December 19, 2007

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord

“For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,” Luke 2:30, NKJV.
Scripture tells us that a man named Simeon was a just and devout man among the Jews. He was known to be a man who was approved by God as a righteous man, one who was of a good reputation, well received, or of high standing among the people.


God had made a promise to this just and devout man that there would be a time in his life when he would see the Messiah and then would be able to die in peace (v. 26, 29).


What joy that must have been for him to hold the Lord Jesus Christ that day! How awesome it must have been to know that the baby he was holding in his arms, was also the One through Whom all things were made and there was nothing made in the world that was made without Him (John 1:2).


This was the Child whom an angel had announced to shepherds that in the city of David a Savior, Christ the Lord was born (Luke 2:11).


This was the Child whom three wise men traveled a great distance to see, following the star to Bethlehem and when the arrived, they fell down and worshipped Him, presenting gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).


Whenever we see a Nativity scene somewhere in a neighborhood, we should live with a conscious recognition that this Child, is the Light of the World where people should not walk in darkness but have the light of life (John 8:12).
This was no ordinary child, but God himself who came to dwell among us (John 1:14).


It's a Girl!!!
There is a couple whom I know that just had a baby girl over the summer and her name is Hope. She is such a beautiful little girl too. My friends and been trying to become pregnant so that their first daughter, Grace, might have either a baby brother or sister to enjoy her life with.


When I saw this little baby girl just about a week after she was born, I was ecstatic with joy to see her. I was probably as excited about her birth as her parents were and had such a pleasure to hold in my arms. This tiny little baby that was recently curled up in her mother’s womb who had now brought such a joy to her parents and sister, who will certainly bring as much joy to the lives of many people who would watch her grow up and become part of her life.


I am sure that many of you can relate to holding a baby for the very first time, whether it is your own child or someone else’s. Do you remember the joy someone had of holding your son or daughter for the first time? Do you remember how beautiful they looked in their arms, so innocent, so precious?


I can only imagine those same feelings and more when Simeon held God’s salvation for the first time. The joy he must have had to know that he would die in peace with God’s promise fulfilled to him.


Prophecies of the Messiah
There is so much in the Bible regarding the prophecy of the coming of God’s Messiah and in just a few days, the world will celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.


Prophecies of the Messiah are found in nearly three hundred references throughout the Old Testament and each of these were fulfilled by just one person, Jesus Christ, as solid confirmation and credibility as the Messiah.


Let’s take a look at just three prophecies and find them in the New Testament.

Prophecy #1 – Son of God
“I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’” Psalm 2:7 (see also 1 Chronicles 17:11-14; 2 Samuel 7:12-16.)



New Testament Fulfillment 
“And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:17.


Prophecy #2 – Born at Bethlehem
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings for the are from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2.


New Testament Fulfillment
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king,…” Matthew 2:1 (see also Matthew 2:4; Luke 2:4-7; John 7:42.)


Prophecy #3 – Shall Be Immanuel (God with Us)
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14.


New Testament Fulfillment
“So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23.


Three Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament, where there are still 297 others that establish a compelling truth, to the life of Jesus Christ.


I found this to be an interesting set of figures concerning the overall probability of the odds of the Messianic prophecy occurring without God and these numbers are incredible.


Messianic Prophecy Chances Without God's Orchestration
  1. Jesus would be a descendant of David. Odds without God: 1 in 10,000
  2. Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Odds without God: 1 in 100,000
  3. Jesus would be a miracle worker. Odds without God: 1 in 100,000
  4. Jesus would present Himself as King riding on a donkey. Odds without God: 1 in 1,000,000
  5. Jesus would be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver. Odds without God: 1 in 1,000,000
  6. Jesus would be crucified. Odds without God: 1 in 1,000,000
  7. Jesus would first present Himself as King 173,880 days from the decree of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem. Odds without God: 1 in 1,000,000
Total Probability (without God): 1 in a 100 billion, billion, billion, billion. 
(Retrieved from http://www.messianic-prophecy.net/Messianic-Prophecy.htm)

"in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior;" Titus 1:2-3.
So, Jesus Christ fulfilled all the prophecies in the Old Testament as they are revealed in the New Testament. Those yet to be fulfilled relate to His return and the coming judgment of the world.


The probability of God not orchestrating the prophecies of Christ, his birth, his life, his death and his resurrection are astronomical compared the fulfillment of the Scriptures.


