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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
          Have you always had questions about different passages and books of the bible? Me too. Let's explore everything together and find out what God's Word actually says. Are you ready for a life-changing experience? Are you? Then come on!
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    Wed, Jan 30th - 8:54PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And His father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying,  Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David;  As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began:  That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; The oath which He swore to our father Abraham, That He would grant to us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.  And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; To give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high has visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.  And the child grew, and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts until the day of his showing to Israel (1:67-80)."

       Zacharias' song is also known as the Benedictus to many believers.  It is sometimes recited in worship services.  We need to keep in mind that it is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah and His forerunner, John the Baptist.  Both individuals are predicted and proclaimed.  We see that Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Now that he is obeying God he can be more fully utilized by God. (Not that God was unable to use him, but that God did not want to use him until he became obedient) This infilling by the Holy Spirit indicated a couple of things: 10 He was forgiven his sin of unbelief.  It had been his distrust and unbelief that brought on his deafness and inability to speak. As soon as he demonstrated faith in God's promise he was healed and filled with God's Spirit.  2) His being filled with the Spirit is a picture of what happens to us.  We believe and obey God, then God immediately forgives our sins and fills us with His Spirit (Acts 2:38).

       Zacharias' song began by predicting four things about the Messiah.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit he was "standing" in the future looking backwards.  The verbs used are in the past tense.  1)  The Messiah was the One through whom God visited and redeemed His people.  It was God Himself who visited the earth in the Person of the Messiah.  God had not neglected nor left the world all alone.  In the past God had been actively involved in the world's affairs.  He has sent His Word and His messengers into the world, but now God was becoming personally involved in the world.  He was visiting the world Himself.  He came to redeem His people, to save and rescue them from sin and death and separation from Himself.  It cost Him; He had to pay the price of bearing the sin debt of every single human being ever born, living, or yet to be born.  Redemption required a life for a life (Ephesians 1:7). 

       2)  The Messiah was the mighty Savior of David's house.  "Horn of salvation" is a reference to Christ.  The word "horn" throughout the Old Testament was a symbol of strength, power, and might.  The Messiah is called "horn" because He alone possesses the might, the strength, and the power to save.  Messiah was the horn promised to David (Psalm 132:17).  3)  The Messiah was the One prophesied.  God was working out His plan for the entire world.  He was upon the throne bringing to pass all that He had already promised.  In Genesis 3:15 He had been promised as the "Seed of the woman" who was to break the serpent's head.  He was the Seed promised to Abraham and his heirs (Genesis 12:1-4).  The Messiah was to save believers from their enemies and from all who hated them.  Carnal people think of salvation as material and physical deliverance; but God never meant salvation to last only for a few short years, the years of a person's life.  God cares much more deeply for people than this.  By salvation God means spiritual and eternal salvation, a deliverance and life that will never end.  God is interested in saving people from the enemies that wage an endless war against the spirit and enslave people both now and eternally: sin, death, and condemnation. 

       4)  The Messiah was the One who fulfilled the promised mercy and covenant, the oath made to Abraham.  God had promised Abraham mercy and the covenant of faith.  If Abraham would get up and leave his old country and follow Him, then Abraham would receive both the mercy of God and the covenant of faith.  The covenant was based upon the "promised seed," Christ Himself.  Zacharias therefore proclaimed the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham through the coming of the Messiah.  We then see that the Messiah brings the mercy of God to man and delivers man out of the hands of his enemies.  The Messiah establishes the covenant of faith with man and saves all who believe the promises of god just as Abraham believed. 

       We need to keep in mind that God has mercy and delivers people through faith for two very specific purposes.  The first purpose is that people might serve Him without any fear.  God does not want people living in fear, fearing the future and the imaginary gods and demons of this world.  He does not want people fearing the pain of death and the coming judgment of hell.  God wants people to have peace of mind and heart, to feel secure and to know meaning and purpose throughout all of their life (Hebrews 2:14-15).  The second purpose is that people might live righteously and seve God forever (Titus 3:4-7).  "For He has made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21)."  "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, until He come and rain righteousness upon you (Hosea 10:12)." 

       We notice that Zacharias addressed God as being the Lord God of Israel.  Why not of the entire world?  Simply because he had been raised up in the culture of Israel, who were the chosen people of God, the ones chosen to love, obey, and worship Him supremely.  As the chosen people of God they had been given both the Word and the promises of God to a lost and dying world.  God had entrusted Israel with the Truth.  As the recepient of God's Word and promises, Israel was to be given the Messiah, His salvation and redemption.  As the people of salvation and redemption, Israel was given the task to make God known, ot be the missionary force to reach a lost and dying world all around them.  Zacharias knew nothing of Israel's rejection of the Messiah, of god turning to the Gentiles, of the birth of a new people (the church).  Thus, he praised the Lord God of Israel.  It was the only context that he knew.

       Zacharias then prophesied about John the Baptist.  John was to be the prophet of the Highest.  Now, there had not been any prophet in Israel for around four hundred years.  John would be the first since the passing of Malachi.  John was to prepare the Lord's way.  He was to be forerunner of the Messiah, the person who was to proclaim His coming and prepare the people for His coming.  John was to proclaim salvation, even the forgivenss of sins.  Salvation is conditional, not universal.  One's sins must be forgiven before he/she can be saved (Ephesians 1:7).  John was to call people to salvation.  John was to proclaim the rise of the Son of God.  The Messiah is called "the Son of righteousness."  He is the "Dayspring from on High."  the Daystar, the morning light, the rising sun who has visited us.  His proclamation was to include the news that the Messiah was being sent through the tender mercy of God and that He was being sent to give the entire world "light."  Why?  Because the vast majority of us do now remain sitting in spiritual darkness.  We exist day by day in the shadow of death.  We need someone to guide our feet into the way of peace rather than into the paths of conflict and war. 

       All that we can know about John the Baptist's childhood is to be found in one single verse here.  He grew up as a normal boy physically, but three things are said about him that differentiate him from other children.  1)  He advanced far beyond other boys spiritually.  He grew strong in spirit.  He had strong commitment, a strong heart, strong will, and decisiveness.  He was God's servant, a young man who was committed to follow, obey, and serve only God.  2)  He was raised in a different environment than most boys: out in the desert.  It was an obscure place, a place of quietness, far from the influences of the world of man.  It was a place made for meditation and thought, for seeking out God.  3)  He stayed at his desert place until God called him to begin his ministry to Israel.  It points out a life of obedience both to parents and to God.  Self will had no place in John the Baptist. 

       What does this proclaim to us today?  It proclaims the desperate need today for believers to grow in the Lord Jesus Christ; to grow strong in the spirit and be able to then proclaim the Good News of redemption through knowing Jesus Christ.  There is a desperate need for believers to turn to the Holy Spirit of God for guidance rather than turning to their own understanding and wisdom.  It proclaims the need to find quiet places in which to meditate upon God's Word, to pray, and to listen for God's call in our lives.  It highlights the necessity of creating an inner garden where we can meet Jesus Christ in spirit and commune with Him, a place that we cultivate and keep sin-free. 

       That finishes up the first chapter of Luke.  Chapter two gives us the account of Jesus' birth at its beginning and walks us quickly through His childhood.  That is for next time, beloved.  For now, grace and peace be with you all.  Live in the Light.  Allow the Daystar to shine down upon you, and let His love shine through you in the night of this world of ours.

    ~Eric



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    Sun, Jan 27th - 3:09PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "Now Elizabeth's pregnancy came to full term that she should deliver; and she had a son.  And her neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.  And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.  And his mother answered and ssid, Not so, but he shall be called John.  And they said to her, There is none of your kindred that is called by this name.  And they signaled to his father, how he would have him called.  And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they all marveled at this.  And his mouth was immediately opened, and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, and praised God.  And fear came upon all that dwelt around them: and all these sayings were gossiped throughout all of the hill country of Judaea.  And all of them that heard them laid up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be!  And the hand of the Lord was with him (1:57-66)."

