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A COMPLETE BIBLE; A BLESSING!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In Luke 14: 15-24 Jesus tells about a man who had a banquet but the invited guest had excuses and could not attend.  The master sent hbible-scrollis servant out to invite people off the street.  The hall was still not filled, so the master told the servant to “Go out to the highways and country roads.  Make them come.  I want my house to be full!  I tell you, none of those men whom I invited first will get a taste of my banquet!

We are introduced to the same story in Matthew 22:1-10.  However, a lot of things are added and the purpose is different from the one in Luke.  In Matthew, the secondary invited folks, if not properly dressed, are bound and thrown out.  The story ends with, “Many are invited, but few are chosen” rather than “none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

In Luke’s account the “excuses” are more detailed than in Matthew.  Luke doesn’t mention that this is a wedding party.  Matthew does.  Luke is more descriptive about who the servant invites.  In Luke the guest are compelled to come, but not so in Matthew.  In Luke the host is “a certain man” whereas in Matthew he is “a king.”  In Matthew, how one is dressed is important, but Luke says nothing about it.

The Holy Spirit inspired both Matthew and Luke.  So, why are their stories different?  Both are stories or “parables.”  Matthew is writing to a different audience than Luke.  Matthew fills in some details of Jesus’ story not covered by Luke.  Luke is writing to a Gentile readership.  Luke picks out a lesson that fits the audience he is writing to whereas Matthew uses what will best fit his readers.

Preachers are often approached after a service and told what the individual got from the sermon.  Most preachers are surprised because the point they were making is different from the point that person heard.  Sometimes an audience with different needs receives help to deal with that need from a sermon that wasn’t designed by the speaker to address it.  Sometimes a person is feeling guilty about a secret sin and imagines the preacher is exposing it, whereas the minister is totally innocent of the charges.  It is the power of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12)!

Matthew is not contradicting Luke.  Both are giving the essence of Jesus’ story, but dealing with different points from the story which fits their respective readers.  In the first century, most people would not have both Matthew’s account and Luke’s.  We have the advantage of possessing both so we may gain the lessons delivered to both audiences.

In studying Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, one needs to research the parallels of each to gain all that is being said.  Our studies are enriched by this advantageous blessing.

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WHAT’S YOUR ASSURANCE?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A few Sundays ago one of our songs was, “Lord, I Need You,” written by Matt Maher in 2013.  Some of the words are:

assuranceLord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You.

As the congregation sang that song I wondered how well those words were sinking into our consciousness?  How many believe God will save them because of their righteousness, performed to co-host His?  One faith teaches that we must have more “good” works than bad ones if we are going to heaven.  In other words, you are on a “point system” and must work to produce “x” number in order to save yourself!  If that is our religious foundation, we have no business singing Matt’s song!

In discussing the righteousness of Jesus as compared to ours, an individual asked if his obedience didn’t amount to something in procuring his salvation.  Is “obedience” necessary?  Yes (2 John 1:9 NIV).  If one loves the Lord, he will willingly obey Him (John 14:15, 23; 15:10).  However, that is altogether different than saying, “My righteousness is worth __% in paying for my salvation.”  Actually, “our righteousness” is like a dirty rag, that if you touched it, you would want to immediately wash your hands (Isaiah 64:6)!

At the judgment, one will not remind Jesus about how well his works measured up to Jesus’ actions upon the cross and expectantly state, “You owe me something for what I’ve done!”  Those who do such have missed the Good News completely.  In fact, it could be another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).

If my trust in going to heaven is based upon how obedient I am, my failure to “do enough” will leave me frustrated, ridden with guilt, depressed, and with a fear that will consume me.  Why?  Because our obedience will never be sufficient to make a down payment on our sin debt.  However, I can with assurance say that Jesus is my Savior and I trust that He paid it all for me!

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You, Every hour I need You, My one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need you.”