With that, the burden of belief lies upon each person, to choose to believe the compelling and concrete evidence, or to deny it and risk being eternally wrong without a second chance to make an appeal of forgiveness.

For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? Hebrews 2:2-4.


References
McDowell, J. (1999). Support of Deity: Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In The new evidence that demands a verdict (chapter 8). Nashville. Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Who is Jesus?

December 11, 2007

Right Where He Belongs

There is a small church near where I live that frequently display various messages that are easy to read while driving by. I am grateful that this signage is simple and direct. A message we should all reflect on personally, to see if Christ is truly in our Christmas.


There continues to be an aggressive push to remove Christ from Christmas and replace it with a broad and general greeting for the season, which severely takes away from the meaning of Christmas.

I know of a friend of mine, whose mother will always say, "Merry Christmas" to people as they leave the store where she works. She will not be politically correct with people for the sake of offending someone. I am the same way too and I have yet to hear someone be offended, in fact, they are quite happy to hear someone say "Merry Christmas" to them.

Just as a person can choose to be as general as they want in acknowledging to others, "Happy Holidays," so too can a person be as specific to everyone by saying, "Merry Christmas!"

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ.

As a Christian, I feel it is important to acknowledge those whom I know who are Jewish, wishing them a Happy Hanukkah at this time of the year. Why should I take away from their celebration of any Jewish holiday, just to be politically correct? It is as important to them as any celebrated Christian holiday is to me.

So, where is Christ in your Christmas this year?


"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." Romans 1:16, NKJV.

Reference

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Additional reading

Losing Christ at Christmas - Greg Laurie, WorldNet Daily

December 5, 2007

Rightly Dividing the Word

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV.

Have you ever received an email from someone that said, "if you send this to 15 or more people in the next 15 minutes, you will receive a miracle/blessing from God!"

I received one a few days ago and it came from a Christian friend of mine, whom I was surprised that more care was not taken to really understand if what was sent to him, lined up with the Word of God. I know his intentions were good, but biblically the content of the email was way off.

The email suggested speaking positive confessions of blessings for every person whom would receive the email, where God would bless their emotional or physical health, finances, relationships, children, jobs, homes and/or marriages.

There is power in prayer, no doubt. I am a firm believer in prayer. But there is no power of God to bless anyone, in such an email that has been forwarded and then forwarded again and again and again.

God is the only one who could say something and it come into existence (Genesis 1). We do not have such power to do the same thing. We must also look closely at Scripture to make sure it is not being used out of context too when it comes to its application in and for our lives.


In the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, was Jesus really teaching the disciples that they could speak to a mountain and have it thrown into the sea? (Matthew 21:21). No, He was teaching them how to exercise their faith, not how to have a supernatural vocabulary.

If that were true then we would all be like the cartoon Superheroes with amazing super-powers that could be used to fight the enemies of truth, justice and the American Way!!!


Did God say we should be like the Superheroes or like Jesus Christ?


Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23.


No amount of positive confession moves God to bless our lives. Only our obedience to His word does because, "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Diligently seeking God is what pleases Him, not forwarding emails about being blessed by God if that email is sent to everyone on the internet.

Just because Jesus taught whatever a person asks for in prayer does not mean that it will be automatically given to them (Matthew 21:22, check out the commentary on this passage too (Matthew 21:18-22), when you can). He was speaking about something totally different. We need to dig into the Scriptures to understand the spirit of it and not just look at the letters on the page.

In addition to that, Scripture interprets itself and does so referring to Matthew 21:22 when you read 1 John 5:14-15, which says, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." The key words are according to His will.

So, if I ask for anything in prayer that is according to His will, I should believe that God has heard and answered my prayer, according to His will.

We must ask God in prayer what is according to His will, not by positive confession to be blessed, nor by forwarding emails.

Please don't misunderstand Proverbs 18:21 either, which is often misunderstood. I misunderstood it too at one point. Just because the verse says "death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit," this is not a justification to speak positive confessions of blessings.

That would be like a person confessing Christ as their Lord and Savior but showing no evidence of a conversion of becoming born-again. Confess Christ all you want, but if a person hasn't repented of their sins, become born-again, converted their life to Christ and away from sin, they won't see or enter heaven (Luke 13:2-5, John 3:3-7, Matthew 18:3).


Some might even refer to Matthew 7:7-8 for argument, where Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."


Can a person just ask for anything from God and He will give it to us? No.