       In Elizabeth and Zacharias's community the birth of a chold was a significant event for every person there.  In their case it was even more significant since she had been unable to bear a child for her husband throughout their long marriage.  Even of more significance was the fact that Zacharias suddenly could speak again after affirming that his son's name was to be Jesus.  Obedience to God had been accomplished.  There were no more doubts to be chased away. 

       We are able to understand that the child's birth sealed God's power and mercy.  The fact that this child had been born exactly as God had said is evidence of God's glorious power.  God proved He is capable of controlling natural events and sending out the forerunner of the Messiah, exactly as He had promised.  The child's birth sealed God's mercy, showing that God was merciful in two ways:  a)  The fact that John was born as a baby of promise demonstrated that God has mercy upon people, even upon insignificant people with desperate needs.  b)  The fact that God used John in His plan of salvation demonstrated God's mercy.  John was to be greatly involved with the Messiah.  In God allowing him such glorious privilege and call clearly showed God's glorious mercy.  But this very same privilege is given to us as believers in Christ.  God wants to use everyone in His plan of salvation, both to be saved and to bear witness of His salvation.

       It is also seen that this child's birth caused everyone to rejoice.  Elizabeth's friends and relatives obviously were going to rejoice in the fact that she was giving birth to a child at such a late stage in her live, a point beyond which logic expected a child to ever be born.  Just as God had mercy upon Elizabeth, He has shown mercy upon the entire world, and John's birth was one of the significant proofs of His mercy.  God sent the forerunner to proclaim the coming of the promised Messiah.  God did exactly as He had said.  John was to prepare the way for the coming Savior of the world.

       Upon the eighth day after John's birth, by Jewish custom, he was taken by his parents to be circumcised and to receive his official name.  This ritual was when the Jewish males were offered up or dedicated to God.  It was to signify that the child was to be a follower of God, a true Jew.  Zacharias shocked those gathered by reiterating what his wife said was to be the boy's name.  He dared not go counter to God's stated wishes any longer.  Doing so the first time had cost him his voice for the past nine or ten months.  Zacharias wished to no longer be under God's discipline, so he chose to obey.  John was to be his son's official name, sealing the prophetic witness by confirming the name John.  All of these things had to come to pass exactly as stated in order that we might believe, and know, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing we might have life through His Holy name.

       John's miraculous birth caused several important results.  1)   His father miraculously regained his voice and could speak once more.  Zacharias began to praise God.  For months this man had been shut up, unable to effectively communicate with others, left to deal with his private thoughts on all of these matters.  When he finally was presented the moment in which to rectify his earlier miscue of unbelief, he jumped all over it.  2)   People were awe-struck.  They all stood in reverence before the events, amazed at what was happening and wondering openly what else was going to happen.  God was working, His hand was evident in these events as they unfolded.   3)   These events were spread abroad through gossip.  God's hand upon the child was the subject of the countryside.  But then, shouldn't God's movement always be at the very center of peoples' conversations?  4)   There was sense of destiny about this child.  People kept these things in their hearts.  They did not forget what they had seen or heard.  There was undoubtedly something unusual about the message surrounding this male child.  Expectations began to run high, andmany were holding the things in their memory waiting for the child to mature, to see what would then happen.  Shouldn't all four of these results take place in our lives, beloved?  Shouldn't we be praising God, be awe-stricken at these events, spreading the events abroad, and see the destiny surrounding John?  Each brother and sister in Christ has the privilege of knowing just who John was, the forerunner of the Messiah Himself.   Let us begin spreading the news! 

       Thank you for visiting my blog today!  I pray that it inspires you to deepen your walk with Christ, to begin a journey serving God in ways you may have never ever imagined.  Grace and peace be yours this glorious day that God has made for us!

    ~Eric



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    Sat, Jan 26th - 8:06PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "The Bible allows me to see how other men chose, and the results of those choices.  Adam's choice cost him Eden; Esau's, his birthright; Achan's, his life; Lot's, his home and herds; Absalom's, his father's throne; Saul's, his kingdom; the rich young ruler's, the companionship of Christ.  Judas lost his apostleship; Demas, his discipleship; Pilate, Agrippa, and Felix apparantly chose wrong and missed immortality.  Ananias' foolish choice cost him his life.  Abel chose well and pleased God.  Abraham's choice lead to becoming the father of the faithful multitudes; Moses' chose his people over Egypt's wealth and education; Joseph chose faith in God even while in Potiphar's prison; Daniel chose faith and obedience over a king's commands; Paul chose to believe in Christ and gain eternal life over privileged life; Christ chose obedience unto death upon the cross for our sakes over glory in heaven.  Caleb and Joshua chose well, while Jonah's first choice nearly killed himself and a ship's crew at sea.  God would ask you today, "Ask what I shall make of these young people"?  Would your answer prove you know how to choose the things that matter most?  Would your answer prove you are a wise leader--for them?

                                              ~Robert G. Lee

    "And Mary said, My soul does magnify the Lord,  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from now into all eternity all generations shall call me blessed.  For He that is mighty has done great things to me; and holy is His name.  And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the fantasies of their hearts.  He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.  He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent away empty.  He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed for ever.   And Mary stayed with her about three months, and returned to her own house (1:46-56)."

       This song of Mary is well known as the Magnificat.  It is similar to the Song of Hannah, found in I Samuel 2:1-10.  There are basic differences between the two however.  Hannah proclaimed triumph over her enemies; Mary proclaimed God and His glorious mercy to man.  Mary proclaimed the salvation of God, a salvation performed through the promised Messiah, her Savior.  God was the subject of Mary's Song.  It was not about herself nor about praising herself.  Her soul magnified God.  God was the subject of her Song, the subject of her praise and rejoicing.  We all ought to notice two things here:  1)  Mary had just finished a long trip and had not even had time to rest, she must have been very tired.  As soon as Mary walked in the door of her sister's home Elizabeth began her proclamation of praise.  Mary's song followed right on the heels of her sister's song.  Mary forgot all of her fatigue from traveling quickly from Bethlehem, for her faith was being confirmed.  She now knew that the angel who had come to her was not a figment of her imagination, not an illusion, not the result of some undercooked food.  He was real; and his message that she, as a virgin, would bear the Son of God was true.  Her faith was reassured and confirmed.

       From these things believers know that God assures and confirms their faith.  We all believe and trust, and as the need comes up, God steps in to confirm the reality of what we believe.  The one thing that can overcome exhaustion is an experience with God.  More than anything else, experiencing genuine prayer and the seeking of God will make a person forget tiredness of body.  2)   The word "magnify" means to declare the greatness of.  Not just once, but habitually, repeatedly, consistently, Mary declared the greatness of God.  This washed away her thoughts of fatigue from her long travels. 

       Although Mary was greatly blessed by God, she did not slide into the sin of pride.  She did not think that she was a "favorite" of God.  We must remain diligently aware of the fact that the more we are blessed by God, the greater the potential to commit the sin of pride of self.  We must learn to live praising God more and more each day for He wishes to bless us more and more each day.  One way to avoid the sin of pride is to remain humble, to be filled with humility.  Mary recognized her need for a Savior.  God saw her need for a Savior.  Mary knew that she was a sinner and needed redemption like evey one else.  Importantly, she made a personal confession: "God is my Savior."  God also saw her low estate.  Mary knew where she had come from, just how lowly a person she was.  In the eyes of her world she was a nobody: poor, obscure, unknown, insignificant, of little purpose and meaning to anyone's life.  Her name would never appear in local newspapers for having done anything note-worthy.  She was to be a poor carpenter's wife, living in the poor town of Bethlehem, part of a worthless community of people.  What you and I need to know from these things is that God usually chooses the least person to more clearly demonstrate His mercy and power.  You and I must know where we have come from, just how far down we were when God saved us.  But no matter how low, how nothing we may be, God cares and will reach down and out to us.  He will grasp us by the hand, life us up, and give us new purpose, meaning, and significance. God will make us somebody and use us, giving us a full and meaningful life of service.