Jesus paid it all!!  I am not capable of adding even 1%.  Jesus is not a 99% Savior.  He is my 100% Lord and Savior!  He is the one who saves, not me (Hebrews 5:1)!  I obey Him, not to make points, but because He made the points for me.  I can never repay Him.  My obedience does not supplement the full price he paid for me (1 Corinthians 6:20)!  Why do men demote what Jesus did in order to glorify what we think we’ve done?

What is your assurance built on?  You??

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IS IT IN THE GENES?

Monday, December 26, 2016

This family got up together.  The boy dressed and went to milk the cow.  The father cut and retrieved wood for the cook stove and started the fire.  The mother prepared breakfast for going-to-church-2everyone after she got the youngest child dressed.

The father fed the livestock.  The mother gathered the eggs and fed the chickens.  The boy strained the milk, separating the cream, and put the milk where it would stay cool.  Everyone finished breakfast, got the Bible, and finished getting ready to go to church.  The mule was harnessed and each member mounted it.  Snow was still on the ground, but the weather had warmed causing the yard and road to be soft and muddy.  They rode five miles to the church building in town, arriving fifteen minutes early.  The year was 1895.

The alarm goes off.  An arm manages to swings out from under the covers and hit the snooze button.  Fifteen minutes later, the scene repeats itself.  He and his wife finally drag out of bed.  He retrieves the Sunday paper and sits to read the funnies.  The wife yells at the two boys to get up, “IT’S SUNDAY”!  There is no response.  A second, third, and fourth warning is called out, each getting louder.  Grumbling is heard.  Arguments begin.  It signals that both are up!

Mom heats up some Pop-Tarts for breakfast.  Three times “Breakfast is ready” bounces off the walls before anyone appears.  There is bantering between the boys but breakfast is soon consumed.  Instructions again about it being Sunday and the boys are admonished to “quit messing around and get dressed.”  Dad is included in the instruction!  He shaves and combs his hair.  He and she get dressed.  A few more admonitions and the boys look half way decent.  It takes a few more warnings to get everyone in the family vehicle.  Off they go.  They live four block from the church building.  The speed limit is 40, but dad fudges 5 miles more.  This morning they hit all the green lights.  They arrive but parking near the entrance is taken.  Four part grumbling fills the car.  They are in the seventh row of parked cars and down about 300 feet.  All four doors open and the family exits, heading for the church entrance.  The wind is brisk and cold.  More grumbling. They are ten minutes late rather than the usual fifteen.  They congratulate themselves on being five minutes earlier!  The father is the great grandson of the youngest brother pictured on the mule.  The year is 2016.

The wife sees that picture every Sunday and wonders if their ride was on a mule rather than in a Ford Bronco, would they arrive at church fifteen minutes early?

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THE WORD WAS GOD!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

John’s good news begins with,

the-wordIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (KJV).

As one reads the chapter, he sees that Jesus is the Word that became flesh and dwelt among mankind in the first century.  Jesus was immersed by his cousin John and as he was coming out of the water, Matthew writes, “the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleasedMatthew 3:13-17.

In John’s gospel, Jesus tells the apostles, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. . . . But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”  John 16:7, 13.

Jesus is the Word.  Yet God speaks words from heaven at Jesus ’ baptism.  Jesus  the Word informs the apostles that the Holy Spirit will “speak” and “tell” them words.  But, He will speak only what He hears.

Are there three Words: (1) Jesus, (2) the Father, and (3) the Holy Spirit?  There is but one God.  There is but one Lord.  There is but one Spirit.  Yet, the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit, that God is Spirit, and also about the Spirit of Christ (Ephesians 4;4-6; John 4:23-24; Romans 8:9).  Are there three Spirits?  If there are three Lords and three Spirits, then there must be three gods!?  We say that Jesus is not the Father, the Father is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not Jesus.   Yet, the Father is the 1 God.  The Son is the 1 God.  The Holy Spirit is the 1 God.  Mathematically that would be 1 + 1 + 1 = 3!  Or, would it be 1 x 1 x 1 = 1?