Matthew Henry's commentary on this passage (Matthew 7:7-11) is very insightful for our understanding, which says,


Prayer is the appointed means for obtaining what we need. Pray; pray often; make a business of prayer, and be serious and earnest in it. Ask, as a beggar asks alms. Ask, as a traveller asks the way. Seek, as for a thing of value that we have lost; or as the merchantman that seeks goodly pearls. Knock, as he that desires to enter into the house knocks at the door. Sin has shut and barred the door against us; by prayer we knock. Whatever you pray for, according to the promise, shall be given you, if God see it fit for you, and what would you have more? This is made to apply to all that pray aright; every one that asketh receiveth, whether Jew or Gentile, young or old, rich or poor, high or low, master or servant, learned or unlearned, all are alike welcome to the throne of grace, if they come in faith. It is explained by a comparison taken from earthly parents, and their readiness to give their children what they ask. Parents are often foolishly fond, but God is all-wise; he knows what we need, what we desire, and what is fit for us. Let us never suppose our heavenly Father would bid us pray, and then refuse to hear, or give us what would be hurtful.

John Gill's exposition of the same passage provides further understanding of the text, "ask and it shall be given you,"


This is to be understood of asking of God in prayer, for such things as are wanting; whether of a temporal nature, as food and raiment, which Christ, in the former chapter, had warned against an immoderate and anxious concern for; or of a spiritual nature, as grace, and wisdom to behave in a proper manner, both towards God and men: and such, who ask according to the will of God, in the name of Christ, and under the direction, guidance, and influence of the Spirit, who ask in faith and fear, and with submission to the divine will, shall have what they ask for; not as what they deserve, but as a free gift.

If you look up the definition of the word blessed it means holy; sacred; consecrated.


Why should God bless a person's emotional or physical health, finances, relationships, children, jobs, homes, marriages if it is not holy, sacred or consecrated to Him from the beginning?


We should be praying for people to repent from their sins and to become born-again, to be saved from eternal punishment in hell. We should also pray for people to be more obedient to God, to be led by His Holy Spirit, to serve more, among many other things too, which demonstrate their lives as being holy, sacred and consecrated to God.

I remember a girl who went missing last year from a church in Connecticut and a bunch of people from the church organized a search party to go and find her.


No amount of positive confession of blessings over that family's household would have prevented that girl from running away, nor did it bring her back. How much do you think her parents and others, were praying for her safe return and not just walking around the house speaking, "she's going to come home today, she's going to come home today," because any number of things could have occurred negatively to crush those positive confessions. That family endured a trial and needed to rely on their faith in God to bring their daughter home.

If all a person does is speak positive confession of blessings, how can they profit from a trial God has allowed in their life (read James 1:2-4)?


Let's look at the power of the words that Jesus spoke when He was betrayed by Judas who led the Roman guards to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground." (John 18:6, emphasis mine)


Does anyone on earth possess such power to make men fall to the ground by their spoken words?


Jesus did not positively confess the fall of the soldiers, nor did He positively confess the storm to be still when He was on a boat with His disciples (Mark 4:39). It was God Himself who spoke. He is the only one to possess such power of spoken words that command His obedience.


We cannot cancel any of the devil's plans or schemes against those who are called God's children either. Look at Job! Or how about Joseph? Jesus? Peter and Paul? There are too many examples in the Bible, which completely nullify this type of theology, "name it and claim it." No one can cancel the plans of the devil except God himself. No matter what is spoken in advance or in the present moment, tragedies will come, death will come, divorce will come, unemployment will come, bankruptcies will come.


Until Christ returns, everything negative in this world will take place because of sin. Sin is the result of why all those areas are in need of receiving God's blessings, but those blessings will only come if people begin to see a greater example of another person being obedient to God, in those areas of their life that are holy, sacred and consecrated to God, completely.


Unless the power of God and the anointing of God is behind any word that is spoken from a person's lips that is the will of God, it will have no affect whatsoever.

If I could make a recommendation to the reader, please listen to Pastor Carter Conlon's sermon from Times Square Church dated April 29, 2007 titled, "Footsteps in the Hallway" based on Matt 21:18-22
. I would also recommend his sermon titled, "Escaping the Theology of Babylon" dated December 4, 2005.

These sermons would help enhance the Scriptural understanding of Matthew 21:18-22 and hopefully add to your ability to discern similar emails or preaching by any minister who stands behind a pulpit, especially what is seen on television these days.


Reference
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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