       We find that Mary proclaimed three of God's attributes.  She proclaimed God's power.  The promised Messiah was now to be born.  The hope of the entire world was now to be fulfilled after so many generations of waiting and praying.  God's power was now to be demonstrated in a way never before witnessed.  Mary also proclaimed God's holiness.  God is to be set apart as different from all others.  His very nature, His very being is different.  God is both pure being and pure in being, both perfect being and perfect in being.  Mary proclaimed God's mercy.  She obviously was thinking of God's glorious mercy to her.  He had proven to be her personal Savior.  She also knew God's mercy in finally sending the Messiah to those who reverenced Him. 

       It is important for us to see the sovereignty of God's power as evidenced here.  Mary saw that the Lord had reversed the order of things on earth.  He had done it with the strength of His arm, not by the power of His love.  He had scattered the proud.  The proud think themselves better by looks, by person, by position, by wealth, by education, by ability, by heritage, by achievement, and by possessions.  Mary predicted that at the end ot time, the Lord will have scattered all such pride.  The ones full of pride will fall victim to their vain fantasies about themselves and life.  The picture shown to us here concerns those who take their power and seek their own ends, fail to serve God, push others down, abuse others, misuse others, by-pass others, enslave others, and deprive others.  God shall dethrone the mighty and those seated in high places and exalt those of low degree. 

       We find that God had not forgotten His promise to His people Israel.  He had not overlooked His mercy.  So desperate were the Jewish people for deliverance from their oppressors that they had become impatient and began to turn and follow rebels and zealots rather that wait for their Messiah.  Some had given themselves over to the Roman occupiers in order to obtain a measure of security for themselves and their families.  Others had chosen to depend upon humanistic answers rather than rely upon God.  Mary now knew that God was providing her people with their Messiah, the Savior of the entire world.  Mary then remained with her sister about three months, long enough for her to verify that she was, indeed, pregnant.  I suppose that she leaned upon her older sister's stronger faith for needed support and encouragement at this time as well as to lend her sister assistance during the last trimester of pregnancy. 

       Grace and peace be with you.  The Lord blesses us with the seasonal cycles as well as with lack and plenty.  We come to appreciate the rain when it does finally come as well as learn to enjoy the endless days of sunshine without rain.  May you have a tremendous day of worship on Sunday!  I pray that you are able to connect with the Holy Spirit in a way unknown to you previously.  I pray that you feel God's presence all about you, whether it be during a song or during the sermon.  Perhaps it will be while you fellowship after the worship service by sharing a common meal.  One can never know ahead of time when God will reach out and touch you.  Saul of Tarsus had no idea that he would meet Jesus Christ on a dusty road leading to Damascus.  Neither will you, beloved.

    ~Eric



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    Fri, Jan 25th - 11:59AM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    " And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with great urgency, to a city of Juda;
    And went to the house of Zacharias, and greeted Elizabeth.
    And it came to pass, tha, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby in her womb leaped; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit:
    And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
    And why is this happening to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
    For see, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.
    And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord (1:39-45)."
      
       Was Mary wanting to verify that her sister was indeed pregnant as the angel had declared?  I would say so.  I know that I would have been keenly interested in finding out if it were true or not.  So Mary rushed into the hill country to see her much older sister.  Her visit proved to be a memorable one!  The Greek word spoudes used here means speed, diligence, care, earnestness, zeal.  This young woman left Bethlehem with purpose and earnestness.  This was not to be any sort of casual visit.  Mary had specific reasons for going, reasons that meant her life would be changing dramatically forever.  At Mary entering her sister's home and calling out to her sister, Elizabeth's baby jumped for joy within her.  Not only that, but Elizabeth became filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy the exact same things that Gabriel the angel had said to Mary not long before.  How could Elizabeth have known the exact words?  The Holy Spirit knew.

       Three things, three unusual things, happene as soon as Mary entered her sister's home:  1)   The baby leaped for joy within Elizabeth's womb.  I am sure the baby had done some kicking previously to this as most babies do, but this leap was different from all others.  It was as if the baby recognized Mary's voice!  Or the baby growing within Mary's womb!  Or even both!  To Elizabeth it was a sign that the baby within her sister's womb was a very special person who was to be revealed to her under the filling of the Holy Spirit.   2)   Elizabeth was instantly filled with the Holy Spirit, and the spirit of prophecy was given to her.  She was used by God in this manner for she was living an obedient life before God.   3)   Elizabeth spoke with a loud voice for she was full of joy and exaltation for the Messiah.  Her emotions overflowed as she remained under the influence and the impulse of the Holy Spirit of God.  She was guided to proclaim that the baby within Mary was "the Lord." 

       Mary's validation visit resulted in she and her sister encouraging and sharing with each other.  They both had similar situations.  God had acted upon both their bodies, performing a miracle for both.  Elizabeth's womb was made alive for th eson of Zacharias to be conceived, and Mary's womb had conceived even as she was a virgin.  Mary especially was encouraged since her sister was already six months pregnant.  It was visible evidence that God had already acted upon her miraculously.  Note that Mary's conception was unknown to her sister for Elizabeth had hidden herself away the first five months of the pregnancy.  Mary now had visible evidence that she too could expect God's miracle to be completely fulfilled in her, just as it was unfolding with her older sister. 

       Elizabeth may very well be the very first person to proclaim Jesus as the Lord.  Her very first action was a proclamation of praise.  She gave honor to the Lord.  She also could not fathom why the mother of the Messiah should come to see her.  She was another woman who had no attitude of deserving special treatment or to have blessings bestowed upon her by God.  Elizabeth was enlightened by the Holy Spirit to knowing that this baby her sister carried within her womb was not simply the long awaited Messiah, but was in fact the Son of the Highest, of God Himself.  She understood that her son was to be a great man of God, but she honestly understood that her sister's son would be even greater. 

       We have no indication within scripture that John the Baptist had ever been told of this event.  We also have no evidence provided within scripture that John knew that Jesus was the Messiah until Jesus appeared by the Jordan River.  John the Baptist, like all of us, had to personally confess Christ for himself.  It is always a personal decision.    We can easily see how Elizabeth's confession would be an encouragement to her sister, Mary.  Mary needed assurance, so God took her to where she could be assured.  Again, we need to notice that Mary obeyed the leading of God.  She went to where God led her.  Elizabeth was older and held a higher position as the wife of a priest, yet she willingly humbled herself to help her younger sister.  She denied and surrendered herself in order to push Mary and her child forward. 

       This all brings us to Faith-Promise.  Elizabeth proclaimed that Mary's faith would receive the promise.  Mary has been blessed by believers of every generation because she believed the Word of God sent to her.  Never forget the difference between her response to the Word and that of Zacharias.  She has also been blessed for she was related to Christ in a very, very, special way.  Why do we need to understand Faith -Promise?  We need to know this concept because today we must believe the Word of God sent to us.  We must also become related to Christ by adoption.  We must become the adopted child of God (Galatians 4:4-6).  Finally, the result of Mary believing the Word of God was she seeing the performance of God's promises, the things told her from the Lord.  The next thirty three years yielded the fulfillment of all of these promises made to her by God.  "Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (II Peter 1:4).'

       What wonderful news!  What wonderful and amazing promises made to each person who chooses to believe in Christ Jesus!  To think that even someone as despicable as me, even I can become a partaker of God's divine nature and escape the corruption that exists in this world of ours.  Well, that is all for today, beloved!  I pray that God's amazing grace and unfathomable peace find their way into your heart and your life!  God is always willing to listen to you if you repent of your sin.  He is always with you once you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  He is coming back one day to gather you up and take you home to the mansion He has already prepared for you in heaven, the New Jerusalem.  Simply trust in Him and obey Him.  Open yourself up to His Holy Spirit living within you, and allow God to work through you to help others in need.

    ~Eric




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    Thu, Jan 24th - 10:40PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



       I continue our study in Luke.  I was covering various aspects of the importance of the birth of God's Son.  I will finish up the last couple of aspects and move on to some other interesting thoughts.