Some solve this riddle by believing Jesus is the Father and the Holy Spirit.  In their thinking he is the only person of the Godhead.  1 person = 1 God!  Yet, God speaks from heaven about His beloved Son in Matthew 3:17.  Did Jesus throw his voice so bystanders would think it came from heaven rather than originating from himself?  Was the descending like dove also Jesus lighting on himself?  When Jesus said he did not come to do his will but the will of his Father, who sent him?  Did he send himself?  Was Mary actually the mother of God in the flesh?  Debate charts to explain this have been incomplete because they are finite.

How do you describe an infinite God in finite terms?  Although Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, he looked up and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).  God the Spirit filled Stephen.  Yet, Stephen saw God’s glory in heaven.  Jesus was to the right of God.  Yet Stephen addresses Jesus, who is to the right, rather than God who is on the left of Jesus!  One God in three different locations at the same time?

When Sapphira and husband lied about their giving, Peter informed them that they were lying to God the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11).  Peter refers to “the Holy Spirit” in v.3, saying He is “God” in v.4, and refers to him as “the Spirit of the Lord” in v.9.  Jesus refers to the Father as “God is Spirit” in John 4:23-24 while speaking to the Samaritan woman.  Is Father Spirit the Holy Spirit, or is He “Spirit” but not “Holy”?  Is God one but with multiple personalities?  What would we call someone who had multiple personalities?

When Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father in John 14:8, Jesus told him, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (v.9).  Was Jesus saying God looks like a human being, or was he talking about the attributes of God?  John tells us “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  One may see love expressed, but how do you visualize love with skin?   Isn’t Jesus love with skin?  Is God a gigantic man in heaven with skin who looks like Jesus?  It’s even more difficult when you attempt to visualize love without skin!  Human words are not capable of painting a complete picture of God.  If it was possible, we would worship the picture rather than God Himself.  You can see a picture.  No man has seen God.  To see Him would be to reduce Him to the limits of our vision.  History is filled with those who have carved their imaginations into stone, wood, or metal.

Every created image that man has worshiped has not and is not Yahweh.  Paul nailed it when he told the Athenians he was going to declare unto them “the unknown God” which they ignorantly worshiped (Acts 17:22-29).  Our God is greater than our imagination.  He is beyond our comprehension.   He is outside our insight.  Our dreams aren’t large enough to contain Him.  He is absent from our creative powers.   He is greater than our explanations. His revelation of Himself can only travel to the limits of our understanding.   He is God.  He is One.  We are His creation and He loves and wants to have fellowship with us (John 3:16)!  Rather than size God up, why not allow Him to make us into new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)?

John tells us, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  1 John 3:2

What a wonderful and marvelous experience that will be!

HEALING NEEDED!

Monday, January 16, 2017

sickIn John 5 Jesus sees a man struggling for 38 years to obtain miraculous healing.  It is hard to imagine the emotions that man experienced, knowing that his healing depended upon a speed he lost 13,870 days ago.  What was his constant pain level, a three or a ten?  Was sleep possible?  Was he a beggar or supported by family?  If a beggar, was he successful in receiving assistance from others?  What emotional struggles did he endure those 1,976 weeks?

A chronic ailment drives one toward hope or despair.  This man’s trust was in a pool of agitated water!  How many years had an angel been stirring it?  Was it 38 or more?  How often did the angel make these visits?  Translations leave us guessing.  Some say,  “certain season.” others “seasons,” or “at a certain time.”  Some leave the verse out.  Was “season” or “time” monthly or yearly?  Was it at a specific hour?  We may not know, but the desperate did.  These hopefuls were there with the expectation of winning the jackpot!  Being nearest to the water increased one’s opportunity.  That crowd would produce only one winner.  After each episode, did the lame man go home with resentment toward the winner, or did he offer his congratulations?  If you suffered his fate, which one would be your choice?

