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  • You are here: Blogs Directory / Education / Eric Rajaniemi's Blog: James 1:22; Romans 1:20 Welcome Guest
    Eric Rajaniemi's Blog: James 1:22; Romans 1:20
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    Mon, Feb 25th - 10:49PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "Now when all of the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus was also baptized and while He was praying, the heavens were opened up,  And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased (3:21-22)."

       Baptism is both obeying God and securing God's approval.  It is why Jesus was baptized and why we are to be baptized.  Jesus could not teach anyone to be obedient to God if He were not obedient Himself.  Jesus' obedience in this matter of baptism can be seen in a couple of ways.

    1.   Jesus obeyed God by being baptized with the people.  Scholars may claim that Jesus was baptized after the people, but the text does not allow for that assumption to be made.  Jesus was right in the midst of the people, doing exactly what God wanted, exactly when God wanted it, identifying Himself with the people.  This group of people had heard John's message and responded, doing exactly what God wanted.  They were obeying God's call to them, doing what was right, obeying righteousness.  In Jesus' actions He was demonstrating that He, the Son of God, was fulfilling all righteousness.  He was being obedient to God, fulfilling every law of God for man.

    2.   Jesus demonstrated His humiliation, that He was Man, fully Man.  As Man He was required to live obediently to God just as other Jewish men were.  There was one difference though, Jesus lived a sinless life, and by such a life He became the Perfect and Ideal Man, the living example for all people to aspire to (Matthew 8:20).

       In these things we are able to see that no person is above any other person in the eyes of God.  God's own Son had to obey Him; He had to be baptized as a sign of obedience to God.  We must also be baptized if we are genuinely repenting and seeking God to forgive us of all of our sins.  We are not above God's will and His instructions to "repent and be baptized". 

       We are able to see that Jesus obeyed God in prayer.  While He was being baptized He was praying.  His mind and thoughts were focused upon God, He was in fellowship and communion with the Father in heaven.  Our minds must be likewise focused upon God while we are being baptized.  Here on some further thoughts on baptism:

    *   It is an outward sign of God working within the heart of the person.  The inward working and inward grace of God is sought by prayer.  So true baptism is the first act in which a person shows that they are in communion with God.

    *   It is the most significant act of discipleship, being followed by a changed life.  The changed life demonstrates that the person is repenting and seeking God to forgive their sins.  The person being baptized therefore is preparing to re-enter a hostile world, one dominated by separation from God and a selfish need to gratify personal urges.  The person becomes a sojourner, a pilgrim, wandering through an alien and wicked world run by Satan.

    *   Baptism launches the new life of the disciple of Christ.  It is the very first act of repentance, the first public confession that the person is going to change, has already begun to change.  As it is the first public confession of an inward prayer of confession to God, we can see that confession to God comes before any public confession before people.  The spirit of prayer begun during baptism ought to continue until all is completed.  Prayer is not something that one performs only one time, or only one day each week.  Prayer becomes an integral part of the believer's entire life from this point forward.  Their heart ought to continue in a spirit of prayer no matter what life's circumstances may present, good or bad.  God desires to have an unbroken chain of communion with each of us.  "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1)."  "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6)."  "But the end of things is at hand: therefore you be sober, and watch while praying (I Peter 4:7)."

       We all need to see that baptism secures God's approval.  When each person is baptized, God is very pleased, for the person is obeying and following in the footsteps of the Messiah.  This approval has been demonstrated three ways:

    1.   The heavens were opened up to give Jesus a very special sight and sense of God's glory and presence.  This baptism was the launching point of His public ministry to mankind.  It required the stamp of approval and power from the Father in heaven.

    2.   The Holy Spirit came down and settled upon Christ like a dove.  The dove was a sacred bird to the Jews.  It was a symbol of peace and gentleness, of purity and innocence, and was often identified with the Spirit of God.  So this dove symbolized the very Spirit of God Himself descending upon Jesus.  This act identified Jesus as the Messiah and filled Jesus with the Power of God.  The apostle John took great pains to stress that the Holy Spirit's descent was unique: He abode and remained on Jesus (John 1:32, 33).  This implies that prior to Christ's baptism the Holy Spirit was not with Him but was up in heaven with the Father.  After His baptism He once again got to have His Holy Spirit with Him on earth.  Conceptually we must wrap our minds around this.  Jesus has always existed.  He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit have always been together as One God.  But in Jesus agreeing to become manifested in human flesh on earth in order to redeem fallen mankind He had to allow His Spirit to become separated from Him for a time.  To properly identify with mankind Christ had to be like us.  With His Spirit reunited with Him He now had unlimited power once more.

    3.   The voice of God was heard. 

       Upon genuinely obeying God, repenting and becoming baptized, we too secure God's approval in the exact same three ways.  God opens heaven up to us and gives us a special sense of His presence, sense of His approval, a sense that we are finally pleasing Him immensely.  God manifests and reveals His Spirit to us.  Through reading John 14:21 we can see that significant moments of obedience bring special manifestations of the Spirit.  To reach a decision to become baptized shows that we have heard God's call in our heart, and because we are obeying Him, God continues to speak to us day by day as we seek His will in the Bible and prayer.  "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any person hears My voice, and opens the door, I will come in to them, and will have dinner with them, and they with Me (Revelation 3:20)."  "That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowhsip with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (I John 1:3)."

       So much from just two verses.  Hear the call of God.  Obey God.  Receive the Holy Spirit of God.  Transformed heart.  New nature.  New life.  Ministry to others.

    Grace and peace from me to you.  Next time I will begin covering the lineage of Jesus Christ and try to reveal the need for it to be in the Gospel account.

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Sat, Feb 23rd - 3:15PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And as the people all had expectations, and all of them mused in their hearts about John, whether he were the Christ, or not.  John answered, saying to all of them, I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I comes, I am not worthy of lacing His sandals: He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire:  Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable.  And many other things did he preach during his exhortations to the people.  But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all of the evils which Herod had done, Added this above all other things, and he shut John up in prison (3:15-20)."

       John the Baptist preached the coming of the anticipated Messiah.  All of the people had been yearning for their Messiah to come and liberate them.  But John stressed three points here.

    1.   The Messiah was more worthy and mightier than John.  John was not worthy of the rank of a slave before Christ.  Slaves were the ones who loosed the sandals and washed the feet of guests.  John said that he was unworthy to even do this menial task for the Messiah.  Christ was mightier than John, both in person and work.  In person Christ was the manifestation of God to mankind.  In work Christ had come to find and to save that which was lost, baptizing with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 

    2.   The Messiah's baptism was different.

    3.   The Messiah's judgment was final.  We see a picture painted for us explaining that there will be a gathering in of that which is good.  There will then be a purging, or cleansing, of all that remains, the chaff.  The wheat represents believers who genuinely repent and bring forth good fruit.  They will be gathered into the kingdom before the chaff, representing unbelievers, shall be burned with unquenchable fire.  This term, puri asbesto, literally means "with fire unquenchable."  It is to be fire that can't be quenched, snuffed out, extinguished, or starved.  It is to be everlasting, burning on and on forever (Matthew 25:41),

       Baptism here (baptizein) means to dip, to immerse, to submerge, to place into.  John's baptism was with water, but Christ's baptism was to be in the Spirit and fire.  We see that John's baptism was meant as a preparation and a symbol of the spiritual baptism that Christ was going to bring.  John's baptism symbolically cleansed the person from all sin.  The person was being prepared for the type of cleansing that Christ would provide.  It also symbolized separation or dedication.  The person was setting their life apart for God in a renewed spirit of dedication.  They were committing themselves to the Messiah about whom John was preaching.  They were not dedicating themselves to John the Baptist. 

       Christ's spiritual baptism is a double baptism.  One preposition only was used for "the Spirit and the fire."  It was the word "in."  First Christ baptizes a person in the Spirit.  He dips, immerses, submerges, the person in the Spirit of God.  The person may be carnal and materialistic, but once he has been baptized into the Holy Spirit by Christ, he then becomes spiritually minded (Romans 8:5-7).  The Jews had longed and looked towards the day when the Holy Spirit would come.  The OT prophets had predicted His coming and so they understood what John was preaching.  So John's baptism was one of repentance.  Christ baptized the person in fire.  Fire has several functions that do graphically symbolize the work of Christ.  It illuminates, warms, melts, burns, and utterly destroys.  The difference between baptism with water and that with fire is that of doing outward work versus inward work.  Water only cleanses the outside; fire purifies deeply within, namely the heart.  Christ separates a person from their former life and purifies them within by the fire of His Holy Spirit.  There is some question as to whether John believed that Christ had come to destroy His enemies with this "baptism of fire."  The Messianic fire of judgment was to come from the throne of David, just not at the time the Jews expected. 