       The birth of God's Son required a second Adam, a second man, who was born just like the first Adam, by the Word of God using natural substances.  This second man must be born to become what the first Adam failed to become: the Representative Man, the Ideal Man, the Pattern, the Perfect One in whom all people could find their Ideal, their Perfection.  He must also be born to be what Adam failed to be: the Man who always chose to love and obey God in all things, thus passing on the nature of the ideal righteousness and perfection that can stand for and cover all people.  This second man had to be born to become what the first Adam failed to pass on to his descendents: the Way to God, the Truth of God, and the Life of God which all men can trust and follow (John 14:6).  He was born to offer what the first Adam failed to pass on to his descendants: the nature of righteousness and life, both life abundant and life eternal. 

       The birth of God's Son required an engaged state, not a single or married state.  Why?  It is because a single woman would cause far more questions and pile up far more contempt upon Christ and His followers.  It is also because a married woman would not be a virgin and God's Son had to be born of a virgin as indicated by the Scriptures and by logic.  The engaged state of Joseph and Mary provided the ideal marital relationship for God to use in sending His Son into our world.  The very fact that Jewish society was using the engaged relationship as a preparation for marriage shows how God was preparing the world for the coming of His Son in the fulness of time. 

       Verse 28 spoke of Mary being highly favored by God.  The following three things were said to her:  1)   She was to be highly favored by God, a rather unique privilege.  2)   God was with her.  She did not walk through life all alone.  She had allowed God to walk with her and look after her life, so God was able to be with her.  This means that God had been with her in the past, was with her in the present, and would be with her in the future.  No matter where Mary went, what she was doing, or what was being done to her, God promised to be with her.  We need to be in this place today, beloved!  3)   She was to be blessed among women and to be called blessed by people of all generations.  This is a similar declaration as was made by Deborah concerning Jael back in Judges 5:24.

       Mary was not a divine person.  She was very human, as well as troubled and filled with fear at what the angel disclosed to her.  Her fear was understandable, for an archangel from God stood before her, speaking to her what God's intentions with her amounted to.  Gabriel stood before her in angelic splendour, dazzling white raiment, piercing eyes, radiating strength and power.  Mary was troubled by what the angel said to her.  The message is what troubled her, not his appearance.  The fact that she was highly favored, that God was with her, and that she was blessed among women troubled her.  She did not comprehend that with the coming of Christ, every person could now be highly favored by God, have the Lord's presence, and be blessed among all peoples. 

       How could God highly favor a person like herself?  She had never expected to become highly favored by Him.  Mary was not a proud, self-centered, flighty, or frivolous young woman who felt that she merited/deserved the attention of others, let alone the attention of Almighty God.  She loved God and had determined to live a pure and responsible life.  Apparantly she also possessed a sweet spirit full of softness, warmth, and tenderness.  She was obviously willing, giving, thoughtful, and kind.  Mary had not dreamed she was special.  She was preparing to become Joseph's wife and to have his children.  How could such an ordinary and humble young woman do anything special for God?  In like manner today, how can ordinary people do anything special for God?

       Mary was told exactly how her high favor in the sight of God would play out.  She was to bear and be the mother of the Messiah!  The Jewish people had been yearning for His coming for decades, and here she is being told that He was to come through her womb.  I would say that that would trouble any woman today.  Mary was told what His name had to be.  He was to be called the Son of the Highest.  The Highest, naturally, is God the Creator.  Jesus is the very nature of God.  She was told He was to be the son of David and was to receive the throne of David.  He was of the bloodline of David.  Mary was a descendant of David; therefore Chrst Himself would become a descendant of David as well through genetics. 

       The name Jesus means Savior; He will save.  The Hebrew form is Joshua (yasha), meaning Jehovah is salvation or He is the Savior.  The idea here is that of deliverance, of being saved from some terrible disaster that leads to persihing.  Without going into great depth, the names and titles of Jesus indicate what Jesus will do.  "Son of David" tells us that Christ is to reign upon the throne of David in Jerusalem.  The throne will be given to Him by God, not by the Jewish people, just as it was given to David.  The promise of ruling over the house of Jacob and of possessing a kingdom forever has both a literal and a spiritual meaning along with a temporal and etenal meaning.

       Conception of Jesus Christ within Mary expects Mary to believe the miraculous.  But she was puzzled.  It was not that she doubted or did not trust the message as delivered.  Neither did she demand a sign or proof like Zacharias had done.  She simply asked for more information.  Not having ever know a man sexually, how could she possibly bear a child without doing that specific thing?  The answer given by God:  1.  "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you."  The thought is not after the manner of man, but after the manner of God's Spirit.  God's Spirit sets apart and and activates, creates and recreates by the very Word of God.  The Holy Spirit simply speaks and it is done.  Those who suggest a crude mating between Mary and the Holy Spirit have no concept of who God is.  God's Spirit merely speaks and it is done, no matter what is to be done.  Time is not a factor.  Power is not a factor.  The crude thoughts, imaginations, and unbelief of man are foolishness.  2.   "The power of the Highest shall overshadow you."  God Himself was going to oversee the entire matter.  It was God's power that saw to the entire operation, not the presence or power of an angel or of any man or of any creature.  3.   The child born of Mary would be holy.  The child would be "the Son of God."  The Son of God is the Holy One born by the power and the Word and the will of God through the virgin Mary.  He is also the holy One whom God sent forth, who was made of a woman by His power, Word, and will (Galatians 4:4).  By extension believers are to believe the miraculous.  "And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief: for truly I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove there to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you (Matthew 17:20)."  "Jesus said to him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes (Mark 9:23)."  "Trust in the LORD with all of your heart; and do not lean towards your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)." 

       God encouraged Mary with two impossible facts.  1)  With news that her sister Elizabeth, who was beyond child-bearing age, had already conceived a son and was now six months pregnant.  This was an impossiblity in Mary's day.  2)  With people much is impossible.  To declare that all things are possible with people is an untruth.  When Mary took the time to meditate upon what she had heard, the simple statement, "With God all things are possible," she was bound to become encouraged.  It was a simple and striking statement, one that could be easily remembered and understood.  Thoughts to be drawn from this?  God expects each believer to believe Him and His power, regardless of circumstances and our personal feelings of insignificance.   As Mary was submissive to God's will so too must believers today be submissive to God's will in their lives.  The term "handmaid" means slave-girl.  Mary was saying that she was a bond slave, willing to sell herself out completely to God.  She relinquished personal ownership of herself, giving herself completely to God to use in His plans.  Mary surrendered totally to obey God.  She would serve as He willed, willing to fulfill His purpose completely.  She would act according to God's Word.

       Imagine the import of what God's angel was revealing to this young virgin woman.  She would become an unwed mother.  Who of that day would even remotely believe Mary's story?  Who of this day is willing to believe her story?  She was faced with the very real threat of being condemned to death because of adultery.  Stoning was a very, very, real possibility for Mary since she wuld appear to be immoral to the community.  And yet, Mary remained obedient to God's wishes.  So, brothers and sisters of Christ, I ask each of you: have you surrendered to God completely?  Have you become His bond slave?  Have you given over your feelings of "ownership"?  Have you accepted the fact that Christ has purchased you with His blood, that you are His?  Are you willing to face whatever persecution may come your way due to declaring belief in God?  Do you realize that total surrender to God's Holy Spirit is an absolute essential both for salvation and service?  Transformation.  Obedience.  Trust.  Service.  These are the things of the Christian lifestyle.  Are they attributes of your lifestyle?  Grace and peace to you on this cold winter's night!