Imagine his surprise, when after 19,972,800 minutes attempting to be healed, a man walks up and says, “Do you want to be well?”!  He doesn’t see Jesus as a healer because he explains why he has failed to be number one for 38 years.  His explanation receives an impossible command from this stranger, “Get up! Pick up your small bed and walk!”  A modern retort would be, “Are you so blind or so stupid that you can’t see that I’m an invalid?”  He doesn’t have time to reply because “immediately” the unbelievable happens.  He is cured!  No more pain!  His legs are no longer useless.  His body feels entirely different.  He has strength!  He obeys without effort and joyfully picks up his bed.  WHOOPS!  He shouldn’t have done that!!  The religious police aren’t rejoicing.  They have no concern for his 38 years of suffering nor for his miraculous healing.  Their focus is different and demanding!  “It is the Sabbath day!  It is not right for you to carry your bed.”

Did Jesus break God’s law by telling this man to do something that was sinful?  No!  Jesus and the invalid had clashed with a religious tradition that was set in pseudo commandments of stone!  When one fails to follow tradition, it’s time for a crucifixion!  This man was fortunate that the authorities were more interested in the one who told him to carry his bed rather than him picking it up!  Caring one’s small pallet on the Sabbath could be a slippery slope leading to a complete disregard for God’s Law!  It must be stopped at all cost and they cherished the work of doing God’s will!  The zealots could use any means available to stop this law breaker!  Their arsenal contained innuendo, lies, false charges, and destruction of reputation.  The end always justified the means!  That office is still being filled today!

Traditions clothed in religious practice are walls that do not easily crumble.  We all have them in one degree or another.  Most began innocently to fill a perceived need.  However, time dresses them in heavenly garments.  They become as untouchable as Mount Sinai!  The differences between man made and God commanded is blurred.  We’re faced with it every week!  If we understand that an expedient is only a human judgment in carrying out a command, and not the command itself, we’re okay.  However, lost fellowship among churches evidences a failure in this comprehension!

Jesus is still asking, “Do you want to be well?

RETURNING TO THE GARDEN!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

eves-appleJust after Thanksgiving we start changing the decor around the house to one that foreshadowed December 25th.  In the middle of it is the tree.  Christmas is coming.  The tree is decorated with ornaments collected over 56 years of marriage.  Behind each ornament is a memory.  This makes them precious.  How can a cheap glass globe be precious?  Silly, isn’t it?  Yet, we cling to such due to the memories attached to them.

Precious things are broken, misplaced, lost, stolen, or forgotten.  It’s the world we live in.  Yet, we become attached to our things.  Some even take on a holy nature.  That happened to the brass serpent.  It started off with one purpose and morphed into another (2 Kings 18:4).  Human beings are experts in such.  Perfection is not our traveling companion!

In the beginning of the 17th century, a king decided the circulated versions weren’t adequate, so he authorized his.  Like anything new, it wasn’t well received and criticism followed its introduction.  Yet, it was the king’s project.  By the 19th century several publishing houses were printed it.  It had become “the” English population’s Bible.  By the early 20th century we had learned and accepted its shortcomings.  Acceptance led to preciousness!  Over 300 years of reading, teaching, and preaching elevated that position!

From the 17th through the early 20th century, readers knew the Bible was not to be added to nor subtracted from.  However, the King James committee had added words!  Some were italicized, others were “not.”  Most did not know the “not”!  Their reason for italicizing was accepted because in translation, words needed to be added to smooth out a sentence.  In certain places a word was added to make a statement “more” understandable.  Sometimes this helped, others it hindered.  It became a hindrance to truth when a supplied italicized word became a modern idol, leading to an erroneous belief.  The devil is capable of quoting scripture and misapplying it (Matthew 4:6).  He influences folks to follow his lead, sifting them as wheat (Luke 22:31).!

