Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Are You Neglecting the Gift of Salvation?

1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. ~ Hebrews 2:1-4 (English Standard Version)

Hebrews is a curious yet sophisticated canon of the Bible. The author of Hebrews, still being debated, although it is titled “The Letter to the Hebrews”, it is not really an epistle of letter and was certainly not written to the Hebrew-speaking Jews because it was written in Greek. Some say because of its form and subject matter that is may be an extended sermon. What we can agree this message delivered to a people that had drifted away from their faith and this is a warning of the dangers it will bring.

These first four verses begins a series of five cautions that implore and encourage us to pay attention to God’s Word that includes correct and godly teaching. These five cautions start with our need to hear God’s Word, the following verses through the end of chapter two included our need to see God, trust God, believe God and obey God, then repeated 3:7-4:13. These five disciplines are the basics for Godly discipleship and growth in Christ. These basic disciplines also fortified with strong warnings, when we do not fear and trust in God we disable our call and bring disorder to ourselves and to those around us.

The people this message was first delivered to a mislead church that thought angels were preeminent beings and their messages were binding and faultless beyond that of the Prophets and even that of Jesus. These beliefs were not from the Torah or Writings but a heresy infecting Jewish and Christians alike. This is important; we cannot confuse the role of Christ with that of the angels who are an inferior part of the creation. We today face the same challenges of the people of the early church and must not compromise Christ’s status as the Son of God, a part of the Trinity. We cannot change God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to appease others; if we do, we are no longer worshiping the One True God!

The teaching of Hebrews makes clear that Jesus Christ if the All in All, Christ Word is infallible and binding, more than the angels of any other thing in existence. Using a Jewish writing technique of lesser to greater (“qal vahomer” or “easy and hard”) using the images if Sinai to strengthen his point to those whose faith and knowledge of Christ was drifting away. This message also confirmed by the first eyewitnesses, primarily the apostles who had given their word that the message true and authenticated by the signs and wonders of prophecy. (See Hebrews 3:12-14; 4:1; 11:5; 11:11-12; 6:11-12; 10:22-25; 12:1-13; 12:25-29) The important message is that we must trust in Christ and Christ alone! Not His creation or messengers for they are fallible, in doing this Christ will send us angels to serve us when we need them, most of the time we won't even be aware. (Deuteronomy 32:43; Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:7; Psalm 97:7)

32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, "'You are my Son, today I have begotten you.' 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, "'I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.' ~ (Acts 13:32-34 ESV)

We must safeguard our faith with trust in Christ and not neglect the gift He has given us! the gift of salvation and everlasting life with Him Who Loves Us! Amen. <><

Friday, December 12, 2014

Obedience Through Faith Through Obedience

18 The birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. His mother Mary had been promised to Joseph in marriage. But before they were married, Mary realized that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph was an honorable man and did not want to disgrace her publicly. So he decided to break the marriage agreement with her secretly. 20 Joseph had this in mind when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said to him, "Joseph, descendant of David, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus [He Saves], because he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this happened so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet came true: 23 "The virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel," which means "God is with us." 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him to do. He took Mary to be his wife. 25 He did not have marital relations with her before she gave birth to a son. Joseph named the child Jesus. ~ Matthew 1:18-25 (God’s Word Translation)

What an entrance! Imagine yourself a witness to these events. You are there when Joseph ask to marry Mary; you attend as Joseph and Mary give their formal consent to marry one another. You are joyful as Mary and Joseph exchange their vows and become legally betrothed. Now the customary second stage of betrothal begins and the year long process. We now enter into the story in Matthew 1:1, Mary is still living with her parents, still a virgin, waiting upon the day that Joseph and his friends would come and take her to live with him.

However before they are able to consummate their marriage the Spirit takes action, Mary found with child. The Spirit took action while Mary was still living with her parents so that there would be no doubt that this child miraculously conceived apart from the means of a human father. Matthew simply puts it, “before they were married, Mary realized that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.” (Verse 18) When we read Luke 1:30-35 we see that an angel of the Lord visited Mary and told her of this child. Joseph however had no pre-warning. Being an honorable man and not wanting to disgrace Mary and her family in public, he was going to quietly call of the wedding. We read that an angle of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and told him that Mary was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit and that the son she would have would save the people from their sins. Can you imagine this, a son conceived by the Holy Spirit, the power of God, a son that would save the people from sin?

This was going to happen to fulfill prophecy, “The virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” What courage! What faith! Joseph did what the angle of the Lord commanded him to do. He took Mary to be his wile. He did not have marital relations with her until after she gave birth and they named the child Jesus. Fulfilling the prophesy and given life to the Savior who would save people from their sin.