    ~Eric



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    Mon, Jan 21st - 4:18PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And in the sixth month the angel Gabirel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
    To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
    And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.
    And when she saw him, she was troubled at his words, and searched in her mind what manner of greeting this should be.
    And the angel said to her, Do not fear, Mary: for you have found favor with God.
    And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call him JESUS.
    He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to Him the throne of his father David:
    And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
    Then Mary said to the angel, How shall this be, seeing how I do not a man?
    And the angel answered her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you:
    therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.
    And, behold, your cousin Elizabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
    For with God nothing shall be impossible.
    And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word.  And the angel departed from her (1:26-38)."
       Not very much is said about Mary, the mother of Christ Jesus.  We are told that she was pure, a virgin.  She was also highly favored of God.  She was also very, very, human and greatly troubled by what she had been told by this angel, Gabriel.  She understood the significance of being told that she was to bear the Messiah in her own womb.  She knew the Scriptures of the Old Testament.  She was told what His name was to be.  She was told that her son would be a great person, the Son of the Highest, Son of David, and that His kingdom would be eternal. 
       Mary was perplexed, troubled, fearful.  She was expected to believe in this miracle that was to happen to her.  Conception was not to be by her espoused, Joseph.  It was to be by the Holy Spirit and the power of God.  That is enough to make anyone fearful and perplexed.  To help assure Mary, the angel told her to not worry for with God nothing is impossible.  To help Mary process this Gabriel told her that her cousin had already conceived in her old age, and was to have a son as well. 
       Gabriel was involved in this entire scenario of the Messiah coming and His leading messenger coming before Him, proclaiming the coming Lamb of God.  Gabriel was not sent to Jerusalem by God to inform a handmaid that she was to conceive the Messiah.  No, the angel was sent to an obscure village, Nazareth.  Galilee bordered Gentile nations therefore it was sometimes called Galilee of the Gentiles.  It was a despised city, thought to be inferior by the rest of Israel.  The residents were a conquered people who were especially despised by the Romans.  The village and its residents were the object of deep prejudice by Jews and Romans alike.
       What all of this teaches us immediately is that God is not a respecter of pesons or places.  He will send a message as readily to the despised people of this world as He will to those who are considered to be the "beautiful people."  God sends messages to the rural areas as readily as He will send messages to those in the large cities.  Believers living out in the country can receive messages from God as well as a believer who lives within the megalopolis.  We need to remember that a place, whether city or nation, is not judged by its institutions and advantages, but by the righteous people living within its borders (Genesis 18:23f).
       Mary was a virgin, having never had sex with any man.  This is unmistable and clearly stated in the scriptures.  Mary confirms this fact herself (verse 34).  Those who argue that the Hebrew word "alma" means a young woman who could have a questionable character do not hold up to scrutiny.  When a Hebrew spoke of a young woman (alma) he meant a virgin.  Where we find this term used in the Scriptures it is quite clear what the context means.  In Genesis 24:43 Rebekah is called a young woman and within the context of this account, she was a virgin.  In Psalm 68:25 young women of pure character were those who worthy to participate in the worship of God.  In Song of Solomon 1:3 young women were worthy of Solomon's love and were not of impure character.  Young women were compared to queens and concubines in Song of Solomon 6:8.  The maiden of Proberbs was contrasted with the adulterous woman (30:19-20).  In light of these instances of the word's usage elsewhere in the Bible we must conclude that it meant a virgin woman.  What we must clearly understand is that unbelief grasps at every little mote, trying to add whatever it can to disprove the divinity of Christ.
       Mankind desperately needs to turn from its unbelief and to trust in Christ with all if its heart.  Less and less time remains for any of us to make our choice.  The moments of our mortal lives slip through an hourglass like sand, leaving us with a finite amount of time in which to choose to repent of our sins.  To foolishly waste time means that we do not care.  We feel that there is no need to use our time wisely.  We feel too often that personal amusement and satisfaction of urges is of far higher importance than to become reconciled with the One who  created us. 
       We can find two striking lessons in the purity of Mary:  1)  God expects both women and men to be sexually pure, untouched by a man or woman until they are married.  2)  God is looking for pure women and men to use in the ministry of the gospel and in meeting the desperate needs of this world.  Does this mean that those who have already polluted themselves out in the world through chasing their lusts can't be used by God?  No, it means that they must engage in spiritual purification to regain a measure of innocence and purity so that they may be used by God in reaching the unbelieving world around them.  God uses these people as warnings to younger generations to make sure they choose wisely, for they must suffer the consequences of their choices, as do we all. 
       What is so important about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ?  Why all of the hub-bub?  Isn't it much ado about nothing?  As we look at this virgin birth we need to think deeply and honestly.  We must be honest and we must engage in concentrated thought.  Question:  Why would God's Son have to enter this world through a virgin?  Why was Christ born of a virgin?  Why was this necessary?  First of all, Christ could not be born through the natural process as other men are.  If He had been born as other men are born it would indicate that He was nothing more than other men are.  Those who enter this world through a man and a woman are merely men or women.  They have no divinity, no omniscience, no omnipresence, no Holy Spirit.  But this was not the case with Christ.  He already existed.  So, if God willed to send His Son into this world, He would have to choose another means of doing so.  All Christ needed was a body. 
       The birth of God's Son required a combined act on God's part and on a woman's part.  For God's Son to become a man and identify with men, He had to come through the process of conception through a woman.  Why?  Because today man can only come into this world through a woman.  So, God had to perform a miracle, causing Mary to conceive by an act of His divine power.  Why is it so incredibly difficult for unbelievers to believe that God can cause Mary to conceive?  Just imagine what science can do in the fertilization of female eggs today.  Is God not able to do so much more than this?  How foolish and small-minded our unbelief causes us to act!  The problem, as always, is not God, but our unbelief.  Believers must address the problem of their lack of faith, for little faith means little God.  God's Son required a miraculous nature: both divine and human.  Being born of woman He had a human nature so that He could identify with all of us.  Being born by the miraculous act of God He did not share in man's corruption.  This was critical if we are to escape corruption and live forever, free from sin.  Our personal faith must be in an incorruptible Savior if we are to be covered by His incorruption.  God identified with us by becoming one with us and by conquering our depraved and doomed nature.
       God's Son required a perfect nature.  Why?  Because a perfect life needed to be lived.  Righeousness/perfection needed to be secured.  A perfect life had to be lived so that it could stand for and cover all men and women in perfection and in righteousness.  Honest thought confesses that no one is, or has ever been, perfect.  We all come up short of the mark.  Our coming up short of God's glory is pictured in the ultimate fate of life:  death.  However, God acted.  He did everything to secure righteousness and perfection for all of us.  He took every step and performed every act necessary to save His people from their sins and from death.  From His birth until His death and exaltation, He performed righteously.  Jesus Christ therefore became the God-Man.
       As God-Man, Christ was able to consummate both the human and the divine.  He had the capacity power to not sin.  His Godly nature empowered Him to live righteously, never doing anything wrong and always choosing and doing the right.  By living a sinless life, Christ was able to secure righteousness that will cover and stand for all people who come to Him.  As God-Man, Christ was able to bear the sins and the judgment of sin for all men.  When He died upon the cross, He died as the Perfect and Ideal Man.  Thus, His death is able to cover and stand for all people.  As God-Man, Christ was able to arise from the dead.  His resurrection covers and stands for every person.  As God-Man, Christ was exalted to sit at the right hand of the Father: living eternally in the heavenly dimension of being, in God's every own presence.  His exaltation into the spiritual dimension is able to open the path into heaven for every person who believes in Him.  He is the forerunner into heaven for every person.  Thus His exaltation stands for the exaltation of every person who chooses to believe. 
       God created the universe by simply speaking the Word.  God always creates by the power of His Word and the power of His Word alone.  So when God chose to create a human body for His Son, He simply spoke the Word (Hebrews 10:5).  To send His Son into our world He simply spoke the Word.  It is the same with our new birth or the re-creation of our spirit.  It is by the Word of God, He simply speaks it and we are born again.  The act of spiritual rebirth is not seen, felt, or touched.  Nothing physical occurs, but the re-creation does occur.  It occurs by the Word of God (I Peter 1:23). 
       The birth of God's Son required the the virgin birth because Christ is the only begotten Son of God.  He possesses all of the nature and fullness of God Himself (Colossians 2:9).  Thus, His birth had to be different than all others.  He had to enter this world differently from all others, for He is different by the very nature of His being.  His entrance into this world had to proclaim His divine nature, yet also allow Him to partake of human nature.  Why?  Because the Son of God had to be proclaimed to be the Son of God.  There is no salvation apart from His being the Son of God.  There is no salvation apart from His being proclaimed to be the Son of God.  I can only be saved if the Son of God is, only if He exists, and only if He is proclaimed.  Christ must exist, and we must hear of Him if we are to be saved.  He and His message are both essential. 
       That is enough for today, beloved.  Next time I will finish up on this section of Luke.  Did you ever think so much could come from out of twelve or so verses?  It is amazing.  Grace and peace be yours on this day on which we remember Martin Luther King for his contributions to our society. 
    ~Eric