In the 13th century an Archbishop and a Cardinal decided that chapters and verses would be an aid to the reader.  Being a human endeavor, this help ended some chapters before God’s thought did.  Some verses were divided with the same results.  Despite these shortcomings, the “help” was incorporated into the King James Version.  In fact, the chapter and verse separations became so precious that teachers and preachers were expected to document everything with book, chapter, and verse.  This was not practiced prior to the work of the two clergymen.  Even inspired writers would write, “in a certain place” rather than specify where (Hebrews 2:6; 4:4).  Matthew and others would quote portions from the Old Testament, but not give the author (Matthew 1:22-23; 2:15).  Jesus himself did this (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; 9:12; 11:10; 12:7; 15:3).  This modern practice became so precious that the absence of such was frowned upon.  Few seemed to realize or care that this was a man made addition rather than one demanded by God.  This preciousness made an exception into an unwritten law that developed into a “Bible” practice!  An innocent beginning that followed a precarious path.  Giving book, chapter, and verse isn’t wrong unless it is bound, simply because it has been backed by a few hundred years and defended with, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  Human creeds are not God’s word!

Even little things that are precious can turn into man’s folly but be accepted as “a thus saith the Lord”!  It all started in the Garden.  If man remembers the origin of precision things and keeps the human separated from the divine, there is no problem.  If not, then there is a return to the Garden no matter how innocent it may seem (Genesis 3:1-6).

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”  (2 Corinthians 13:5 NIV).

THE COMFORT OR CURSE OF CONTROL!

Monday, January 9, 2017

out-of-control“Being in control” is a strong motivating force.  It may be good or bad.  That is the choice of the one who is in control!  When this “condition” is found in religious circles it can benefit or break fellowship.

Eve took control (Genesis 3:6).  Cain did (Genesis 4:8).  The high priest thought Jesus was eroding his control over the people (John 18:12-14).  James and John wanted the highest place of honor in Jesus kingdom.  Their mother worked to gain it for them (Matthew 20:20-21).  The apostles argued about it (Mark 9:33-34).  Jesus’ follow up lesson didn’t stop it (Mark 9:35-37).  It continued years after His ascension (3 John 1:9 NIV).  It is still with us!

It happens among preachers (Galatians 1:6-9).  It happens among elders (Acts 20:28-31).  The saved are afflicted with it (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).  The sad thing is that those who seek control for ulterior motives hurt rather than help.  Their goal is to be saviors but their strategy leads to  assemblies “of Cephas” or “of Paul” (1 Corinthians 2:10-13).  Inspiration doesn’t support same named assemblies with opposing hearts!

Some control is driven by pride.  The wrong standard motivates others, such as “This is the way we’ve always done it,” “This is what I was always taught,” “This is what I am comfortable with,” or “This is how I feel.”  Most of these can be reduced to the “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” mentality.  Fellowship is lost when the slogan becomes, “My way or the highway.”  Like the saved in Corinth, each ride on the back of bad goals!

The “sons of thunder” were not confined to the first century!  The spirit of Diotrephes is alive and well.  Obstinate personalities draw crowds.  Some mistake gullibility for perfection and convince others to follow.   Some turn from God’s grace to pride in their own righteousness  (Titus 3:5).  For some, the “Good News” is what they have done not what He did.  Some belittle others to prove how big they are.  Each of these is “control” in action, but the wrong kind!

Jesus taught the kind of control that leads to serving others (Luke 22:26).  It motivates us to forgive as He did (Matthew 6:12).  It motivates love when none is received (Romans 5:6, 8).  It leaves judgment and revenge in God’s hands (Romans 12:17, 19).  It blesses rather than berates (Romans 12:10, 17).  It encourages and boosts hope (Romans 12:21; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV).  It builds confidence rather than inducing fear (Hebrews 2:14-15).  It is the kind of control that God respects and all should be drawn to.

What is your kind?

“MY CHURCH”!

Monday, January 2, 2017

my-churchJesus told his apostles, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).  We often ask others, “Whose church is it?”  The normal answer is “It is Jesus’ church.”  Prior to his birth, an angel told Joseph that Mary’s son would be called “Jesus” (Matthew 1:21).  When he was born, they “called his name Jesus” (v.25).

In Acts, Peter stated, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved(Acts 4:12 KJV).

Paul stated, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow(Philippians 2:9-10 KJV).