Look a little more deeply into this story, specifically at Joseph. This is Joseph’s first marriage, a beautiful young maiden has caught his eye. A virgin from a respectable family, a woman that could be his wife, bear him children and continue his bloodline, a noble bloodline from the line of King David. Then to discover that she is pregnant before they have the opportunity to consummate their marriage. An angle of the Lord comes to him in a dream and tells him this is all okay, that this is supposed to happen, that she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. That sure does seem to be a lot to take in. The question I have often asked is do I have the faith to be obedient in a situation like this. Would I have the faith to believe an angle of the Lord that came to me in a dream? Would I have the faith to take a back seat to my life and allow God’s plan to take control?

We can see that Joseph is not a main character in this story. In fact Joseph is not mentioned much in scripture at all. He is there at the beginning, when they are married; he is there at the birth in Bethlehem. We see him present when an angle of the Lord appeared to him to warn him of the danger they were facing in Matthew 2:13-15, once again fulfilling prophesy. Then in Matthew 2:19-23 once again fulfilling prophesy. The next time we see Joseph, Jesus is 12, they are in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. The feast is over and it is time to go home the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem unaware to his parents that He was not with them for a full day of travel. After realizing that Jesus was not with them the returned as fast as they could back to Jerusalem and found him in the temple courts, sitting with the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When Joseph and Mary saw him, they too were astonished. Mary said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been worried and searching for you.' 'Why were you searching for me?' Jesus asked. 'Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?' Not understanding what he was saying to them, they took Jesus went down to Nazareth where he was obedient to them.

That is the last time we see Joseph. There is speculation that he died during this time in Jerusalem and when Jesus began his public ministry, no is one certain. We do know that Joseph taught Jesus his trade of carpentry and the Joseph and Mary had other children: James, Joses, Simon, and others. The point being that Joseph was an important part in the birth of Jesus, he was there to protect Mary, Jesus mother. He was there to protect Jesus from Herod and fell to Egypt. He was there to raise Jesus and other children and to teach Jesus a trade. However Joseph was not a rich man, he had no kingdom, no throne. He was a humble carpenter from Nazareth, but he was faithful and obedient. Are you able to be obedient in faith and have the faith to be obedient? Amen. <><

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Bright And Shinning Star! Are You Ready To Follow?

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. ~ (Matthew 2:1-12 KJV)

Over the course of many years, there have been numerous attempts to explain the Star of the Magi, (or Star of David, or Christmas Star) through science, let us look at three of the  most common ideas.

First, some scholars think this “star” may have been a comet, an object customarily associated with important events in history, likes the birth of kings. If we look at the records of comet sightings there are none that match with the birth of Jesus. One example being Halley's Comet which was present in 11 B.C., however the first Christmas was observed around 5 to 7 B.C.

Second, there are those who believe that the Star of Bethlehem was a conjunction, or combination of several planets in the night sky. Since planets orbit the sun at different speeds and distances, they occasionally seem to come close together and appear as one bright star. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer preferred this view. Multiple planets aligning in the night sky do not take on the look of a single light source, as depicted in Holy Scripture. Plus the alignment of planets happen quite frequent and are not that unusual, therefore practiced astronomers and astrologers would not be surprised by them. Looking at history, we find that there was a convergence of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in 6 B.C., and an even closer conjunction in 66 B.C., however these were too early to mark the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Lastly, there are those who have proposed that an exploding star, or supernova, to explain the Christmas Star. There have been stars that have become unstable and explode in this manner causing a bright shining light in the sky. If we take a close look at historical records, there is no indication of a supernova or exploding star at the time of the Christ's birth.

We can see that all three of these explanations for the Star of David fall short of the account of the nativity story in Matthew which was predicted in Numbers 24:17.

Two of the details in Matthew draw special interest; first, the scripture suggest that only the Wise Men saw the star. If it were a comet, conjunction, or an exploding star would it not be visible to everyone on earth? Second, the star went before them and led them directly from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, (Verse 9). Looking at a map of that time, we can see that this is a distance of about six miles (about 9.6 kilometers), going in a north to south direction, every natural object in the sky moves from east to west due to the earth's rotation. Also how can a natural light lead the way to a specific house?

Researching and learning all this we must conclude that the Star of Bethlehem was not a naturally occurring incident that we can explain by science. This “start” was a brief and divine light. After all, was not the first Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior a time of miracles?

Many times, God has used supernatural heavenly lights to lead his people, for example the glory of the LORD that filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38) then there was the “cloud” that filled the temple (1 Kings 8:10) and we can not forget “a light from heaven” that shone upon apostle Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3). All these seeable displays of God's presence known as the Shekinah Glory, the settling or dwelling place of the Divine Presence of God. This divine light seen by the Magi is a visible embodiment of divine majesty.

This inspiring mystery of the birth of Christ Jesus, Immanuel, is not about what caused this special guiding light. The great riddle is why the Wise Men were chosen to follow the light to baby Jesus and why we are offered the same beckoning today. Are you ready to follow?