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    Sat, Jan 19th - 2:53PM



    "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
    And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
    And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
    And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
    According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
    And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the time of incense.
    And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
    And when Zarcharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
    But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias; for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call him John.
    And you shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
    For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall not drink wine or strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
    And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
    And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
    And Zacharias said to the angel, How shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
    And the angel said to him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and I am sent to speak to you, and to show you these glad tidings.
    And, behold, you shall be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because you do not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their due time.
    And the people waited for Zacharias, and wondered why he tarried so long in the temple.
    And when he came out, he could not speak to them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned to them, and remained speechless.
    And it came to pass, that as soon as the days of his ministration were completed, he left to go to his own home.
    And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
    Thus has the Lord dealt with me in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men (1:5-25)."
       Zacharias and Elizabeth were godly people.  They were soon to become godly parents.  Every child needs the example of godly parents.  Both were righteous, worshipped God, prayed and led others in prayer, and still had human problems.  He had some measure of unbelief while his wife suffered the stigma of being barren.  Despite this, they were highly favored by God.  They were prospective parents who had to be disciplined due to their unbelief.  But they were parents who got to see God's promise fulfilled in them. 
       Zacharias belonged to the course of Abia, or Abijah, a division of the priesthood in the temple.  All of the male descendants of Aaron were priests, over twenty thousand of them at this point in history.  Since there was only one temple they had been divided up into groups (I Chronicles 24:1-6).  This man served in the eighth group out of twenty-four groups total.  Each group served in the temple for one week, twice per year.  Elizabeth was the daughter of another priest, was a pure woman, a virgin at her marriage.  A priest was required to marry only a virgin (Leviticus 21:14). 
       These two married people formed the backbone of a righteous family unit.  Both were declared to be righteous, were so before God, walked in all of the commandments and ordinances of God, and were blameless.  Blameless does not mean that they were perfect.  It means that they were faithful, living in such a way that no one could charge them with open sin.  They offended no one; they lived honestly before both God and man.  Both of them bore the brunt of society's cruelty regarding her barrenness.  In Jewish society a Jew whose wife could not bear children was considered to be cut off from God.  He was expected to divorce his wife, remarry, and bear children.  Being childless in this society was an ongoing critical problem to Zacharias and Elizabeth undoubtedly causing them to feel disfavored and displeasing to God.
       The source of his unbelief in what the angel declared to him in the temple?  Both were elderly and all the issues/ problems that come with age either faced them currently or else stood before them as a looming threat.  This on top of his wife's sterility.  It is easy to understand the man's unbelief at what he was being told was to soon happen. 
       This man and woman worshipped God despite feeling disfavored by God.  He was faithful to his priesthood.  He had been chosen and ordained by God to be a priest in the temple, and so he remained faithful and steadfast in his duties despite the lack of blessings through having children.  In that day having a son was considered to be one of the greatest blessings and signs of God's approval. 
       Within the temple on a daily basis, incense was burned upon the altar by a priest before the morning sacrifice and after the evening sacrifice.  This offering of incense symbolized that the sacrifices were being offered up to God in the sweetest and most prayerful of spirits.  The aroma of the incense was just like a prayer; it enveloped the sacrifice and carried it before the very throne of God.  This incense burning was considered by the priests to be the highest privilege.  Many never got the opportunity to do so simply because of the large number of priests who served.  This highly prized opportunity was determined by drawing lots each day.  Zacharias this day won the drawing, was ecstatic to go in and light the incense feeling that this couldn't get any better.  It was a "whoo-hoo!" kind of time in his life.  Because Zecharias had remained faithful to God's call in his life even though remaining childless, he was blessed beyond his wildest imagination.  We must keep this fact in mind always today.
       Zacharias was a praying men of God.  Daily in the temple he had prayed with the assembled people outside.  This very day, as he lit the incense he led the people in prayer while he sought the Lord in their behalf.  Here was the man of God involving the "congregation" in prayer and worship with himself.  This needs to be done in churches all over the world today!  It is highly probable that Zacharias and Elizabeth had spent much time over the years of their marriage praying and asking God to grant them just one child.  Finally, God sent an angel to inform them that their request was to be answered with the giving of a son.  They would not be given simply a son, he would be a prophet of God.  Their son was to be the forerunner of the promised Messiah.  His ministry was to be like that of Elijah. 
       I am not trying to paint these two people as being unattainably pure.  By no means.  Zacharias just could not believe his own ears at this message and the promise of God.  He obviously had not considered God would choose to do the impossible by intervening in the laws of biology.  His unbelief hung out in front, nakedly exposed between himself and the angel.  His was the exact same question Abram had posed to God at being told that he and his wife would have a son (Genesis 15:8).  Zacharias had to treat the angel as if the angel did not understand all of the "facts."  My wife and I are too old to have a child, and she is sterile!  The very word of God and the promise of God ought to have been sufficient to erase all of his unbelief.  But he did not have enough faith, he needed added assurance.  "I need a sign."  He let his tongue speak instead of his heart.  So God gave him a sign---for the length of his wife's pregnancy he would not be able to speak at all.  Failing to receive the Word of God, his ability to share the Word with others was taken away for a time.  Since he spoke words of unbelief, God saved him from speaking any more words of distrust and unbelief while God worked His miracle in his wife's womb. 
       Every child of God experiences discipline at God's hands.  It differs with each person, but each of us ends up able to recognize who it is from in the end.  Each child of God must also realize, and accept, that God will not allow anyone to disbelieve and distrust forever.  The day approaches when God will stop all disbelief and distrust.  In the meantime, despite our unbelief and distrust in Him, God still meets us and gives to us His promise.  Why will God do this for us?  We must remain faithful in our godly duties despite being disciplined by God.  Zacharias completed his priestly duties by finishing out his assigned week at the temple, then he returned home to his wife.  He did what he could.  His wife became pregnant and she chose to hide herself away for the first five months!  She needed time alone with God to understand what was happening with her and her husband.  He could not discuss with her what the angel had said to him.  Perhaps he managed to write down the gist of the conversation for her.  It was not that she was hiding her pregnancy from the general public for this only lasted over the first five months.  Both of them must have understood that there would be many questions asked, to try and explain how come she was pregnant now.  Both of them needed to prepare themselves for the birth of a boy who was going to help change their world forever. 
       That is all for today, beloved.  I hope that you can obtain something of value from today's posting.  I know that I have greater insight into the fact that I must spend time alone with God for meditation and prayer over God's call to serve Him.  This is critically important.  Grace and peace be with you today!
    ~Eric


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    Thu, Jan 17th - 7:29PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



       A little background on the Book of Luke.  It's writer is Luke, and he also wrote down the Book of Acts.  Very many Greek medical terms were used which indicates someone who was a physician.  There is clear understanding of the Roman and Greek world of the first century.  Both Luke and Acts stress the resurrection, the Holy Spirit, the Person of Jesus Christ, and the ministry to the Gentiles. 

       It is rather certain that the writer also was an acquaintance of the apostle Paul.  Luke was most likely written down  between A.D. 58-62.  It could not have been written later than 68-69 A.D. for there is no reference made to the fall of Jerusalem which took place in 70 A.D.  This book was written to "the most excellent Theophilus."  This man was a Gentile convert and the words used to describe him indicate that he was a high official in the Roman government. 

       The purpose of this book is to set forth an eyewitness account of Jesus, the Son of man, the Savior of the world.  Luke wished Theophilus to know the certainty of those things which he had believed.  Thus Luke sets out to write down an orderly and accurate account of the entire life of Jesus.