       It says in this passage that John preached on many other things as well.  Exhortation means to admonish, urge, beseech, entreat.  John aroused the hearts of people and also pierced peoples' hearts and ears for he continually pressed upon them their need to prepare for the coming of the Christ.  He also preached against sin in high places.  He rebuked the king, Herod, for his evil and wicked life and carnal excesses.  John called Herod out for his sin of adultery with his brother's wife.  He did not shy away from calling sinful behavior sinful behavior.  He did not sugar coat his words, did not try to make the behavior sound less bad.  So should we communicate with others today.

       Next up will be Christ's baptism in the Jordan River.  Until then, grace and peace be with you.

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Fri, Feb 22nd - 8:44PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "The he said to the multitude that came out to be baptized by him, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore bring out fruits worthy of repentance, and begin to not say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father; for I say to you, That God is able to raise from these stones children for Abraham.   Also now the axe is laid to the root of the trees: every tree therefore which does not bring forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do?  He answered and said to them, He that has two coats, let him give one to him that has none; and he that has food, let him do the same.  Then came publicans to be baptized, and said to him, Master, what shall we do?  And he said to them, Exact no more than what is appointed to you.  And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do?  And he said to them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages (3:7-14)."

       Here is John the Baptist's plain message for all ages.  It is a powerful message no matter what point in history it may be preached.  He preached condemnation, repentance, humbleness, judgment, social justice, the Messiah's coming, against sin in high places.  We can see that John preached the truth about men, what they were and had become.  They were "vipers", poisonous creatures.  They had become poisoned and were now poisoning others all around them.  They were sick and doomed, infecting others, making them sick and doomed as well.  It was a contagion let loose among the People of God.

       Verses seven and eight reveal his preaching of the wrath to come, which is preached by others in other places in the Bible.  "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that does not believe the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36)."  "For this you know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things comes the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience (Ephesians 5:5-6)."  "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.  Blessed are all of them that put their trust in Him (Psalm 2:12)."

       John preached repentance, for a man must first repent.  Only then can he bear fruit.  This fruit must be worthy, deserving, consistent with his repentance.  It must be fruit that shows a changed heart and a turning away from sin.  "Walk worthy of the Lord to be all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10).'  Worthiness arises from out of repentance.  It can not come before a heart desires to repent but only afterewards.  The implication is clearly for people to repent, walk differently in life, be fruitful in doing good works, and study the Word of God to always gain more knowledge about God.  It is to be a life-long endeavor, a marathon and not a sprint.  Believers never retire from serving God, their ministry merely changes form. 

       John the Baptist preached against pride.  Many of the Jews believed that they were acceptable to God simply because they were Jews, descendants of Abraham.  Having godly forefathers must guarentee them entrance into heaven.  Many felt that they were acceptible to God since they had participated in a religious ritual, circumcision.  Today many males are circumcised on a hygiene basis.  But back then it was a religious ritual, a rite of belonging to the Chosen People of God.  They also felt that the righteousness of their forefathers had already saved them from God's wrath.  How they currently behaved did not matter, they were saved because they were special!  It needs to be reognized that most people are prideful.  They feel they are special enough to be acceptable to God, that God could never reject them.  Their possible reasons?  Because they have godly parents; have been baptized; are not too bad; are good enough; are blessed with so much; are somewhat religious; are members of a church; and are regular worshippers.  What their definition of "regular" is is up for debate.  Once per week, once every two weeks, once per month?  Easter and Christmas?  Godliness does not automatically pass from parents to children.  Baptism does not justify anyone.  How bad is too bad?  At what level of goodness must one reach?  How much stuff is enough?  What does religiosity have to do with it?  Membership in a church does nothing to save one.  Please define regular worship.  As Scripture accurately states, all of the ways of a foolish person appear right in their eyes.  But the person who listens to, and acts upon, the wise counsel of others is themselves wise. 

       John the Baptist preached of judgment.  He clearly stated that God is the Divine Woodman who comes and cuts down the trees that are diseased and dying, or are already completely dead.  The axe has already been laid at the roots of these trees, waiting to chop them down.  The warning stands: the trees are not cut down yet, but everyone is warned.  There are many trees, some lofty (proud), some stately (leaders), some diseased, some bearing good fruit, some bearing bad fruit, and some not bearing any fruit.  The demarcation line is very sharp.  Those trees that do not bear good fruit will be cut down and cast into the all-consuming fire.  "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin with us, what shall the end be of them that do not obey the gospel of God?  And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear(I Peter 4:17-18)?"  "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Revelation 21:8)."

       John the Baptist preached social justice.  He stirred the people, they wanted to know what they must do.  How would repentance affect their daily lives?  What woud a changed life mean?  What kind of fruit should they bear?  These questions were answered in practical terms anyone can understand. 

    1.   The average "Joe" was to love and care enough to share his/her material belongings with those people who were in need.  Today we identify these sorts of people as being the homeless, the unemployed, the diabled, etc.  We are to share the basic necessities of life with those people who are unable to supply them to themselves and their families.  Today's economic climate in America has created a greater need for charitable giving and sharing.  Those fortunate enough to have retained well paying jobs need to share with those whose jobs have evaporated and show no signs of reappearing any time in the foreseeable future.  But the giving needs to be sacrificial, the giver giving all but one coat and one meal.  The giver is to love and care so much that he would be manhandled with mercy and unselfishness.  Is this not how the early Church was motivated?   We are to give what we have.  This then becomes the evidence of our repentance, of our life being truly transformed, of a person who is truly seeking god to forgive him of his sins. 

    2.   The tax collectors were to love and care enough to stop extorting extra money from the people.  If they must represent the Roman government and levy taxes, they must do so compassionately.  The tax collector had to change his life and become a man of justice and equitableness.  He had to love and care for others enough to treat them fairly and respectfully.

    3.   The soldiers were to be respectful and loving, truthful and honest, contented and responsible.  They were to do violence to no one.  The word from which violence comes from here, diaseisete, means to shake violently, agitate, terrify.  The picture painted is one in which tax collectors threatened bodily harm in extorting more money from people beyond what the Roman tax was.  Roman soldiers obviously assisted some of them in their collections.  Roman soldiers were posted to protect the interests of the Roman Empire.  They routinely allowed illegal things to go on for the appropriate bribe.  They weren't to falsely accuse anyone.  They were to be content with what the Roman government paid them to be soldiers, not seek to augment their pay with bribery and extortion schemes on the side. 

       We must note that John's message demanded a changed life.  These people must be transformed from the way they behaved previously into completely different people after repentance.  What fruits were to be borne by them?  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against these there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23)."  Those are the fruits that we are expected to bear even today, beloved.  If they are not evident in my life, why not?  It is time to examine what is lacking/missing in my heart and is preventing them from growing in my life.  Perhaps I have not genuinely given myself to Christ, have not opened up the door to my heart and invited Him to come in.  Perhaps I have stubbornly refused to surrender my entire life over to Christ, preferring to keep certain areas under my control.  These things must change, otherwise the axe shall be applied and I will be cut down and thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone.  How about you beloved?  Are you at risk?  I hope not.

    That is all for tonight, more is to come as I finish up through verse twenty tomorrow I hope.  May the grace, peace, and love of Christ our Lord and Savior be with each of you today, and in the days to come!

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Mon, Feb 18th - 7:46PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



       We see in these first six verses of chapter three that God's call was for John to serve God rather than serve institutional religion.  Oh.  John was about thirty years old, which happens to be the age when he would have become a full-fledged priest by descent.  Recall that his father, Zacharias, was a priest, and the priesthood was by descent.  He was supposed to have been in training the past five years so that upon attaining age thirty he could begin serving within the temple.  But God's call was to a different ministry, a ministry fitted into God's plans much more than institutional religion of the day. 

       We learn from this that God calls a person, not a religion.  A person's loyalty is always to God first, not to any denomination or other institution of religion.  We must realize, and accept, that God moves outside institutional religion as well as within it.  It is to be noted that 1)  Religionists often frown and oppose those ministering outside of their religion.  These people feel threatened, they feel that the outside minister is against them.  Of course, sometimes they are correct; the outside minister is opposed to what they are doing within their religion.  But if the outside minister is truly ministering, there should be full support and encouragement.  However, much too often there is no cooperation given.  The religionist too frequently fears the loss of authority, position, and security; thus he/she opposes the outside minister.  We need to clearly see that these motives are corrupt and need to be corrected.  Ministers, both within and without formal religion, need to be going about God's call and business.  Time mustn't be wasted by struggling against one another.  Time is short, it is precious, and God's call comes to people both within and without formal religion.  Each therefore needs to support the other in God's calling.  A person must do and serve God as God calls and wills.  "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you (John 15:16)."  " In which I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of His power (Ephesians 3:7)."  "Which by the gospel I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles (II Timothy 1:11)." 