Father we thank you for the willingness of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to come and be a part of Your creation. We thank You for Your divine signs of Your presence in our live and You desire to offer us a way to You, a way for the salvation of our lives. Lord we thank You for the Magi who saw Your light in the sky and followed it to Your Son offering Him the gifts that were used to save His life from Herod. We thank You Father for this account in Matthew as a sign for us that You are ever present in our lives, that all we have to do is believe in You Lord and to live as You lived. Most importantly Father we that You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! It is in His name that we pray. Amen. <><

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Word Became Flesh! Are You Ready?

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. ~ (John 1:1-18 ESV)

Christmas comes from the Old English words “Cristes moesse” meaning ‘the mass of festival of Christ’ first celebrated in Rome about the middle of the fourth century. Although there is much debate on the exact date of Christ’s birth most will agree it was in September and not December. I am not sure if the time we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior is as important as taking time each year to remember the significance of the sacrifice Christ made from the time He left His Fathers throne through His death resurrection and ascension. There are accounts of Christ’s birth in each of the four Gospels however; I would like to look at the introduction to the Gospel of John here in chapter 1 verses 1-18.

We can see that the Gospel of John is different from the other three Gospels. Of the four Gospels, the Book of John is the only one that claims to be an eyewitness account, the testimony of the unnamed disciple “whom Jesus loved,” this is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. (See John 21:24)

John 1:1-18, this is an exciting introduction to the story of the Revelation of the Glory of God! We can clearly see that we are at the onset of a story that is going to uncover to us the most hermetic mysteries the world has ever witnessed. Simply this is the story about God, the splendidness of His righteousness, the attributes of His life and His passion to experience that life with His creation. This is the account of God coming to be among us, the created and the confused reactions God received to His offer to the creation of a heavenly life.

John provides no smooth transition into these miraculous subjects; the writer just jumps right into the essence of the revelation by giving in the opening an outline of the subject matters that are going to be worked out in the commentary of the story. This beginning helps us understand the significance of what is going to take place in the story and familiarize us with what to look for.

The first five verses give for us a reference, the main ingredients for the story that is coming. John gives us the perfect vantage point starting with eternity then going to the creation with the incarnation and conflict following as the main building blocks. John’s opening mirrors Genesis differing where Genesis refers to the Creation as the beginning here John teaches us of a being that existed before the Creation. “In the beginning was the Word,” (John 1:1) therefore we are actually starting before the beginning, outside time and space where eternity exist. In order to understand who Jesus is John tells us that we have to start with the relationship between “The” Father and “The” Son, “before the world began.” (See John 17:5, 24) This relationship between God the Father and God the Son is the key revelation of John’s Gospel this is paramount to understanding all the Christ says and does. The very first verse so expertly written to help us understand the personal distinctness yet the essential oneness of the Word with God. “the Word was with God,” (Verse 1) showing the distinction between the Word and God. Here the word “with” (pros) in a context like this is used to indicate personal relationship, not just proximity (Mark 6:3 for reference) “and the Word was God.” (Verse 1), that is, there is an identity of being between them. Although these two truths appear impossible to connect reasonably, they both must be held in indisputably resoluteness.

Lets stop for a second and ponder what we have just learned. Before creation, before time as we know it, was The Word, and this Word was with God and was God. Let that soak in for a moment.

Ok now really let this enter into your mind, “all things were made through him.” (Verse 3) This Word made all things, the things we know about the things we do not know about, the things we see, and the things we cannot see. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (Verse 4) The Word is the source of life itself that is the light for all men. This man name John, sent by God Himself as a witness about the light so that all might believe through him. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the word. (Verse 9) The Word, with God and is God, coming into the world! He who created the world became a part of His creation. The Being that is greater than all things, bigger and more powerful that man could imagine, steps out of His glory and becomes a part of His creation. Just the thought of this act alone makes me weep with joy, to know that the Creator loves me enough to become lowly like me in order to save me. To allow His self to become an innocent, helpless, totally dependent upon Mary and Joseph in order to offer me salvation. Can there be any greater act of love?

Jesus Christ was born, what day exactly I do not know. Does it really matter? The fact that He was born as flesh and blood says it all. As we read on my weeping changes from joy to sorrow as we see that Christ gave up so much to offer salvation and was rejected by His own people. The sorrow does not last long because Christ offers His salvation to all people who believe in His Name, He gives us the right to become His children. Not born of flesh nor blood nor by our will but by God and God alone! (Verse 12) We have seen the glory of God in the Son, His teaching, miracles, His life and death, in His resurrection and teachings after death and in His ascension. Now read verse 16: “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Verse 18: No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

If you believe December 25th is the day of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ or not should we not take the time to celebrate a time when the King of Kings cast off His heavenly crown to become a part of His creation, walk among us and offer us His forgiveness and salvation. To offer a time of thanksgiving to the Lord of Lords and set aside time to prepare our hearts for another year of life and ready ourselves for His service and good will. Amen. <><