       The Book of Luke is several "gospels" all rolled into one.  It is "The Gospel for Man", "The Gospel of Individuals," "The Gospel of Salvation," "The Gospel of the Outcasts and Sinners," "The Gospel of the Poor," "The Gospel of Women," and "The Gospel of Children."  It is also "The Gospel of Prayer," "The Gospel of Praise," "The Gospel of Christ's Passion," and "The Gospel of the Holy Spirit."  As with the other Gospel accounts already studied, this Book begins with the announcement of the coming of Jesus, the Son of man, the Messiah.

    "For as much as many have taken in hand to set out in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them to us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the Word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus, that you might know the certainty of those things, in which you have been instructed (1:1-4)."

       Immediately we learn that this gospel is a record of historical events, a record of eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word, a record of a man who was led to write, and a record to establish the truth.  Luke was well aware of the fact in his day that many people had chosen to write about the life of Jesus Christ.  Luke chose to write down an orderly and complete record, he felt compelled to do so.  We will come to see that Luke includes many more events than both of the previous two gospel accounts. That so many were led to write about Christ's life provides strong evidence that the events happened and are true.

       The Greek terms used for the phrase "most surely believed" are plerophoreo, peplero phoremenon.  These terns mean "things that were fulfilled, that were actually performed, or that had run their full course.  Luke therefore says that the things of Christ were not only believed, but they were also accomplished or fulfilled among the believers of his day.  This then includes both the things of the Old and New Testaments, the entire Bible is a record of "those things."  The many who wrote about the life of Christ are not known here by name.  They are silent and humble heroes of faith, never to be known by the world in later centuries, but very well-known by God. 

       These eyewitnesses were also ministers of the Word.  Luke was not personally an eyewitness of the day to day life of Jesus Christ.  He may have never even personally seen Jesus.  But Luke was a constant and dear companion of Paul.  He also had contact with other of the apostles.  The sources of his writing were eyewitnesses of Christ and ministers of the Word of Christ.  Let us observe these following facts:

    1.   The ministers of the Word were eyewitnesses of both The Word (Christ Himself) and of the Word of Christ (His teaching, doctrine, and instructions).

    2.   The ministers of the Word were eyewitnesses "from the beginning," observing every event and word of Christ, seeing His life unfold day by day.

    3.   The ministers of the Word heard as well as saw Christ; some saw and heard Him daily.  Thus Luke's account is an accurate and true record of both the acts and words of Christ.

    4.   The ministers of the gospel set out immediately to minister the Word to others.  The Word was of critical importance to them.  They gave their very lives to the ministry of the Word.

    5.   The ministers of the gospel did not create the Word themselves.  They were not serving their own ideas and thoughts; they were ministering "The Word of God."

    6.   The ministers of the Word have given us a written gospel that is an eyewitness account.  It agrees exactly with what was seen, heard, and proclaimed by Christ to the people of that time, as well as the world since then.

       This gospel is the record of a man who led to write it down.  He had "perfect understanding of all things."  Parakoloutheo means "to study, to follow up, to search out diligently, to investigate, to trace accurately, to become acquainted with.  Luke says that having become acquainted with and having diligently investigated all of these things, he was determined to record the facts himself. 

       In order to have "perfect understanding" Luke must have investigated everything in an orderly fashion befitting a physician.  "From the first" comes from anothen, and often means "from above.  So Luke had gained perfect understanding of the things from above.  What points us in that direction of thought?  If Luke had meant from the beginning he would have then used the word arches, which he did use in verse two.  He chose a different term because he was writing about something different, from above.  The prophets were said to have proclaimed "things from above."  They were said to have "enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come to you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify (II Peter 1:21)."  Thus the Holy Spirit was in him and he proceeded to write down the record which the Holy Spirit did signify.  He was moved by the Holy Spirit dwelling within Him to accurately record everything. 

       He says that he is writing things "in order".  Karthexes is used in the New Testament by only Luke.  It is found here in Luke and two more times in Acts (Acts 11:4; 18:23).  What does Luke mean by orderly?  Is he referring to chronological or consecutive arrangement?  Logical arrangement?  Subject arrangement?  Inspired or Spirit-led arrangement?  His meaning remains unclear.  Perhaps we must be content with believing that he is saying that he is writing a fuller account of the life of Jesus and that this account is a better arrangement, has more order and is better arranged than any of the others in existence.

       We can't overlook to whom Luke is writing this book.  We are not given specifics about Theophilus, but kratistos is a title of rank and honor.  This same title is used of Felix and Festus later in Acts.  Obviously he was someone who desired or needed to know about Jesus Christ.  Probably a convert for whom Luke deeply cared.  Perhaps he was someone who was investigating the validity of Christianity.  At any rate, this man was a trigger, an immediate reason, for Luke to feel led to write all of these "things" down. 

       There are three thoughts that we all ought to carry away from this study today.  1)   A person must be prepared to serve Christ.  A person must stud, investigate, search out, become acquainted wit the whole truth of Christ (II Timothy 2:15).  2)   A person mustbe led to serve Christ, no matter the task at hand.  He must be led by the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:14; John 15:16).  3)   There is a tremendous challenge to us.  Luke cared so much for one man that he did not write him a letter, he wrote an entire book in order to instruct him!  Are we so moved and dedicated today? 

       Finally, Luke lays it right out at the outset what all of this writing is about.  It is to be a record to establish the truth.  So that we can "know the certainty of those things."  Theophilus had obviously already heard.  Now he needed to know the absolute truth of those things of which he had heard.  This remains the same for each of us today.  Once we have "heard of those things" we must come to Luke to discover the certainty of them all.  This account of Christ is the absolute truth.  But hearing, or being instructed in these things of Christ is not enough.  We must study and learn, so that we can know the absolute certainty of them. 

       That is all for tonight, beloved.  I hope this helps us all leap into Luke and discover the certainty of the thing of Christ.  Next time I shall delve into Zacharias and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist.  Grace and peace be with each of you this night!

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Wed, Jan 16th - 12:49PM

    STUDY IN MARK



    "And He said to them, "Go into all of the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover (16:15-18)."

       Here is one place to find the "Great Commission."  Does each believer today have to showcase the above "signs?"  I do not believe so, since we are not the original disciples being sent out into a world devoid of Christianity.  This very first group of disciples being sent out into the "creation" needed these signs in order to be identified as being the new Christians.  They needed to be this way so that unbelievers could know for certain who they were.  It gets argued that these signs must be evidenced even today, that the lack thereof means the person is not a true believer in Christ Jesus.  And so people join groups that practice snake handling, speaking in tongues, or drinking poisonous potions as a sign that they are the real Christians in this world.  What they choose to conveniently forget here is that Jesus said they would be known by ALL of these signs, not just one.  This group of disciples were a special group of people.  They were the foundation for the new faith that would sweep the world. 

    "So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen (16:19-20)."

       Mark continues to focus solely upon the action, keeping his account short and succinct.  Jesus Christ ascends into heaven and sits down at the right hand of the Father, which is His rightful place.  Mark also tells us that the group of disciples spoken to then proceeded to go out preach the gospel everywhere.  What did God do during this time?  He worked with all of them and confirmed the message that they spoke to the people through those signs that they performed. To those who allege that believers in Christ today must perform the exact same signs in order to say that they are Christians, you must realize that if this is true today, then it simply means that many believers today do not walk closely enough with God so that He would confirm their works with these signs as well.  Preaching God's Word, the Gospel, without being connected with God's Holy Spirit results in empty works.  The Holy Spirit was sent to us to enable us to preach, teach, heal, comfort, forgive, and worship.  Remaining unaware of the Holy Spirit's presence, separated from the power of God, means that we can't possibly do God's work that He has planned for us to do.  Whatever we end up doing will only be by our own willpower and abilities and strength.

       This concludes the Book of Mark.  It was all about action, action, action.  To fill in the gaps one has to also know what is in the other three gospel accounts.  So we shall begin the Book of Luke next time.  I have much information to share with you in future studies as we go line by line through the remaining scriptures.  I hope that you continue to follow along and dig even deeper on your own. Grace and peace be with you today!

