth of God. (1 Peter 5:8).

3. Stood in front of the woman.    John next writes that This Dragon stood in front of the woman, awaiting to devour her child.  Clearly Satan, though powerful, is still a creature, being that he did not know when exactly the day nor hour would occur for Jesus to enter into this world.  He is behind the persecutions of the Jews throughout the Old Testament.  Galatians 4:4 tells us that Jesus was born into this world in the fulness of time.  Despite the Old Serpent's best efforts, the Christ-child was born.  The Virgin Mary was that woman, who in the bloodline ordained from God from Eve, through Abraham, through David would bring to bear his purposes in her. 

4. The One born a king will rule as The King In Revelation 12:5-6, we see a summary statement from the moment of Christ's birth in Bethlehem to when He will return to earth to rule and reign as King.  Satan will attempt to destroy Israel in the days leading up to Christ's return.  God will have provision for protecting her in the last 31/2 years leading up to the second coming of Jesus Christ. 

5. Christmas reminds us that God finishes what He begins, He has defeated the enemy
Just as God would accomplish His purpose in the birth of Christ in His first coming, the purpose of God will reign supreme in the Second coming.  The outcome of the warfare is sure.  Christmas reminds us of the victory of God in Jesus Christ: His birth declared victory; His cross won victory; His resurrection and ascension confirmed victory; His word communicates victory and the Soon return will demonstrate to all that He alone is the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords.   

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Revelation's view of the first Christmas

Revelation 12:1-2  A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.

Who Knew?  Christmas is spoken of in the Book of Revelation
When you think of Christmas, your thoughts may turn to the accounts written at the beginning of Matthew and Luke - and certainly those records are the primary sources from which we understand that first Christmas.  Or perhaps you may think of the prophecies and promises of Christmas from the Old Testament - some of which we have explored already in this blog over the past couple of weeks.  But what about the last book of the Bible?  The Book of Revelation? 

Amazingly we find not only what was going on in the angelic realm the night of Christ's birth, but we also get a front row seat to the whole of human history from creation until Christ's return.  In three episodes John relates the vision of what went on in the heavenly realms on the night of Christ's birth (Revelation 12:1-2); followed by a second episode detailing the rebellious career of Satan from creation  until Christ's return (Revelation 12:3-6).  The third episode is a more detailed revelation that helps the reader fit together the information from the first two episodes. (Revelation 12:7-16). 

Episode 1: How much was riding on the night Christ was born
In the opening verse John sees his first vision: a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and twelve stars.  As we survey scripture, we quickly find out that these are various descriptions of the nation of Israel it has existed throughout history.  Being uniquely called by God through the bloodlines of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12; 15; 17; Deuteronomy 7:7-8), Israel above all other nations was chosen to be the recipient of His law and promises. (Romans 9:1-3)  The idea of "a woman" is ultimately referring to Mary herself - since the prophecies concerning the virgin birth of the Messiah culminate in her. (Isaiah 7:14)

The twelve stars are in reference to the twelve tribes of Israel.  We see twelve stars referring to the twelve patriarchs from whence these twelve tribes would derive in the dream of Joseph about his brothers in Genesis 37.  The moon, being a reflector of light, shows us another apsect of Israel - she was to reflect the glory of God to the nations.  Clearly God is rehearsing to the readers of John's book that it was through Israel that He would bring forth the Savior.

So with the entire history of man and Israel pivoting upon the birth of the Savior that Christmas night, we see Mary crying out in the pain of labor.  As much as Jesus Christ was God in human flesh, as much as his birth was unique in being a virgin birth, the remaining details of the birth remind us that what took place that Christmas night was real. 

What John will reveal next tells us that more was going on than meets the eye.  As much as this was a physical birth, what was occuring in the heavenly realms the night of Christ's birth would reveal just how much this one night would forever change the landscape of both history and eternity.  More to come. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Poem - God's Loving Christmas Gift

God’s Loving Christmas Gift
Human hatred, an infinite rift
God sent the son, His loving gift
The plan of love, divinely drawn
Sent to a world that was all but gone
This gift was wrapped in a virgin’s womb
A savior to save from sin’s awful tomb
The pain of love, would be of great cost
To seek and save the ones who are lost
Mary would weep at the foot of his cross
God would experience the pain of loss
Darkness that day could never conceal
The loving gift god sent to reveal
The little infant born to die on a cross
To seek and to save those who were lost
The price of love, the gift was spent
He did the work for which he was sent
They pierced his heart, the deed was done
Death and hell appeared to have won
Christmas began at a virgin’s womb
its hope would end at an empty tomb
The price of love, never to die
He can be yours, if by faith you rely

Monday, December 12, 2011

The significance of Christ's birth to biblical Christianity

Isaiah 9:6-7 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah the prophet wrote these words over 750 years before that first Christmas night.  In this one verse we discover two towering truths about Jesus Christ: He would be born and He existed from all eternity.  What may seem at first to be a contradiction is actually central to identifying the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was virgin born as a true human being
Isaiah first of all identifies the Messiah as having a beginning.  In another passage, Isaiah 7:14, we discover that this birth will be a virgin birth.  This unusual detail is a cornerstone of the Christian faith for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it was a man who had broken God's law in the garden of Eden, and so a man would have to pay for the damages done by the giving of his life.  Unfortunately when God cursed humanity and the earth, all of humanity inherited the sin nature from Adam. 

Which leads us to the second important truth about the virgin birth of Jesus - that Jesus would not inherit the sin nature.  According to 1 Peter 1:18, the sin nature of Adam is transmitted down through the father's side of the human bloodline.  Since Jesus did not have a human father, He could not inherit the sin nature.  This is vital, since a sinless Savior is required to represent sinful man before a Holy God. 

Thus "Jesus" refers to Jesus Christ as truly man.  He would be "a son" given, "born" and having a beginning as it touches his humanity. 

Christ is Eternal God
Isaiah continues on describing the prophecy about the Messiah as being fully and completely God.  When we speak of "Jesus", we speak of His full humanity.  When we speak of "Christ" we are referring to Him being fully God.  Thus before Jesus Christ became a human being, He had pre-existed from all eternity.  Each title given here by Isaiah points us to this truth:

1. As Wonderful, Christ is shown to be beyond human comprehension. 
2. As Counselor He is God full of wisdom
3. The Mighty God is referring to His Divine Nature
4. Everlasting Father speaks to Him sharing the same nature as God the Father
5. Prince of Peace speaks to His Deity revealed through His humanity

Jesus Christ as God is equal in importance to Him being the virgin born man, since God alone can provide salvation (Isaiah 43:10-11).  Therefore in one verse, Isaiah gives us the entire sweep of the Bible's teaching on the identity of the one who was to be born in Bethlehem.  He as One person was fully God and fully man.  He who has always been would become born, having a beginning.  Without this event, salvation and the truth of God's word would had been jeopardized.