Monthly Archives: December 2016

Culmination of Prophecies

After having read through the Old Testament prophets for the entire year, it just makes sense to end the year with a blog that culminates the work of the prophets. Nearly all the prophets proclaimed a message about the fall of Israel, Judah and Samaria for their failure to obey the LORD God. The measure of a prophet is found in the fulfillment of what they predicted. We have recounted throughout the year how that which was prophesied by the various prophets came to fruition.  While the prophets foretold of the destruction and devastation of particularity Israel and Judah, we found within each book a message of Hope. This is the message of Christmas – there is Hope in the Lord regardless of how dark the days may seem. The father is a holy and righteous loving God. While He demands obedience and righteousness, He also gives grace and mercy to His people. This has been a very trying and weird year. Who would have guessed that the Cubs would win the World Series and then Donald Trump a non-political figure would win the Presidency of United States? The political rhetoric in America has been at a frenzied pace for the last 1 1/2 years. It continues while I pen this last blog of the year. We must all come to grips that our future is not ultimately bound up in a sports team or in a political hopeful. Ultimately it is the Father in Heaven that will determine the days and seasons of our lives. Prophecies are foretold before the events occur. The prophecies of Jesus the Son of God coming as a child 700-750 BC [Before Christ] and were fulfilled in exact ways. While there may be skeptics that would entertain that New Testament writers “read into” what the Old Testament prophets wrote to come up with a ‘Messiah Scenario” there are too many specific and unique predictions that Jesus fulfilled, that He and only He could have done which affirmed His title and position as the “predicted Messiah.” God was not late in predicting the Messiah, we find that in the Garden of Eden, God was already at work in His message of Hope for the Nations/mankind. Genesis 3:15, the battle between Stan and God would culminate in Jesus dying, but Satan being defeated at Calvary. The Messiah would be from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; specially from the tribe of Judah – Numbers 24:17 * Genesis 49:10. We are also told that the Messiah would sit on the throne of David as the Lion of Judah,  predicted in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 and Isaiah 9:7. We are told where and from whom the Messiah would be born. Isaiah 7:14 indicates a virgin woman would bear the Savior and that He would be born in an obscure village called Bethlehem – Micah 5:2.  We also have the prediction that Elijah would precede the Messiah. Malachi 4:5-6, one like the prophet Elijah would come. John the Baptist [cousin] is this man, coming eating honey & holocaust dressed in camel’s hair. John’s message was that the Kingdom of God was coming – Jesus’ message was the Kingdom of God is Here! The disciples knew of the prophecy about Elijah to precede the Messiah but questioned how that was true – Matthew 17: 10-13. It seems that even though many people may know the prophecies, it doesn’t mean that we/they grasp the significance or fulfillment. Many more predictions about the Messiah center around His crucifixion, death and resurrection. He was prophesied to be crucified even before it was a method of punishment – Psalm 22:16-18; his feet pierced, Zechariah 12:12; mocked and ridiculed – Psalm 22:7-8. Isaiah 53 is a huge source of prophecies that Jesus would fulfill at Calvary. But again just as with previous dark prophecies that seemingly end without HOPE – Hope is found not in the death, but the resurrection of Jesus. Psalm 16:10 & 49:15. We know that Jesus resurrected 3 days later, for the graves were opened up, spirits walked around in Jerusalem. Jesus appeared before upwards to 500 people. Too many people verify that Jesus was/is alive. Our hope is in the resurrection but also in the Coming again of Christ. The next time Jesus comes it will not be like a lowly servant, but a reigning King of King and Lord of Lords! While I could go on with the prophecies and their fulfillment; there are too  many for this writing. But there are estimated some 300 prophecies that were fulfilled by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is absolutely undeniable that Jesus is the Son of God and the Coming Messiah. Because of Bethlehem there is a Calvary, because there is a Calvary the Resurrection is real; and finally just as the Resurrection is valid so will the Return of Jesus. But there is much work to be done before that should occur – in other words so many people, places and nations urgently need to hear the Life Saving Hope that is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s get to work!!

Merry Christmas

Talk to you in the New Year!