We sometimes sing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know . . .” (He Keeps Me Singing, by Luther B. Bridgers, 1910).  In Matthew 1:16 we are introduced to, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”   Jesus is his name, Christ is his title.  “Christ” (χριστος) is not translated, just spelled out with English letters.  It’s called transliteration.  If the Bible committees had translated it, we would have the word “anointed.”  You would read, “Jesus, who is called Anointed” (Matthew 1:16), or “churches of the Anointed” (Romans 16:16).  The word “Christ” is from the Hebrew word “messiah” which means “anointed.”  The King James and other versions usually translated the Hebrew word mashiah (Messiah) as “anointed” in the Old Testament if it did not refer to Jesus, but as “Messiah” if it did.  Seldom is the word “Christ” ever translated in the New Testament.  Although it may not have been their purpose, this failure has created some false concepts.

Although Jesus said, “I will build my church” the expression “my church” is never employed as a descriptive name on street signs or lettered on church buildings.  What is even more unusual, the name “Jesus” is never utilized as a name to describe HIS – “my church” among a number of religious bodies!  When is the last time you saw a street sign or lettering on a church building with the words, “The church of Jesus”?  Going back through the Freed-Hardeman Lectures, several speakers used the expression “church of Jesus Christ” beginning in 1970 with Garland Elkins, then in the following years by Jon Gary Williams, W.D. Jeffcoat, G.E. Woods, Robert R. Taylor, Jr., Perry B. Cotham, G.K. Wallace, Cleon Lyles, J. Wayne Kilpatrick, Winford Claiborne, Robert D. Rawson, Mark Hawk, Everett Donaldson, Ralph Gilmore, John W. Dale, Richard N. Taylor, Sr., Loy Mitchell, Warren Baldwin, and Richard English, Sr.  Only two speakers, William Woodson in 1990 and Dan Winkler in 1995 used the expression “church of Jesus” without the title “Christ” being included.  In spite of these speeches and their use of the expression “church of Jesus,” not one single inspired writer followed their example!

The church is referred to as “the body of Christ,” but never as “the body of Jesus” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  It is referred to as “the church of God” or “the churches of God” but never as “the church of Jesus.”  Once it is referred to in the plural as “the churches of Christ” but never as “the churches of Jesus.”  It almost seems that “Jesus” has been eliminated by inspiration as a descriptive term for the church?  I know of none in my faith that would letter or erect a street sign with the expression “The church of Jesus” even though lecturing brethren have used it in their speeches.  It is almost as if “Jesus” has been vetoed by the silence of the scriptures as unauthorized or taboo as a “scriptural” designation for Jesus’ –  “my church.”

Actually, there is no proper name designated by God for street signs or lettering upon  places of worship.  God seems to have put believers on the horns of a dilemma to see if we would denominate ourselves with a specific one!  Over a thousand different churches do.  The question is often asked, “How would we identify ourselves to let people know where we meet if our street signs contained nothing but the biblical expression, “the church” (Acts 4:23; 5:11; 8:1, 3, 14; 11:22, 26; 12:5; 13:1; 14:27; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17, 28; etc.)?  What did the first century congregations letter on their street signs or buildings to identify their meeting places?  What if they didn’t use the expression “the church” either?  What if they didn’t own a building?

REJOICE, OUR KING WAS BORN!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

baby-jesusSome think that since no one knows the exact date when Jesus was born, because it is not given in scripture, that it would be a sin to recognize his birth on any day of the year.  True, a specific date isn’t mentioned.  Most believe it is December 25th but that was set by man, not God.  Yet Jesus did not miraculously appear as a thirty year old, mighty warrior riding on a magnificent steed.  He appeared as a helpless infant crying for his mother’s milk and like most babies, happy after a diaper change.  Some thought he could not be the expected Messiah because he was a carpenter’s son, not a might man of valor.

Is it blasphemy to pick out a day and celebrate Jesus’ birth?  Some hold that belief.  The shepherds were the first to celebrate his birth (Luke 2:8-19).  The magi or “wise men” traveled a great distance to deliver some very expensive gifts to a newborn baby a short time later  (Matthew 2:11).  Weren’t they aware that such an observance was forbidden?