       John was a person who preached repentance and forgiveness of sins.  He preached the "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins."  It means that if a person wished to be forgiven their sins, they repented.  They turned away from their sins, and they changed their life; then they were baptized.  Baptism was the outward sign to their neighbors that they were changing their life because they wanted God to forgive their sins.  The proper order was this:

                      1.   A person wanted God to forgive their sins.

                      2.   The person then made a decision to repent, to turn away from their sinful ways.

                      3.   The person was immediately baptized.

       The act of baptism did not cause repentance or forgiveness of the sins.  It was the outward act to show that the person wanted forgiveness and was turning away from their sinful behavior/s.  Baptism was the act, the sign, that the person was going to live a changed life so that God would forgive their sins.  In this we are able to see that forgiveness of sins is conditional.  There can be no universal forgiveness.  It is personal.  A person must repent to be forgiven, and if they truly repent, they are baptized.  Baptism is the immediate witness and sign that a person is repenting and changing their life.  Sincerity is required.  If this is to be genuine repentance then the person does change their life, turning away from sin and turning back towards God.  "Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)."  "Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19)."  "Cast away from you all of your transgressions, by which you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will you die (Ezekiel 18:31)?" 

       We also learn that John was a man who cried out apocalyptically: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."  John warned all of the people and quoted Isaiah 40:3-5 as his authority.  He took and proclaimed the points Isaiah had made so long ago.  He preached for the people to prepare, for the humbled shall be exalted.  That which is low would be lifted up, filled, raised up, and exalted.  The people were to prepare, for the proud were to be abased.  Every mountain, every high and lofty attitude, would be brought down low.  Those who were self-sufficient and self-confident, the prideful and the boastful, the conceited and the arrogant, all would be made as the dust of the earth if they refused to repent.

       The people were to prepare, for the crooked was to be made straight.  The crooked thief and businessman, the crooked husband and wife, the crooked student and professor, all of the crooked sinners in the world who are bent out of their true shape; all who repent shall be made straight by the Messiah.  They were to prepare, for the rough ways were to be made smooth.  These are the ways of hopelessness, helplessness, loneliness, emptness, insecurity, guilt, shame, sin, death, false religions, and empty worship; all of these were to be made "smooth."  The way of life and peace shall be planed, made level, and easy to reach.

       John preached that God's salvation would be seen by everyone.  Not only the Jews, but all people shall see the Messiah, God's salvation.  When the Way is prepared, the Messiah shall appear.  His preaching aroused thousands of people.  They were awakened and stirred up to prepare and to look for the Messiah.  Evidently many of those who listened to John eventually became the followers of Christ.  It was also this group's enthusiasm that spread the news of the Messiah's coming.  Is this not the same sort of excitement which we ought to display in order to prepare peoples' hearts to hear Christ speak to them from the Bible?  Are we excited in knowing Christ saves?  Are we excited in knowing Christ changes lives?  Or are we simply a bunch of Eyores, showing no emotion or excitement at all? 

       That finishes up my thoughts and observations for these first six verses.  Next time I will begin studying verses 7-20, the plain message of John the Baptist to the multitudes.  Hope you continue to follow along!  Grace and peace be yours this day!

    ~Eric



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    Sun, Feb 17th - 9:46AM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberias Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iruraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the High Priests, the Word of God came to John the son of Zacharias while he was out in the wilderness.  And he came into all of the area around Jordan preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be levelled; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God (3:1-6)."

       Here in the Book of Luke is the beginning of "The Son of man's" appearance in the public forum.  Here we learn of the calling of John the Baptist to begin his ministry to the people of Israel.  It was the appointed time in which to launch the most pivotal point in human history.  Jesus Christ's inpact upon our world can never be overstated.  It is understated by those who refuse to believe and accept.  Jesus changed our world so much that people measure their years by Him.  Of course, the Person whose very coming was to be the pivotal point in human history required a forerunner.  He needed someone who could go ahead of Him and arouse people to prepare for His coming.  John the Baptist was that man, and most certainly aroused the people to be prepared for His coming.  

       Luke points us to the fact by dating the coming of Christ with significant events and historical figures.  The first event was God's call to John.  Who were the historical figures marking this calling?  1)   Tiberius Caesar was in the fifteenth year of his reign as Emperor when God called John to come from out of the wilderness.  Tiberius was the second Roman Emperor, beginning his reign in A.D. 14.  The emergence of John therefore took place between A.D. 28-29.  2)   Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea.  He was both the civil ruler and a military commander.  The situation had become so bad in Judea that Rome had removed Archelaus from civil control and moved in a military commander.  Judea was ruled directly by Roman authority at the time of Jesus and John.  Pilate held office from A.D. 26-36.  3)   Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.  Tetrarch simply means a ruler over one quarter of an area.  Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great.  He inherited his throne at his father's death and ruled from B.C. 4 to A.D. 39.  4)   Philip was tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis.  He was a reputable ruler, known to be a fair and just ruler.  Caesarea Philippi was built and named after him and was where Peter made his great confession.  5)   Lysanius was tetrarch of Abilene.  Nothing of importance is known about this man.  6)   Annas and Caiaphas were High Priests.  This statement reveals much about the state of Judaism at this time.  It shows just how corrupt and political the high priesthood had become.  There never was supposed to be more than one High Priest at any given time, for this office was supposed to be for a lifetime and was hereditary.  But with the coming of Roman rule, the High Priest became a political power base.  Rome used this position to secure power over Jewish life.  They offered and gave the position to men who were cooperative and willing to let the people follow Roman rule.  For example, between B.C. 37 to A.D. 26 twenty-eight different men were installed and removed as High Priests.  Luke makes this point:  the High Priest's office had become corrupted, and religious positions had become politically motivated.  Annas, who had served as High Priest between A.D. 7-14, was still the power behind the "throne".  Caiaphas was the current High Priest, officially, but Annas obviously still retained the power and was the one to whom most Jewish leaders still turned to.  Who was Jesus brought to first?  Annas.  

       John was a man called from out of the wilderness.  God's call came to him while he lived out in an obscure place.  This area was sparsely populated, and appropriately considered to be a wilderness.  Only six small towns or villages, scattered widely apart, composed this area.  We therefore are being taught that the place where a person happens to be does not matter; a person's heart more importantly matters.  If a person's heart is right toward God, God will call them no matter where they may happen to be.  None of us are hidden from God, no matter how obscure our residence may be.  The Word of God is not limited by distance; it reaches down to the deepest valleys and up to the peaks of the highest mountains, from the ocean floor to the deepest caverns underground.  

       God's call was a very personal matter.  John never revealed to others how God spoke to him.  John kept this matter in his heart.  He was unwilling to lower his intimacy with God by talking about it and boasting about it, he did not act "super-spiritual."  

    That is all for now, beloved.  I will finish this passage very soon.  Grace and peace be with you all!

    ~Eric


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    Thu, Feb 14th - 6:54PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.  And when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, Son, why have You treated us this way?  See, your father and I have looked for you and were worried about You.  And He said to them, Why are you seeking for Me?  Do you not know that I must be about My Father's business?  And they did not understand what He was saying to them.  And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; but His mother kept all of these sayings in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (2:47-52)." 

       Some of these religious leaders most likely engaged in conversation with Jesus, for news of the young boy and His phenomenal understanding must have spread through the halls of the Temple.  Jesus had been talking and asking questions of these men for three whole days.  Jesus hadn't remained behind in Jerusalem in order to pursue childish interests.  He had stayed behind in order to engage in conversation with these leaders of His chosen people.  He used this time to learn about them and to perhaps also teach them some truth.  What we find in this passage is that Jesus was hearing (akouonta) what the leaders said to Him.  He was listening carefully, attentively, with all of His attention focused upon each speaker.  He was also asking them questions (eperotonta).  Jesus wanted answers, greater understanding of those whom He would one day have to relate to.  He also gave answers (apokrisesin) to their questions in return. 

       Jesus' answers to the religious leaders' questions revealed great knowledge and understanding for one so young.  All of them were astonished.  The word used means all were amazed, overwhlemed, bewildered, and wondered at His understanding.  This was foretold in Psalms 119.  But it is also a very striking lesson today for both children and adults.  Every opportunity to learn the truth should be firmly grasped and taken advantage of.  We should thirst for knowledge and understanding.  "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed in Him.  If you continue in My Word, then you are My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32)."  "Happy is the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding (Proverbs 3:13)." 