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2017 Reading Plan

peneteuch-2017

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Questions and Answers

We conclude our 16 prophets in 2016 with the book of Malachi. Most people only know one thing about Malachi – that of tithing and not to rob God of the 10%.  Malachi – about 400 years before Jesus is born, Malachi writes a very powerful book. While it is at the end of the Old Testament, its place should be somewhere between Ezra and Nehemiah. Malachi means “God’s Messenger.” We don’t know much about Malachi other than Yahweh uses him to bring multiple charges against Judah [Israel]. I count nine different questions of rebuttal from the charges God makes to His people. He begins with God telling them He has loved them. They come back with “How have you loved us?” The rebuttal questions whether God has actually loved them. It seems that because it was difficult times, and the voice of God seemed both distant and absent, that God had abandoned them. Jehovah declares His love through the “choosing of them” i.e. Jacob over Esau. 2nd, God tells them they have dishonored His name. “How have we despised your name?” They did so by not respecting Him through giving defiled sacrifices – in fact sacrifices they had stolen and wouldn’t even give to their friends.  Cain and Abel story fits here for Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice while Cain a marginal one. The attitude of “best versus good enough.”  Can we be guilty of just giving something rather than our best to God? Quickly the people come back with a “How have we defiled you You?”  Again it is in reference to the condition of the sacrifice – blind, diseased  and lame – in other words what they no longer wanted, so to get rid of it they give it to the LORD – and they [religious people] can’t figure out why God has issue them! Next God accused them of profaning His name. Instead of holiness and righteousness, they profane His name by conducting sacrifices without honor or respect to Yahweh. Going through the motions of “practice”. God was looking at their heart, He saw how they really felt about their homage to Him. The priests half-hearted in their service. He rebuke them and cause them to vomit up at their carnal feasts. A lukewarm performance and service to God and His people – preachers must be cautious of “routine” ministry”. God can take away our ministry and give it to another. In chapter 2, we find the recall of three covenants God has made with His people – with Levi as the priesthood, with Israel as His people and with the people as His bride. God’s word is eternal. God doesn’t forget His promises or covenants as man does. The marriage covenant brings to mind the story of Hosea and Gomer; Israel & Judah had both played the harlot with other gods and kings in hopes of satisfying their own fleshly lusts.  The marriage is a significant metaphor, Paul uses it in Ephesians and John’s Gospel and Revelation speak of the Marriage of the Lamb to the Bride. The metaphor is all about faithfulness of the Bride – we do commit spiritual adultery with God. We all have cheated on Him, by chasing after “lessor gods.” Divorce comes up because Ezra and Nehemiah both found that returning Jews were divorcing their wives and intermarrying with the gentiles.  The Father was witness to how the men were treating their wives, even though they wept with many tears, blessings didn’t come.  For some reason we think that we can be right with God and wrong with each other and God will bless. It just doesn’t work that way! In chapter 3, multiple metaphors are used to describe what God is going to do to “cleanse” Judah and the people. You would think that after 70 years in exile, that there would be a wake-up call to the people to get it right – man has a short memory and attention span! The fuller’s soap and the refiner’s fire will be God’s way of purifying the sin in the people and clergy [priests]. Return to Me is the clarion call from God – but they respond “How shall we return?” Then the famous “will man rob God?” Quickly the people come back with “How have we robbed you?” In tithes and offerings! Most people think of this as cheating on how much they gave, but really it is the attitude of their giving. Think of Ananias and Sapphira and their cheating God of what was right in Acts 5.  The last charge “your arrogant words against Me.” What – “how have we spoken against you?”  In that you make evil good and good evil; you pronounce blessing on evildoers.  The Book of Remembrance is a stark reminder that God misses nothing. He is keeping records of our deeds and the heart with which we do them. Look at Revelation 20:11-15, where the “books” are opened and each man is judges out of what is written in the books. This is not the “Book of Life” that is names of the beloved of God, those who present with the Lord because of salvation/repentance.  but God is not done yet – times  and times again where Jesus will return and set all things right – warning to be heeded by us and answers to questions our Lord ask about our service to Him. No half-hearted worship, offerings or service are acceptable to God , He demands  and deserves our best.

 

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Of Course Bethlehem

This year I am bringing a Christmas series titles “Because of Bethlehem.” I have borrowed from the author Max Lucado, the title of his book about Christmas. While I have used the title, that’s probably as close as I will get to his brilliant authorship.

We know that Micah 5:2 tells us the prophecy of where Jesus, the incarnate Christ will be born, just now when. Bethlehem has a history of sorts, for that is where Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob is buried. It is also the city of David. I find it interesting that while the prophet foretold the location of the Messiah’s birth, many were not looking for the Messiah. Now we can make the connection, but even while Jesus walked the earth, the Jews also had His birth in Nazareth of Galilee.

But why Bethlehem? It is an obscure place, some 5 miles distance from the mighty renowned Jerusalem. In Micah it even tells us the Ephrathah was so small a clan of people; they were not even counted or included in the Promised Land division.  It is like the Lord, for in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 we find that our Father uses people and places that the world overlooks. Significant in His plans but lost in ours.

If it weren’t for Bethlehem, we don’t get Calvary. What I mean by this is that if Jesus doesn’t come as the incarnate Christ Child in Bethlehem, we don’t have a Cross crucified Savior.