If it is sinful to observed Jesus’ birthday on one specific day, wouldn’t it be more sinful to observe his birth on any of the 365 days of the year since the Bible is also silent on that detail?  Are we commanded to celebrate his adult life but  ignore his birth because the Bible is silent on the date?  Does the Bible tell us his specific age when he died?

Is the Bible void of all celebration at Jesus birth?  The shepherds celebrated it.  The wise men did.  Mary and Joseph did.  The angels did.  Simeon did (Luke 2:25-35).  Anna did (Luke 2:36-38).  But, God must not have, or so it seems from some of the objections being made?  Didn’t Yahweh send Him (John 3:17)?  Yahweh made arrangements for His birth (Matthew 1:18).  It happened.  Without that birth, we would still be looking for the Messiah.  We would not know or use the expression “New Testament” or “second covenant.”  There would be no such thing as “the church.”  Christianity would still be a future event.  To be believers of Yahweh, we would need to become proselytes to Judaism or have an encounter of some kind with Him.  We would still be offering animal sacrifices.  We would still be in that questionable state that Paul cried over (Romans 7:24).

Although there are people in the world who refuse to recognize Jesus’ birth or His mission, such as atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and some religious organizations, there are believers the world over who gladly celebrate it.  Whether it is December 25th or not, let us rejoice in the fact that the Anointed one of God was born.  Without that glorious birth, there would be no abundant life nor the other spiritual blessings found in the fellowship of Jesus (Romans 8:1; 14:5-6a).

A TEEN’S GIFT!

Monday, December 19, 2016

our-giftShe was a young girl, not yet out of her teenage years.  She had something she needed to tell her parents, but wasn’t sure how.  She had recently received information that would trouble anyone her age.  It would certainly disturb the parents, grandparents, and the extended family.  Neighbors would whisper.  Insults would be hurled.  Eyes would mock and accuse.  Friends would shun, strangers would disapprove, and tongues would wag.

Who would believe her?  Her family would lose their honor.  Her explanation would be laughed at, ridiculed, and lied about.  She had been promised to an older man in marriage.  What would he think?  What would he do?  Right now no one would know, but time would produce questions, rumor mills would explode, accusations would live, and daily activities would become oppressive.  She was pregnant (Matthew 1:18, 20b; Luke 2:10-18)!

In her culture, since she was promised, it was closer to being married than in our society.  Even if her future husband accepted her and the baby, it would not be his.  A stain would remain on her, her husband, and the child developing inside her.  What if her parents denounced her?  What if this man who was to become her husband did?  Would society deal with her according to the law?  Even if she wasn’t punished, what lies would follow her and her son?  How would they be treated by other women at the market?  How would other children treat her son?  Who would actually believe the real story?  Who would tie her pregnancy to a prophesy made over seven hundred years ago (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)?

Her future husband should have put her away privately.  He didn’t.  She and her family should have been dishonored.  They weren’t.  Worse case scenario, she could have been punished by stoning.  It never happened.  Those who hated her son did circulate lies about his birth and who the father may have been.  They did the same concerning the empty tomb (Matthew 28:11-15).  Grave robbers would be more believable than a resurrection!

Mary may have had concerns, but we still admire her faith (Luke 1:29).  There are times when she may have “wondered” but she kept all those events in her heart (Luke 2:19, 33, 51).  Roman soldiers, a hostile crowd, hate filled pious leaders, and frightened disciples could not keep her away from the place of the skull.  She was there.  She watched as He fulfilled prophesy.  She watched as His blood was shed.  She watched as He became her sin sacrifice as well as ours!

Aren’t you extremely happy and grateful that He was born?  Aren’t you thankful for her steadfastness in spite of all that could have happened to her, but didn’t?  The angels sang.  Shepherds left their flocks.  Magi traveled and contributed.  Joseph completed the marriage.  Jesus was born.  You and I benefited!

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