       Mary and Joseph misunderstood Jesus' mission.  Mary rebuked Jesus rather severely in her personal distress and sorrow, completely forgetting who Jesus was.  She was supposed to teach and discipline and direct Him in the Way that He ought to go.  But Jesus was now about to become a young man by Mosaic Law, and He was where He ought to be, going and doing His Father's business.  We too are warned here.  Too many times distress and worry and grief cause us to forget who Jesus is.  We allow our circumstances to cloud our minds, to disturb us and bring more sorrow into our lives.  Quickly we forget Jesus understanding of the situation and His business of ministering to our needs.

       The first known recognition of His Messiahship at an early age is found in this passage.  Here Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.  He called God His Father.  Joseph was standing right there, so Jesus was rather gentle in His wording.  But Jesus was clear and definite in referring to God as His Father.  We can't determine when He knew He was the Messiah, the Son of God, it is not known; and any suggestions made are pure speculation.  But at age twelve He was fully conscious of a unique relationship with God, God was His Father, and He was the Son of God, the unique Son in the sense that He alone had been begotten of the Father.

      Jesus said to His mother that His Father had been looking after Him.  He had been about His Father's business, doing exactly that which the Father wanted Him to be doing.  Mary had no reason to be worrying about Jesus' safety.  If we would only place ourselves under God's care and watchful eye through a decision to follow Christ as our Lord, then God would adopt us as a child of His and place us under His care.  Jesus also said that He had work to do for His Father, even though it might not be understood by anyone.  It becomes obvious that Jesus now understood that He had a limited amount of time in which to accomplish a rather lengthy list of items. 

       One take away from this passage is that every person is meant to serve God first, even if the work is not understood.  In reality, this work frequently is not understood.  In the face of stiff misunderstanding of others we must remain faithful to God and His call, even when we are misunderstood and opposed. Sometimes, unfortunately, our own families are the strongest opposition to our decision and work for God (Matthew 10:37).  

       It is also seen that Jesus' obedience to His earthly parents was a standout.  Jesus was subject to His parents, He obeyed them.  As the Son of God He set the perfect example of what a child should be to His parents.  Despite the fact that Joseph was not His true father, was the stronger in spirit, was filled with more wisdom, and that God was His Father, Jesus obeyed His parents.  And yet again, Mary keeps all of these conversations in her heart.  She does not sit down with the local women and gossip about what her son had just done in Jerusalem.  She did not boast.  She remained quiet, humble, waiting upon the Lord to use Jesus as he so willed in the capacity of Messiah.  She knew that in due time God would reveal exactly what her son was meant to do in order to become the salvation of the world.

       Finally, we find Jesus' physical growth to coincide with gaining in favor with both God and men.  Knowledge-wise Jesus was filled with wisdom.  He learned all things that other children were learning, as well as what His parents taught Him.  He was one to seek out learning from others.  How many childredn today have this attribute?  Most children simply take what is assigned to them and do what is expected/required.  Fewer and fewer seek out excellence in learning.  Spiritually Jesus grew strong in spirit.  Far too few children grow spiritually.  It is far easier in public schools to choose to not "buck" the crowd, rather than accepting the challenge of Jesus and stand up for Him.  We see evidence of socialization component here as well.  He grew in favor among men.  He was friendly, loving, caring, helpful, unselfish, pure, honest, and humble.  The other families within His community welcomed Him.  Too frequently these days we see children who are not welcome among neighborhood families because they have failed to be taught social skills and an appreciation for others.   Lastly we see that this increasing of His stature and knowledge and understanding was continual, advancing Him through life towards His ultimate destination: the cross at Calvary.

      
    That is all for this day, beloved.  Next time we shall begin studying the Baptist's call into active service of the Messiah.  May God's grace and peace flood your heart and soul this very day!  Choose to follow after Him with all that you are.  He will give you what you need in life, whether it is a job, a home, clothes, food, or transportation.  God will even bring love into your life, at the least suspected time.  Simply trust in Him completely.  Go where He sends you.  Do what He tells you to do.

    ~Eric



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    Wed, Feb 13th - 7:12AM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.  And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.  And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child remained behind in the city; and Joseph and His mother didn't know of this.  But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they looked for Him among their kinfolk and acquaintences.  When they could not find Him, they turned around and went back to Jerusalem, searching for Him.  And it so happened, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the doctors, both listening to them, and asking them questions (2:41-46)."

       This is the first half of the only passage that covers Jesus' childhood.  It gives us the first known time that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah.  It provides us with the insight into how faithful Jesus was as a child to worship His Father in heaven.  His parents were faithful in their worship of God.  This fact has been specifically stated.  It was their custom to keep the feast of the Passover every year.  They did not miss it ever.  All male Jews who lived within twenty miles of Jerusalem were required by the law to attend the temple three times each year: at the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of the Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-17).  Women were exempt from the law, but theycould attend if they so wished.  Mary chose to go every year, but not because it was required of her.  His parents led and taught Him to be faithful in worship.  It does not specifically state that Jesus went to Jerusalem each year with His parents, but the assumption must be made that where would He have been, if not with His parents?  There was no daycare, no other relatives with whom He could stay.  It was the custom for all that could hear with understanding to be present, if at all possible (Nehemiah 8:2).  We need to note Jesus' knowledge and ability to discuss issues with religious authorities.  It indicates that His parents had taught Him at every opportunity.  It also indicates that Jesus had internal knowledge of God's Word and thus could discuss it with anyone, revealing the truth hidden within it.  God had placed the child Jesus into Mary and Joseph's keeping as a bundle of trust.  The child belonged to God.  He had only entrusted the child's keeping into their hands to see that he was looked after and taught while He physically grew up to become an adult man.  It was their responsibility to see that He grew physically, spiritually, and mentally.  His parents were faithful to their assigned duty.  As should all parents today be faithful to the charge laid upon them by God when He gives them a child to raise up in the way it ought to go.  Children are a gift of trust placed into their parents' by a loving God.  The children belong to God, not to us.  Thus we are to raise them, to train them, in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6).

       For Jesus this was a very special year.  In one more year He would become a son of the law.  This meant that He was considered to be a man and was expected to keep all the law.  By custom it was suggested that every boy be brought to the Passover one or two years early so that he might become familiar with the Temple and the Feasts.  When these boys came they were given plenty of  attention and special instruction, as indicated in verse 46.  What can we take away from this?  Every child ought to be taught from the very beginning about God and worship of God.  They ought to be taught about the world and a person's responsibilities in it.  Every child, coming of age, should be charged with becoming a "son of the law,"  even women today should be so charged.  Each child should be charged, being responsible and making a contribution to society, all in the name of the Lord. 

       The social development of Jesus would appear to have been normal.  At the end of the time of the Passover His parents packed up their belongings and began the trip home.  Obviously they assumed Jesus to be with them, playing with His friends, socializing with the other relatives that were with them.  The caravans that went to and from Jerusalem at these times contained large numbers of families, causing massive congestion along the road.  What we can see from His parent's actions is that He was a normal boy in socialization.  It was not until nightfall that His parents looked for Jesus, and then discovered that He was not with them.  Social development of a child is important, however, the child must be taught how to play and how to associate with others.  This is the parent's responsibility.  Public schools are not the proper forum for children to be taught how to associate with others.  It must be taught long before they are flung into large groups of their peers, otherwise the peer group will teach them how to associate with others.  A child must be taught to be patient, giving, kind, loyal, caring, disciplined, helpful, peaceful, joyful, and loving.  Left alone among a large group of their peers, a child will not learn to become very many of these things.  They will be taught to be loyal, mocking, untruthful, irritating, selfish, impatient, and disrespectful of authority.  They will also tend to become arrogant, jealous, braggarts, and easily provoked to anger.

       Finally, Jesus' parents find Him in the Temple sitting in the middle of the doctors.  Aside from taking three days to find the boy, it is a marvel to discover Him asking obvious intelligent questions of fully grown men taught in the law.  These were not doctors of healing, but the doctors of theology and religion.  It was a prominent place where He was found, a place customarily used to teach open classes and have discussions.  The point being made in this account by Luke is the surprising level of knowledge of Jesus.  Who might have been found in this group of "doctors?"  There was Gamaliel, the teacher of Saul of Tarsus.  There was Hillel, one of the most revered liberal teachers.  Or Shammai, a revered conservative teacher of the law.  Jonathan who paraphrased the sacred books, or Simeon who later on succeeded Hillel, or perhaps Nicodemus.  This was a group of learned men, respected by the nation of Israel, found to be sitting in the company of Jesus, fielding His questions respectfully.  Little did any of them realize that some twenty years later they would all be schooled by this person in revelation of God.