In John 1:1-4; we read about how that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This brings to mind that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God, co-equal with the Father. By this we must understand that Jesus is both divine and human. In other words He is both flesh and deity. Jesus had to come in the flesh to accomplish the work of the Cross. While He never lost His deity or His power, He did submit himself to the Father’s plan.

In the Old Testament, the sacrifices of bulls and lambs could never deal with sin of fallen mankind; it could only “cover it up.”  The Law and sacrificial system was a shadow of what Jesus would do for us at Calvary. Man cannot save himself. We had to have a Savior. The plan of God from the Beginning always included the Son of God descending to earth to accomplish redemption’s plan of salvation. We celebrate Bethlehem for that is where our salvation begins. In an obscure village, with two unknown parents; graced with the challenge of raising the Son of God – raising the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world.

There must always be a starting point for restoration and reconciliation – the Old Testament sacrifices were inadequate. That which needed to be accomplished required God’s intervention and initiative – The father Sent Jesus! There must be a Calvary for all of us, but likewise there must be a Bethlehem. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as the ONLY begotten Son, sent by the Father!”

Because of Bethlehem, we have a Calvary and because of Calvary we were delivered from our sins and restored to a joyful relationship with God. But it was God who started this all so long ago – Romans 5:8, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, the godly for the ungodly.” Surely God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten [one of a kind, unique] Son; that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life! Praise God for His infinite wisdom and love for us.

Merry Christmas my Beloved family in Christ!

Pastor Jim

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It was the Best of Times, It was the Worse of Times

Zephaniah the great-great grandson of King Hezekiah, along with King Josiah lived during the great reforms of the child King Josiah. Obviously the two are half brothers [different mothers]. It is truly amazing to see that both men were sensitive to the things of God, especially after having Manasseh and Amon in their family tree, two of the worse kings Judah had with their propensity to idolatry with Molech and Baal.  Zephaniah prophesied during his Kingly brothers reign. While there seemed to be a bit of a revival on the outside, the internal heart’s desire was still bent towards idolatry. Sometimes there is the attempt to dress up the outside and not deal with the real problem on the inside – too many of us what to “wash the outside of the dish, and leave the inside filthy;” such was the condemnation of the Pharisees and  Sadducees by Jesus.

As pastor I have found that even the Church lauds the “behavioral modification” efforts without ever really addressing the “spirit” that caused the rebellion in the first place. The Church rewards behavioral modification in such things as now they attend church, Sunday School, tithe and etc. But the focus is not on “conforming to the prescribed behavioral patterns observed in the Church; but to be transformed from the inside out through the power of Jesus. I have often heard that Christians are known for being a bunch of “quitters.” They quit this and quit that, as if things that they have given up are a reflection of a salvation experience. An unredeemed person can “act” as Church Holy” as anyone, without ever being saved through faith in Christ. Mimic religion doesn’t save!

Zephaniah gets to the heart of the matter, not the outward appearances. God will in fact judge the nation of Judah for its – hidden sins of idolatry before men. As we finish up this year of prophets the underlying message has been that God’s people have been unfaithful They have broken the commandments and covenant of God. They have gone their own way, even though God has loved them and provided for their every need. I can hear the Father saying something like “for all I’ve done and this is the thanks I get!”  Imagine living in such a time as this writing; confusion I am sure would be the order of the day – Zephaniah how can you preach the doom and gloom when so many good things are happening? While the people did the reforms that were publicly obvious, they did not cleanse their minds and hearts of idolatry. Judah will be punished [phrased used 5 times in the book]. God is holy and He expects holiness from His people.

The indictment reminds me of how we act sometimes, we act all prim and proper in public, but in private we act like heathens! Zephaniah resounds with judgment and the “day of the LORD” like another prophet – Joel. The fearful and dreadful “day of the LORD.” This message is one that rings familiar with Revelation 21, with the New Heaven and New Earth for the first heaven and first earth have passed away – same message from God in Zeph 1:2-4.  So we have a then and future judgment on ALL things. God cleanses the world of sin – He did it with the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Promised Land through exile and He will do it through fire in the Apocalypse time. But, I love that word, because it tells me there is more coming. Just as God will cleanse through judgment the sins of men and nations, He also will have a REMANENT!  The book closes with a message of hope as all other prophetic books have – I will Restore! There will be another day, God will not hold His anger forever against Judah or us. But until the final judgment before the throne, we are admonished in Zeph 2:3 to gather together, be humble, seek humility and righteousness, Perhaps we will be hidden from the judgment to come. Bottom-line – Be found Faithful!

 

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