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Incarnation of Christ

We all know the various prophecies that tell of Jesus’ birth in the Old Testament. These predictions come to fulfillment in the New Testament. There are many questions of how Mary could conceive a child without a man; the conception being through the Holy Spirit. When we try to imagine God putting on flesh like the very creation He, himself fashioned – well that becomes mind blowing. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we beheld His glory as the Only Begotten Son, full of grace and Truth.” [John 1:14] In the beginning was the Word, The Word was in the beginning with God, and the Word was God. The incarnation is the revelation to Mankind of the presence of God in visible form. Jesus told His disciples “if you have seen Me, then you have seen the Father; I and the Father are One.” [John 14]

When I think of the story line of scripture, from Genesis with God making man from the dust of the earth and breathing into him the “breath of life, and man becoming a living soul, I am overwhelmed. When I think of the Fall in the garden of Eden and the devastation as a resulted, that even Creation cries out for restoration and reconciliation – it again is overwhelming. The Law of Moses given to try and reveal to harden mankind the failure and inability to be holy and to restore ourselves to the Only God – our creator, the situation seems hopeless.

Thinking through the past four and half years of blogging, the scripture reinforces the fact that only God can restore mankind back to Jehovah. No matter how holy or righteous we are in our behavior and attitudes, we will always fall short. Even today in churches across North America the clarion call is for “disciple making” instead of sharing the Gospel through evangelism. Men must be saved, not instructed on how to live better lives.

Jesus came because the Father in Heaven so loved us. Jesus came because it was the Trinity’s plan to do so. At the end of the Law there was not the restoration of mankind. Sin had not been dealt with, and mankind had become institutionalized by religious performance. The Pharisees and Sadducees in particular revealed the hypocrisy of performance oriented religion that makes us feel good about ourselves; yet does nothing to reconcile us to God.

Jesus came to show us the Father; He came to make the invisible, visible – Col 1. Jesus is the second Adam, for the first Adam, although created holy and innocent, rebelled and believed the lie of Satan, that man could live without God. Jesus, as the second Adam, revealed what mankind “could have been” had they lived in obedience to the Father.

Jesus was subjected to temptation and sin like as we all are, yet without sin. He  [Jesus] came to be the vicarious atonement for all sin, the enmity that separated man from God would once and for all be dealt with, and the Accuser of the brethren – Father of lies would be dealt an eternal blow. Jesus came to deal with our sin, defeat Satan, and rose again for our justification – all by faith that the Father would be faithful to His own word. In the Birth of Jesus, a new era or day came. No longer would men be shackled by The Law requirements. Faith in Christ as the Anointed, Messiah to do for man, what man could never do for himself – to give life instead of death, to give hope in a hopeless situation. This Jesus born of a Virgin, lying in a cradle would change history forever, regardless of who sat on the thrones of kingdoms of earth. This Jesus would serve and be sacrificed as a Lamb before God, and God would be pleased – opening the pathway for all who would call upon Jesus as Savior and Lord to begin “New Life” being a “new Creation” having the Breath of Life breathed back into them. Oh, what a story of redemption!

Thank God for His amazing Love, Grace, Mercy and Hope – all because Yahweh acted on our behalf. The Plan of God is not complete, for this Jesus will return in like manner one day. Acts 1.  Until then let us rejoice and live out that which is now living in us – Christ in You the Hope of Glory [Col 1:27]

Merry Christmas!

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Character of Christmas

Christmas 2017 – The theme for my Christmas sermons is the Character of Christmas. I will be using Isaiah 9:6-7 as my text. In these two verses we find the descriptive nature of Jesus Christ. There is something about His name – Phil 2:5-11; we know that His name is the name above all names. He earned His name, through obedience to the Father in Heaven in all things. It was the plan of the God-head to send The Son into the world in the form of man. While Jesus is completely human in all aspects like us; he retrained His deity. The Son never ceased to be God. Some would hold that Jesus didn’t “get” his divinity until He was baptized; I  am not of that opinion. I would agree that His baptism – anointed Him for His Earthly ministry. Jesus is the earthly name given the Son of God; Christ is His title and Savior is His work.

In Isaiah 9:6-7 we find these names: Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God; Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. These names [titles] are descriptive of the work Christ will accomplish. When we look at the book of Isaiah itself we find a context of religion and society that is very similar to our own in 2017. There was great corruption both in the Church and in politics. The prophet Isaiah ministered during the reigns of four kings. The fifth king is to be believed to have sawed Isaiah in two pieces. There were both national and international worries. The great Assyrian armies to the North were gaining power, while Israel [Northern Kingdom] and Samaria were crumbling. Isaiah lived from 730BC – 660 BC approx. His ministry was to restore the nation back to God. In 722 BC Samaria already fallen, is joined by Israel. The Promise of a deliverer  – the Messiah had already been prophesied. Yet still there seemed to be no answer or relief. In fact the situation would get worse; much worse before it got better. In ever imaginable aspect the people and nation were in crisis. The same could be said for America. Just when I think I have heard the most absurd atrocity, someone exceeds my imagination. The people and prophets were looking for an answer, but the answer did not come as they hoped. The book of Isaiah is about the promise of hope in the midst of God’s judgment of His people. In our own land, I find that many Christians are hoping for some “relief” answer so they will not have to be subjected to the holiness and righteousness of God. News flash, if God did not spare His elect Israel from punishment and captivity, why would we think we should escape?