    That is all for today my friends.  Have a wonerful day serving God and one another!  It is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the period known as Lent.  I hope that you will choose to walk with Jesus through these days leading up to Easter, and become much better acquainted with all that He experienced.  Grace and peace be with you.

    ~Eric



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    Mon, Feb 11th - 8:40PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And when they had performed all things according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.  And the child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him (2:39-40).'

       Mary and Joseph were obedient to the law of God, and performed all that was required of them as parents of a son.  They then returned to their home town and their livelihood.  Jesus growth as a child is stated quite simply.  Yet, the statement is applicable to the reader, and to every believer in every generation.  Jesus was led by His parents to fulfill all of the law.  He was reared in Nazareth.  He grew as a child: physically, spiritually, and mentally.  He possessed God's grace.  We should consider two significant things:  God had sent His Son into the world expressly to fulfill the law, not to destroy it.  By keeping all of the law, Jesus would be perfectly righteous and become the Ideal Man, the Man who would be the Pattern for all men to follow.  

       God has given us a perfect life to follow, to mimic, not just written letters and words on pages of paper.  Jesus became the Perfect Man, the Ideal Life which people are to imitate.  All people are to look to Jesus and follow Him instead of following the law.  Jesus has fulfilled the law; therefore He embraces and includes all the law and more in His life.  In order to fulfill the law He had to keep the law and every observance of it.  By keeping all of the law, Jesus symbolically predicted what He was to do for sinful man.  He came to secure righteousness and perfection by fulfilling the law, and thus He became the Ideal Man.  As the Ideal Man whatever He did would cover any one who followed Him.  He who would trust Jesus would in turn be covered by His righteousness.

       For these reasons it is that God led Mary and Joseph to fulfill all of the law for the child Messiah.  "And Jesus responding said to him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness.  Then he suffered Him (Matthew 3:15)."  "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17)."  "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son  in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3)."  " For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15:21)."  

       Luke simply tells us that after Jesus' dedication in the temple, His parents traveled back to Nazareth.  We find no evidence of Matthew's account here.  There is no mention of their return to Bethlehem where the magi visited them; no mention of their flight down into Egypt; no mention of Herod's edict to slaughter the Hebrew children; no mention of the threat made by Archaleus.    Nazareth was, in many ways, an ideal place for the child Messiah to raised.  It was an obscure place, despised and reproached by other people.  It was a humiliating place in which to be reared.  Therefore Jesus continued to identify with people in the most severe circumstances.  He knew what it was to be born and brought up in a despicable place.  From the outset Jesus made Himself have no reputation worth knowing.

       What were the advantages of being raised in Nazareth?  1)   It was a quiet place, small and infamous, ready-made for a close community and for neighborliness and quiet contemplation.  2)   It was a town in touch with the modern life and the world events of that particular day.  Two of the major roads in the ancient world passed very close to hills surrounding the town: the road stretching from Rome to Africa, and  the road stretching from the great cities of the East and the West.  Perhaps Jesus sat or stood upon those hills observing some of the travelers and caravans moving along these roads.  He had opportunity to observe and study the nature and dealings of all kinds of men and nationalities as they used these major routes.  How often must His heart have ached and wept as a child over this world lost and needing to be found.  

       We are told that Jesus grew as a child, as other children grow: physically, emotionally, mentally.  But spiritually Jesus grew strong in the spirit.  The Greek world used means a vigorous growth.  Jesus didn't grow just in wisdom, He was "filled with wisdom."  Jesus grew perfectly, as we all were originally meant to grow.  No other child had ever been or ever will be perfect in growth at all of the various stages of childhood, but the child-Messiah did.  Why did Christ come as a child and not as a fully grown man?  The first man, Adam, stood at the head of the human race as the natural representative of mankind, and he had been created as a full grown man. But why not Christ as well?  He was sent into the world to stand at the head of the human race as the spiritual representative of mankind.  Why  did God subject His only Begotten Son to such humiliation of being born a baby in a stable full of animals, and raised a child in a town of ill-repute?  For two reasons at least.

    1.   Christ needed to set an example for every person, no matter the age, even for children.  He went through the experience of a helpless baby, then a dependent child, and then an independent and responsible young man.  By example the Messiah stooped low to set a shocking example of humility and lowliness of mind for every person.  "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves.  Let not every man look on his own things, but to also look on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:3-8)."

    2.   Christ needed to demonstrate a striking truth to all people: no person can enter heaven unless they first become as a little child.  Thus there was no better way to illustrate this truth than for the Son of God Himself to go through the humbling experience of becoming as a little child before becoming a man.  "Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Who ever shall humble themselves as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4)."

    3.   Christ needed to experience every situation, condition, and trial of mankind in order to become the Perfect Sympathizer or Savior.  For this reason Christ experienced the most humiliating things possible.  Christ was born to an unwed mom; born in a stable; born to parents living in poverty; life threatened as a baby; having to move from place to place as a baby; being the cause of unimaginable sorrow; having His human father die during His youth; having to support His mom and siblings; being hated by religionists; charged with insanity; charged with demon possession; opposed by His own siblings; being rejected, hated, and opposed by strangers; betrayed by a very close friend; left alone, forsaken by all of His disciples and friends; falsely accused of high treason; executed by crucifixion which was the worst possible death at the time.  All of this Christ willingly experienced in order to know exactly what each of us suffers through in our lives, something which He had to know in order to become our personal Savior.

       Finally, we notice that Christ possessed God's grace (charis theou).  The idea is that God's grace rested upon Jesus in full measure, without lack or shortcoming.  Jesus chose to grow perfectly and come short in nothing.  Thus God showered Him with His grace, His favor.  Favor came in the form of looking after and taking care of Him perfectly.  It is these things that God seeks to do for each of us who believe in Him today.  He desires to shower us with His grace each and every day.  It is up to us to choose to grow perfectly in His Word as He has provided it for us.  The Bible is our life guide, our manifesto for relating properly to God and to each other.  It is up to each of us to choose wisely, each and every day of our lives.

    Grace and peace to you, beloved children of Christ!  I salute you my brothers and sisters in Christ!  Be strong in the Holy Spirit, who has been given to you to guide you into all truth.  Lovingly accept the fruits of the Holy Spirit and freely use them each and every day that you are alive.  Be strong, be vigilant, watch for the world grows dark with the imaginations of man and seeks to steal your heart away from the Living God.  Protect your heart diligently, do not throw it foolishly away in the pursuits of the flesh.  Esau gave away his inheritance just to satisfy his yearning for some hot food, do not throw away your heavenly inheritance therefore lusting after sexual pleasure, monetary gain, or personal power and fame.  Keep your eyes continuously upon Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior and give to Him all of the praise, honor, and glory.

    ~Eric


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    Sun, Feb 10th - 2:46PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And there was Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was very old, and had lived with a husband sevenyears from her virginity; And she was a widow of about 84 years, and did not leave the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.  And in coming then she gave thanks likewise to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (2:36-38)."

       All that we can know about Anna is given here.  She was the daughter of Phanuel.  Apparantly her dad's name had been taken from the place Phanuel, where Jacob wrestled with God face to face (Genesis 32:24-30).  Anna's name means gracious.  She appears to have been a person of immense devotion, one who had lived as though face to face with God, ever receiving His grace and sharing His grace with others.  We just looked at a man, Simeon, who had witnessed to the child Jesus being the Salvation of God.  Now a woman, Anna, bears the very same witness.  Both men and women acknowledged the child to be the Messiah, not just Mary and Joseph.  This child is the hope of every generation born into this world.  In Anna we can see that she was a prophetess, never lost hope over many years, never grew bitter at her lot in life, never stopped worshiping, knew the child instantly, and shared the news with all believers. 

       Her being a prophetess was rather unusual since there had not been a prophet in Israel for some three hundred years.  God not only raised a prophet, but He raised a woman as the prophet.  Women leaders were very rare in that time period.  To all appearances she was a very special woman, one who loved God and hoped in God with all of her being.  Spiritually she appears to be on a par with other saintly women used by God in the past such as Miriam,  Hannah, and Deborah.  As a prophetess Anna obviously would be studying God's Word in the Old Testamental scrolls on a constant basis.  Her hope was solely in God, not in anyone else, and God blessed her greatly as a result.  God blesses those today who place their sole hope in God.  "Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy (Psalm 33:18)."  "For You are my hope, O Lord God: You are my trust from my youth (Psalm 71:5)."  "Blessed is the man that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD (Jeremiah 17:7)." 

       Anna, we see, never lost hope over the long years of her widowhood.  She was 84 years old and still believed and still looked for her Messiah.  She was looking for the salvation that God had promised to send to the world.  Her belief remained steadfast and strong her entire life.  "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.  But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved (Matthew 24:12-13)."  "Behold, I come quickly; hold fast that which you have, that no man take your crown (Revelation 3:11)."  Like Anna before us, we must endure the iniquity of this confused world in which we live.  We are commanded to persevere right to the very end of our mortal lives.  There can be no "retirement."  What we are is what we must live with every breath that we inhale.  It can be no other way, beloved.

       Anna had been married at a very young age and then remained married for only seven years before he died.  She never remarried and never became bitter at her life situation.  She remained a widow out of conviction that her life belonged to God.  Obviously before she married her husband she was dedicated to God, and while married she was committed to her husband.  From what we know about her in scripture she would have been an ideal wife.  Her husband's death was apparantly a sign to Anna that God wanted her life completely committed to Him.  Thus, she dedicated herself to serving Him day and night in the temple for the remainder of her life.  She was able to concentrate upon God without distraction.

       She was therefore unceasingly worshiping night and day.  She spent her days between periods of fasting and prayer while within the temple.  Either she had been provided a room to live in at the temple, or else she walked to the temple each and every day.  I believe she actually remained in the temple 24/7.  That makes the most sense from how the scripture is written.  She was totally devoted to God, sold out completely, heart and soul.  Fastings and prayer indicate that she was very disciplined, that she possessed consistency in her devotions that so many of us today lack.  Despite being elderly she fasted and prayed both day and night.  She had not given herself up to the "flesh" as she grew older: overeating, over sleeping, immoral gratification, or personal amusements that simply waste valuable time.  "Seek the LORD and His strength, seek His face continually (I Chronicles 16:11)."  "Men ought to pray always, and not faint (Luke 18:1)."  "You are My witnesses, says the LORD, and My servant whom I have chosen: that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He: before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me (Isaiah 43:10)."

       Anna knew the child instantly and gave thanks.  She was God's servant, guided step by step, taken care of by God.  God saw that her path crossed that of the child Messiah.  He fulfilled her hope.  What was Anna's message of thanksgiving?  Redemption.  She praised God for redemption finally arriving in the world.  This child was the Messiah who was to redeem all people from their sins.  "Likewise" refers the reader back to what Simeon had prophesied.  She prophesied and proclaimed the same message: the child Jesus is the glorious hope of man's redemption.  "He sent redemption to His people: He has commanded His covenant forever: holy and reverend is His name (Psalm 111:9)."  "Do not fear: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are Mine (Isaiah 43:1)."  "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24)."  "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14)."  "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12)."  "And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals of it: for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every race, and tongue, and people, and nation (Revelation 5:9)." 

       Anna then shared her message with all believers.  She knew of others who were looking for the Messiah's coming, so she went and shared her knowledge with them.  Here is what all believers today must go and do.  We are to take the Good News about Christ outside of the sanctuary of our worship buildings, and share it with those who are searching for answers in their lives.  Who are these people?  Don't know, but we will find them by sharing what we know about Christ with everyone.  God knows who they are and where they are, yet He desires us to go and share with everyone in order to find those who are missing from the Body of Christ's believers. 

    Grace and peace be with you all today!

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Sat, Feb 9th - 12:55PM



    In verse 34 of chapter in Luke we are taught that this child was to be the cause of many people falling and many people rising. He was to be what the Scripture calls "the stone of stumbling and the chief cornerstone." Many people did, do, and will, stumble and fall over Jesus Christ. People do not notice, look, study, prefer, choose, believe, or trust Him and the salvation He has brought. They simply choose another way other than God's way. Therefore they stumble and fall just as they would stumble over a fallen log or a stone in their path. However, many people rise because of Him. They do take notice, choose, and believe in Him and the salvation that He brought. To these people Jesus becomes the foundation, their chief cornerstone in their lives. 

    Jesus Christ forces every person to make a choice. Either reject the Messiah, God's salvation, and fall eternally; or accept and rise to eternal life. "Sanctify the LORD of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He shall be your sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken (Isaiah 8:13-15)." "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient: to which also they were appointed (II Peter 2:7-8)." There is no sitting on the proverbial fence when it comes to Jesus Christ. You either are for Him, or you are against Him. You either believe He is God or else you believe that He was crazy and a liar. 

    We also learn that this child's fate was sealed for He was to be opposed and eventually killed. He was the "sign which shall be spoken against." Christ was the sign of both God's love and judgment. This duality is what causes people to react in both directions. People want a "god" that only brings enough law and morality to give order to their society. They want a "god" that allows them to live exactly as they desire, not a God who demands complete self-denial and obedience. People want a "god" of indulging love, not one of sacrificial love; a "god" of license, not one of demanding love. Thus when Christ is set before people as the Messiah of self-denying love and obedience, they react. If they choose to disobey Him and fail to live sacrificial lives, they bring judgment upon themselves. Within every society Christ and His genuine believers are spoken against to varying degrees of reaction and persecution. Here in America the levels of reaction and persecution historically have been quite minimal. However, over the past twenty-five years the amounts of persecution stemming from increasingly negative reaction to Christ have been on the rise. The range of reaction covers all of the following: ignoring, ridiculing, abusing, hating, slandering, imprisoning, murdering, and persecuting legally. The first five reactions listed happen on a daily basis in America while the remaining three reactions are happening more and more frequently. In the name of "tolerance" unbelievers proceed to be very intolerant of Christian doctrine. We need to not forget the words the angel spoke to Mary, "A sword shall pierce through your own heart also." It refers to the sorrow she was destined to experience at the foot of the cross at seeing her Son, the only begotten Son of God, rejected and killed by men. 

    In the Person of Christ people either see the love of God and surrender to the saving grace of God, or else they look upon the cross as a repulsive sight and reject the saving grace of God. They either see Christ dying for their sins and receive the forgiveness of God offered to them by the cross, or else they recoil from the thought of sin within themselves and turn from the forgiveness of the cross. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to us which are saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18)." "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Romans 2:4)?" "To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they can't listen; behold, the Word of the LORD is to them a reproach; they have no delight in it (Jeremiah 6:10)." "The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: see, they have rejected the Word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them (Jeremiah 8:9)?" "Yes, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, otherwise they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts has sent in His Spirit by the former prophets: therefore cam a great wrath from the LORD of hosts (Zechariah 7:12)." 

    Christ came into our world fully knowing that He would be a point of contention among all people.  There would not be allowed any room for neutrality in peoples' minds.  People who claim to be Christians simply because they have chosen to attend Sunday services every week are in a no-man's land spiritually.  Have they chosen Christ, or are they trying to earn their way into God's good graces through actions they take?  They must choose, otherwise they too shall stumble and fall at some point in the future.  It may not come until persecution increases to the point where it no longer is comfortable to publically announce that you are a Christian.  Many will fall by the wayside as ridicule, slander, persecution and imprisonment are increasingly applied against believers in Jesus Christ.  

    Next time I will be moving on to the next section of scripture in the Book of Luke.  Hope you come on back to learn more about the Messiah!  Grace and peace.


    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Fri, Feb 8th - 7:09AM

    STUDY IN LUKE



       Continuing this study of the Book of Luke, in verses 28-33 it is seen that this child was God's salvation.  After Simeon embraced his Messiah he erupted into song.  This song of his is called the Nunc Dimittus, being known by the opening words of the song in Latin.  What strikes me as important here is that the child was God's salvation for mankind, He was to be the source of peace for the entire world, not just the Jews.  Simeon had seen, and embraced, the Messiah and so he was now ready to die in peace.  We must realize that this man believed and trusted God along with all of God's promises.  He praised God for fulfilling His Word according to His Word.  Simeon was ready to die because of God's faithfulness in his life.  Now he knew that he would live on in eternity "with his fathers."  "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you: not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let yourself be afraid (John 14:27)."  "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have peace.  In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33)." 

       This child was the One appointed to be God's salvation.  He was appointed and prepared in "the determination and counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23)."  So people must confess that this child, Jesus, is God's salvation, through whom God saves the world.  "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God (I John 4:15)."  To make claims that I am in God, but I refuse to confess that Jesus is God means that God is not in me.  The logic is solid.  The path is, indeed, very narrow.  I am forced to go through Jesus to reach the Father in heaven, or I do not go to heaven at all. 