In our time, I find we are in much the same situation. The Church/Christians have failed – not all but as a whole from obeying God’s word. The church has sought comfort and ease when it should have been loudly objecting to the immorality of our land. There are 1000 churches that will close this year. They will close because the members would rather die that become repentant toward God for their apathetic living out of the gospel. Jeremiah preached to Judah, yet Judah refused to listen; ultimately they were led away into captivity. In our American churches we have turned a deaf ear to “what the Spirit speaks to the churches.”

Just as there was an answer for Israel, albeit 700 years later; there will be an answer for our world also. There was hope of a Savior, yet when the Savior came, Israel rejected Him. It was through their rejection that the Gentiles [me] got access to the Gospel. Israel had the prophets, the prophecies and the Promise in their day and missed Jesus. We have history, archeological data and the preserved Word of God; yet we reject Jesus much like Israel did.

The last part of Isaiah 9:7 says “on the throne of David and over His kingdom; to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness.” Jesus came bringing salvation, for man was already in crisis of sin – doomed to eternity in Hell, separated from God. But Jesus came and is coming again – He is our Hope, the Light in the Darkness. The Answer – Jesus has come and is coming again!

Instead of looking for a Crisis Answer, let us look to Christ who is the Answer.

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Luke’s Legacy

We begin this week reading the Gospel of Luke. Luke is known as the companion of Paul on most of His missionary journeys. The capacity with which Luke traveled with Paul is often one of conjecture. Did Paul need a medical doctor with him because of his “thorn in the flesh” or because of the many beatings and physical injuries? Either way, the good doctor has left us with two exquisite books in the New Testament.  While Luke is a doctor, we also find that he is also an accomplished historian. The preamble of both is books tells the reader his purpose for writing; to explain and affirm what “most excellent Theophilus” has been taught. While we may not know if Theophilus is a real person or a pseudo character for Luke’s writings; we do find that Luke takes great pains in making sure of the factual information.

Luke is known as one of the synoptic gospels. Much of what is found in Luke is also contained in both Matthew and Mark; with Mark believed to be the source for much of the other two gospels.

Luke also begins his Gospel “at the beginning” – only Matthew gives us any other insight into the birth narratives of John the Baptist ans Jesus. The reason for Luke beginning at the birth, brings in specific dates and personalities of the time. One such question of Luke’s accuracy was the “first census” of Quirinius as governor. It was thought for centuries that Luke was mistaken, however, historical records show that Luke the historian is right.

The birth narratives provide Christianity with the humble beginning of our Savior. The point of the narratives, that God was at work in History bringing salvation to the world. The incarnation of Jesus, the Christ is essential to all that follows in His ministry and sacrificial death and resurrection. If Jesus is but a mere man, birth like anyone else, much of our Gospel becomes myth and folklore.

The Son of God became a man; He [the creator] “Put on humanity.” While the virgin conception is paramount for Jesus to be the incarnate Christ, it is also imperative that we know that Jesus is completely flesh and blood like you and I. Jesus was tempted in all points like you and I, but without sin. Jesus is more that a symbol, he the exact representation of the Father to us. Jesus could say – “he who has seen me has seen the Father; I and the Father are one.”

This may seem like a very boring subject; however the Church Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, met for settling the issue whether Jesus was God. The Council affirmed that Jesus was “of like substance” as the Father; co-equal with God.

Luke uses a transition word of “Now” all throughout his Gospel. It notes a change, or an event that occurs. His Gospel is a chronologically formatted writing, in other words sequenced on how things actually happened time wise.

Beginning with the Forerunner, John the Baptist; Luke gives us the background of how the birth of both the “one like Elijah” and the Messiah came to be. Jesus and John are cousins, which in itself is quite interesting; for we learn that John started his own ministry, as if He didn’t know that Jesus was the Messiah. Anyway – John the voice crying in the wilderness after 400 years of silence captures the notice of the people.

The nativity narratives bring angels, shepherds and ordinary – yet favored people to life. The prophecies of the Old Testament are included to bring coherence to the scriptures.  God is at work in time and people to bring about His salvation plan. The characters of the “Christmas story” are well-known. The story doesn’t end really until we get to the Temple scene where we meet Simeon and Anna; two godly people advanced in years waiting for the “consolation of Israel.”

The Christmas story of Luke is much more joy filled than that of Matthew with the cruel King Herod and the infanticide tragedy. The joy is captured for us by the songs of Mary and Zacharias and Simeon. The Angels sing, the people sing, the historical coming of Jesus in real-time and place cannot be denied and is readily confirmed by Luke for us. This baby, miraculous as His birth was clearly establishes that “God has visited earth is His beloved Son.” The promised Messiah, announced and affirmed by Luke establishes the “Now” ministry of Jesus.

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