       This child was prepared for all people.  Simeon saw that God's salvation wasn't for any one people, nation, or ethnic group.  The Messiah had come to set all people free.  Any person could now be saved, no matter who he/she was or what he/she had done.  Prejudice and favoritism are unknown to God.  He was unwilling that any should die.  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God for salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16)."  "The Lord isn't slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9)." 

       This child was to be a light to the Gentiles,  to the unbelievers of the entire world.  The child came to be the Light of the world.  This means that He came to be the Revelation of God, to reveal the Way, the Truth, and the Life to mankind.  "Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no person comes to the Father, but by Me (John 14:6)." "Then Jesus said again to them, I am the light of the world: he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12)."

       This child was to be the glory of Israel, of true believers everywhere.  The Messiah was to be the glory of all Israelites (Jews) who truly believed in Him.  He was to be the glory of all who believed, no matter what nationality, race, gender, ethnicity, or age.  Why?  "In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory (Isaiah 45:25)."  "Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through you, I will nake you an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations...Violence shall no more be heard in the land, wasting nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.  The sun shall be no more your light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light to you: but the LORD shall be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory (Isaiah 60:15, 18-19)." 

       Joseph and Mary were amazed at these predictions.  These sorts of predictions would amaze anyone, but they were given for another reason.  The child's parents needed assurance and encouragement.  Imagine what they had already been through and still yet must go through, all because of this child.  God made sure that they were strengthened in order to continue on in this experience.  We too share in this experience, for we carry Jesus Christ out into the world all around us each and every day of our lives.  We too require assurance and encouragement from God in order to continue carrying on as His ambassadors in a hostile environment.  Our mortal enemy does not sleep, nor does he take vacations, as do we.  Satan works 24/7 at misleading, deceiving, creating traps and snares, laying pitfalls, and even openly assaulting Christians, all so that we will either refuse to do God's will or else be unable to do God's will.  Satan has caused many a believer to decide that the cost was too high to do what God was asking of them.  They turn and go back to the world from which God had called them.  I hope and pray that I never make such a choice.

       That is all for this morning, beloved.  I pray that through God's grace and love that you have a wonderful day, full of His abundance. 

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Tue, Feb 5th - 6:50AM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.  And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for the child according to the custom of the law, Then did Simeon take Him up in his arms and blessed God, saying, Lord, now let Your servant die according to Your Word: For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all people; Alight to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.  And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of Him.  And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed (2:25-35)."

       Jesus had already been circumcised in a local synagogue but was now to be presented to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem, to be dedicated and  offered up for God's keeping and care.  Mary and Joseph crossed paths with Simeon, a man whom we know little about other than the facts that he was a just and devout man of God.  Simeon had been waiting for "the consolation of Israel," the Messiah, to come.  It is rather obvious that Simeon was rather old, he had been informed by God's Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had physically seen the Messiah.  He may have been a priest, but it is not certain.  Whatever this man's occupation in life had been, God used him to proclaim the events and fate of the child Messiah's life.  He proclaimed that the child was God's salvation, was to be the cause of many people falling and rising again, and that the child's fate was sealed. 

       What sort of man was this Simeon?  It says that he was a just and devout man.  the word "just" (dikaios) means "righteous, well-behaved, living as one should live."  Simeon treated other people as he should: justly.  The word "devout" (culabes) means "cautious and careful in relaiton to God."  He had reverence for God, being pious, and was very careful in his relationship toward God.  Simeon was a person who looked for the coming of the Messiah.  It is why he was lookikng for the "consolation of Israel."  The faithful among the Jews felt that Israel could find consolation only in the Messiah.  They longed and ached with hope and patience for His coming.  Joseph of Arimathaea is another example of a person who "waited for the kingdom of God" (Mark 15:43)."  The message we need to take to the world is that the world can find consolation only in the coming of Christ into its life (Titus 2:11-14).  We, as believers, must long for the Messiah, we must ache with all possible hope and patience for His return (II Peter 3:3-18).

       We see, most importantly, that Simeon was led by the Holy Spirit.  God's Spirit was upon him.  The implication in this passage is that the Holy Spirit was upon him continually during this time period. Usually throughout the Old Testament we can see where the Holy Spirit came upon a person for special service during a short time period.  However, here it appears that the Spirit of God rested upon Simeon continually.  Such a thing must happen to only those people who are closely living to God.  One must be a very, very, special person of faith, one who holds God ever so dear to their heart and whom God holds ever so dear to His heart as well.

       Simeon had been given a rather unusual promise by God.  He must have been a person who constantly studied the scriptures, searching the prophecies concerning the coming salvation of the Messiah.  At some point in time, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  Imagine that!  "Simeon, you shall live to see the Messiah in the flesh.  You shall not die until after the day that you shall hold the Child up and proclaim the arrival of the consolation of Israel."  Now imagine this:  He actually held the Messiah!  What a moment in his life.  What a thrill, to live to see prophecy fulfilled, and you able to hold the King of Peace in your very arms!  Simeon had not simply been wandering about the temple on this day, he had been specifically led by God's Spirit here.  For this was the very day, the very hour, for which his life had been prolonged by God: in order to see and hold the Lamb of God, his Messiah.  He was given the supreme privilege to hold his own salvation in his arms!  Simeon was standing there in the temple when Joseph brought Jesus out to be dedicated and he immediately identified Jesus as the Christ-child.  Can you imagine the impact his words must have had upon both Joseph and Mary?  Here is a man unknown to them holding up their son, proclaiming in exactly the same words who He was as had the angels and the shepherds.  Incredible!  My last thought here is this: Simeon is an example set before us of what a strongly dedicated believer in God is.  By being so close to God in spirit and through strength of dedication, the believer can be blessed by God beyond imagination.

       I will stop right here for now, beloved.  I will continue with thoughts on this passage, hopefully tomorrow.  Grace and peace be with you this day.

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Sat, Feb 2nd - 5:50PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And there were in the same country shepherds remaining in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them: and they were very afraid.  And the angel said to them, Do not fear: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For to you this day is born in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us go now to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.  And they hurried and found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they had seen it, they made known everywhere the saying which was told to them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told to them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all of these things, and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them.  And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcision of the child, His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb of Mary.  And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord.  (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that is born shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons (2:8-24)."

       Can you imagine the looks upon the faces of those shepherds?  The unbelievable appearance of an actual angel right before their very eyes.  Common people simply did not think that angels would ever appear and speak to them.  Shepherds reputation was lowly, and religious people snubbed and ignored them.  They were despised because they could not attend attend temple services and keep the ceremonial laws of washing and cleansing.  Their flocks of sheep kept them too busy.  How about today?  Which occupations cause others to despise and snub those who work them?  The nurses who work on Sundays, the wastewater operators who work on Sundays, the drinking water operators who work on Sundays, the public works employees who are out repairing water lines and street surfaces.  All of these people are mocked, deemed unworthy, inconsequential, by large numbers of people who regularly attend Sunday worship services.  Why don't they come?  Don't they care?  They must not be very faithful!  All of these assumptions are false.  But here in verse nine God gave the first message of His Son to common shepherds out in the fields.  What a wonderful picture of salvation, it is offered to anyone who is willing to listen, hear, and believe.  We see that the angel's appearance was of splendor and glory, the shekinah glory of God (Matthew 17:5-8).  This angel's message was one of reassurance and good news.  He proclaimed the Messiah's birth and charged the shepherds to visit this child.  They were given a sign: the baby would be found in a manger in the city of David.  This birth announcement to sinners was appropriate since the Savior was coming into our world to call sinners to repentance.

       It is then seen that a multitude of heavenly host suddenly appeared all around them, praising God.  "Host" means an army of angels.  God gave those shepherds a window into the spiritual realm by allowing this angelic host to appear.  This heavenly host cried out for glory of God, who is the highest possible Being.  They cried out for peace, for good will towards all men.  This "peace" is the peace of reconiliation, the good will between man and God.  All of the alienation and separation, struggle and divisiveness, restlessness and fear caused by sin had to be solved.  Praise was offered up for all of these things were now being resolved in the birth of the Savior, which is in Christ the Lord.

       How did these shepherds respond to these extraordinary events?  Did they sit there, saying, "That was some powerful weed, man!  We need to cut back on how much of that stuff we smoke!"  No.  They were very excited and did what the angel had commanded they were to do: Go to Bethlehem and see this child.  They did not hem and haw, didn't make excuses as to why they couldn't go right away.  They got up and went.  There was a sense of urgency, a need to waste no time, action was called for.  So they went to Bethlehem, and found the baby exactly as they had been told.  Not only that, when they had witnessed that the angel had spoken truly they went out and told everyone they met about these things.  They bore witness of Christ's birth to their world.  We are to do no less today.  What we have experienced in Christ we must then go and share with others so that they too may experience Him.  These shepherds caused quite a stir among the people to whom they spoke about these things.  Notice the hearers of the news did not respond by going to see the baby in the manger.  They simply wondered about what they had heard; they never acted upon the information, they never moved themselves to find Christ for themselves.  That is the picture of today, beloved.  So many people wonder how Christ can save, how Christ can indwell them, and how Christ can give them a glorified body one day; but very few of them will get up and physically come to find how much He loves them.  They will sit and ponder and wonder.

       Then there is Mary.  What a picture of a humble, trusting heart.  She had been told that her child was of God, truly of God.  She knew for a fact that the Messiah, the very Son of God, had now come into the world.  She had been through so much up to this point: pregnant, not yet married; the possibility of being discovered and having rumors proliferate; the discussions with Joseph and with her parents; the long trip from Nazareth; the exhaustion from giving birth without outside help in a stable; visitation from a group of scruffy looking shepherds bringing praise and glory to her child.  So much had happened, and she was at the center of it all.  Who knew the thoughts that had filled her mind over the past nine to ten months?  Who could she talk to about the amazement, wonder, and astounding reality of giving birth to the Messiah?  She chose to keep all of these things to herself.  She humbly bowed in adoration of God and quietly entrusted all of these things into God's keeping.  She said nothing, made no comments or observations.  She simply pondered in her heart what was happening.

       We also need to keep in mind the naming of this child.  What was unusual was that God Himself named Him.  The naming happened before He was even conceived.  The name Jesus means Savior, or He will save.  The Hebrew form of the word is Joshua which means Jehovah is Salvation.  By Jewish custom every male child eight days after birth must go through the legal observances of the Law.  Jesus went through the ceremony of circumcision and the ceremony of dedication to the Lord.  Hebrew male babies were presented in the temple to God.  This Mary and Joseph did once they got close enough to Jerusalem.  Of course, Mary needed to go through the ceremony of purification before traveling anywhere.  After the birth of a male child a woman was considered unclean for forty days (eighty for a girl).  She could work around her home and engage in normal activities, but she could not take part in any religious ceremonies.  She was ceremonially unclean, spiritually unclean.  After her days of purification were over she needed to make an offering in the temple.    Why would Jesus, the Son of God, be subjected to the legal observances of the Law?  He was not a stranger to the covenants of God (circumcision).  He had created the covenants Himself.  He was not lacking in commitment (Dedication Ceremony).  He was God Himself, the One to whom all babies were dedicated.  So why?  Quite simply, He was made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law, that they might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:4-5).  He was made like us in order to become a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of all of the people.  Because He has suffered through temptation, He is able to provide assistance to those people who are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18). 

       We find in this passage the deliberate choice of God to have a poor family bear His only begotten Son into this world.  Mary offered two pigeons which was the offering of the poor.  Rich people were required to offer a lamb and a pigeon.  God chose the poor family to raise His Son in an ordinary home without any of that day's luxuries.  We must always remember that no matter what hardship we are forced to bear in our life, Christ has already borne it, even poverty.  He knows and understands the suffering which we go through; therefore He is able to strengthen and carry us through the suffering to its end.  He gives us the strength to bear the burdens of suffering and persecution while remaining with us.  He counsels us in the midst of persecution and suffering, gives us endurance when we battle physical disease and loss of limb.  He embraces us in His love during our times of loss and separation of loved ones.  God wants servants who are willing to carry His love into the hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, and counsellor's offices where there are people in need of pastoral care, love, and compassion.  Is that servant you?  Is that servant me?

    Grace and peace be unto you this day!

    ~Eric 



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    Fri, Feb 1st - 9:55PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria) And all went to be taxed, every person to his/her own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the cityof Nazareth, to Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, her pregnancy came to full term and she needed to deliver.  And she delivered her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (2:1-7)."

       We must take note that Judea was now under Roman rule of its emperor.  Judea was included in the same province as Syria, with Cyrenius being its governor.  Herod was the king of Judea.  This meant that Judea was no longer ruled by one of its own princes; it was ruled by an Idumean prince, a descendant of Esau, Herod the Great.  The promised land was no longer in the hands of Israel; it was in the hands of a heathen power.  Their  prince was no longer appointed by God; he was empowered by Rome.  The temple was no longer cared for by the prince of God; it was misused under the authority of a usurper.  The priests of God were no longer the ministers of God; they were the servants of the secular world.

       See how clearly and dramatically the rod of power had departed from Judea, as prophecy had spoken of previously.  It was now time for Shiloh to come though.  And He would come.  God had ordained it, and had already appointed the time when He would come in human flesh.  Jesus Christ was Shiloh who was to come.  His coming into our world was surrounded by some most unusual events.

    1.   The miraculous taxation.

    2.   The shocking place of birth.

    3.   The unbelievable appearnce of a real angel to shepherds.

    4.   The spectacular appearance of the heavenly host.

    5.   The awe-stricken, pondering mother.

    6.   The common, non-religious shepherds worshipping God.

    7.   The unusual naming of the child, named by God Himself.

    8.   The unexpected obgservance of the legal ceremonies.

    9.   The deliberate choice by God to have a poor family bear His Son.

       The taxation was used by God to fulfill His plan for the birth of the Messiah.  It had been prophesied that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and scripture had to be fulfilled.  Joseph and Mary lived in Galilee, and Mary was now approaching her due date making travel difficult.  How was the child to be born in Bethlehem?  The taxation.  Everyone must return to their birth cities to pay their taxes.  God controlled the events of the world, working all things out for good so that His promise would be kept to send the Savior into the world from out of Bethlehem.

       The taxation forced Joseph to go to Bethlehem.  Micah 5:2 prophesied of the Messiah's birth being here.  The scribes in Matthew 2:5-6 clearly understood this and so did the common people (John 7:42).  This taxation led to the the fulfillment of scripture, despite man's plans.  Mary was about to deliver her Son; she was heavy with child.  God overruled their plans to have this child in Nazareth.  Why the necessity of being born in Bethlehem?  David had been born in Bethlehem; therefore it was necessary that the Son of David be born there as well.  Scripture had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  The Messiah was supposed to be the Son of David.  So all signs had to lead to Bethlehem in order for people to know that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of David. 

       There was the rather shocking place of the Messiah's birth.  Not born in a palace, an estate, nor in a townhouse; He was born in a stable with a manger, near an inn.  Not much comfort to be found in that.  We see here that Jesus was born in a smelly stable. he was neglected and turned away by men from the very beginning.  No one really cared overmuch that Mary was about to give birth.  Jesus was born in poverty.  If Joseph had had the funds he would have purchased a room for his wife and soon to be son.  Jesus was born in obscurity and loneliness.  His birth took place well away from people.  There was no midwife, no nurse, no doctor to attend.  Mary herself swaddled her newborn son and laid Him in the manger. For all intents and purposes, Jesus was born in humiliation, not entering this world in a hospital, a comfortable home, the home of a friend or relative, under a doctor's care, under the stars of heaven, but in a smelly stable, the lowest imaginable place for the birth of a king.

       Jesus was born into our corruptible world, a world full of sin and selfishness, greed, and unkindness.  This is pictured for us in the person of the innkeeper who was so wrapped up in his affairs that he could not help a woman ready to bear a child into his world.  No one was willing to make room for Mary at the inn.  Business and personal comfort were more important to all of the people who had become aware of her situation.  How sad that so many people missed the first coming of Christ.  How many more will miss the second coming of Christ as well? 

       That is all for tonight, beloved.  We are traveling the dark streets of the little town of Bethlehem, oh see how the everlasting light shines!  The hopes and fears of centuries were being met that fateful night in the stable next to the crowded inn.  And very few people took any notice.  Too busy, too greedy, too self-involved, too caught up in pursuing amusements to see that salvation had finally arrived on earth for all mankind.  I pray that none of us today have become ensnared by amusements and distractions, unaware of the fact that the Messiah calls to us each day to come and follow Him, come and enter into the holy life.  May each of us hear and obey the call.

    ~Eric



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    About Me

    Name: Eric Rajaniemi
    ChristiansUnite ID: ejroyal
    Member Since: 2007-09-08
    Location: Bedford, Virginia, United States
    Denomination: Born-again, Church of the Brethren
    About Me: I refrain from any denomination as much as possible since my faith has to do with Jesus Christ and not denominations. My wife and I are charter members of Lake Side Church of the Brethren for they desire to follow the New Testament precepts. We hav... more

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