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Tue, Jan 15th - 1:14PM

    STUDY IN MARK



    "And when the sabbath was done, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Him.  And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen.  And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll the stone away for us from the door of the tomb?"  And looking up, they saw that the stone was already rolled back---it was very large.  And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side of it, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed.  And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has risen, He is not here; see the place where they laid Him.  But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him, as He told you."  And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid (16:1-8)."

       Three women were the first ones to visit the tomb of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week.  My very first question here is this:  where are the Roman soldiers who were supposed to be guarding the tomb?  They were charged with preventing anyone from stealing His body and causing more controversy.  And the stone has been moved.  ?????  The women had come to anoint Jesus' body so that it would stink, or not stink as much.  They were simply following customs of the dead.  I imagine as they had walked up to the tomb they had been conversing among themselves, wondering how they would get inside the tomb.  Imagine their shock as they turned the corner on the path, and there was the tomb:  open once again!

       Not being shy, all three women proceed to go into the tomb, and lo and behold, there sits inside one person dressed in a white robe!  Is this Jesus Christ?  I do not think so.  I think that this young man was an angel sent by God to inform these women of what had already taken place, and what they must now go and do.  Tell me these poor women were not suffering from shock.  Told that their Lord and Savior, the Messiah, had already risen from the tomb and was heading to Galilee, do these three ladies run to tell everyone the good news?  No!  They ran as fast as their poor feet could carry them away from the tomb and did not talk to anyone about what they had just experienced.  I can't blame them really.  I may very well have done the exact same thing.  What they experienced was not expected, it was not natural, it was not logical.  It defied common sense. 

    "Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.  She went out and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.  But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it (16:9-11)."

       So much for the fidelity of the disciples.  They refused to believe what a woman came and told them she had seen and heard.  A woman that they knew had been freed from seven demons by Jesus, and they still refused to believe she was telling them the truth.  They were in the midst of grief, denial, and dejection.  Now, this passage does not contradict the very first verses that we just read.  The three women had gone very early to the tomb on the first day of the week.  They did not spend very much time at the tomb.  A little later Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene elsewhere.  She then goes to tell the good news to the rest of the disciples.  They choose to remain in disbelief.

    "After this He appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.  And they went back and told the rest, but they chose to not believe them (16:12)."

       More unbelief in what people are reporting to them about meeting Jesus Christ.  He is alive!  Nah, He can't be since He is dead.  They had chosen to forget all that He had taught them about what must come to pass.  They reverted to thinking in terms of the normal, everyday, expectations of the natural world that they had grown up in.

    "Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table to eat; and He upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had risen from the dead (16:13-14)."

       And there we find ourselves today.  Not believing those who have come to us and reported that they have experienced the touch of Jesus Christ in their lives.  Instead we scoff at them, ridicule them, and tell them to go away.  Unbelief and hardness of heart.  Jesus Christ lives!  He can meet you on any road anywhere on this planet.  He can meet you in your desperate hour of need.  He can transform you anywhere, anytime, no matter who you happen to be with, and no matter what you may happen to be doing.  Saul of Tarsus was walking down the dusty road to Damascus seeking to arrest and imprison Christians living there, until Christ Jesus met him and Saul was changed forever.  God seeks to meet you and me wherever we happen to be, no matter what distasteful thing we might be doing, or contemplating to do.

       Notice that Jesus was not very pleased with the disciples.  He upbraided them.  This term today means "to criticize severely; find fault with; to reproach severely; to scold vehemently."  All of these phrases give us the picture that Jesus was straightening them out and letting them know without any doubt that they had messed up big time.  They had not believed their sisters nor their brothers in faith.  They had refused to believe the truth, even though He had already told them what would soon happen to Him.  But the good news for all of us beloved is this, He forgave them.  They repented of their unbelief and hard hearts, turned back to believing in Him and His Words, and God blessed all of them.  God will do this for each of us today who choose to believe Him and choose to repent of our sinful ways.  Jehovah is a forgiving God when people choose to repent.  He is a wrathful God when people choose to be disobedient and rebellious. 

       That is all for today, beloved.  May God's grace and peace be with you at the midpoint of January and we head towards the final couple of months of winter.

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Sat, Jan 12th - 11:05AM

    STUDY IN MARK



    "There were also women looking on from afar: among whom was Mary Magdelene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed Him, and ministered to Him;) and many other women which came up with Him to Jerusalem (15:40-41).'

       Interestingly, the women were the last to leave the cross and the first to to arrive at the tomb.  This substantial group of women stood far off from the cross, but they were remaining faithful.  Christ's male disciples had fled and were scattered across the city.  These women did not dare come to the foot of the cross, but they were within sight of Jesus as He hung upon that wooden cross. 

    "And now when the evening had come, because it was the preparation day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counsellor, who also waited for the kingdom of God, came and went in boldly to Pilate, and earnestly asked for the body of Jesus.  And Pilate marvelled if He were already dead: and calling the centurion to him, he asked him whether Jesus had been dead for awhile.  And when he knew the truth from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph (15:42-45)."

       Joseph of Arimathaea is a little known disciple of Christ.  But he ends up having responsibility of the burial of Jesus, and had the courage/boldness to go to Pilate and request Christ's body.  Joseph stepped boldly from out of the background of history to make a faith statement for Jesus Christ.  Can we do anything less today, beloved?  This man was a member of the Sanhedrin (see Luke 23:51-52), a good and just man, a man who had not chosen to step forward and defend Jesus previously, a man who became changed by the death of the Messiah.  Joseph was a highly educated man by that day's standards.  He was highly esteemed, well liked, very responsible, capable of leadership.  He was a man looking for the Messiah and the Kingdom of God.  But he had been afraid to stand up for Jesus because of the rest of the Jews.  Perhaps he had come at night to visit and converse with Jesus, like Nicodemus had done.  How many of us are like Joseph?  When time comes to stand up for what we truly believe, do we vote the truth or do we simply abstain?  How many of us are good and just people, but we are afraid what our friends, coworkers, and family will say about us?  Do we fear the loss of position, prestige, promotion, acceptance, popularity, friends, job, income, and livelihood?  Do we avoid becoming hated for Christ's sake?

       Joseph was a changed man.  How so?  Before he would not stand up in defense of Jesus Christ, but now he went before Pontius Pilate for the body of Christ.  He went boldy and asked earnestly.  It took courage to do this since he would face the condemnation of the Sanhedrin's membership for his actions.  If the body did not come down off of the cross it probably would have been left hanging for the vultures and other animals to devour.  Or it might have simply been tossed out in the trash dump.  Joseph also had to confront the potential threat of Pilate's reaction to his bold request.  Pilate had experienced nothing positive in this entire matter and probably was fed up with the "Jesus matter."  Joseph risked disciplinary measures of the Sanhedrin.  This body of men had done all that they possibly could to distance themselves from Jesus and to eliminate Him from accessing the public.  It had to be a foregone conclusion in Joseph's mind that he would face some very harsh retaliation measures from his fellow Sanhedrin members, and quite possibly from his very closest friends. 

       So what stirred this change in Joseph of Arimathaea?  It had to be the cross, the incredible events surrounding the cross (behavior and words of Christ, the darkness, the earthquake, the torn veil).  It seems that Joseph managed to "connect all of the dots" and he finally comprehended all that Jesus had been teaching about.  Joseph saw the Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled right before his eyes.  So he stepped forward and risked everything, requesting Christ's body for a proper burial in a tomb.  The Greek word Joseph used for the body was soma, meaning the total personality.  The word Pilate used for body was ptoma, meaning the corpse or carcass.  Different attitudes toward death and the bodies are on display here.  Joseph wanted Jesus while Pilate simply was releasing to him a carcass. 

    "And he bought fine linen, and took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in a sepulchre which was cut from out of a rock, and rolled a stone to block the door of the sepulchre.  And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where He was laid (15:46-47)."

       Joseph was a wealthy man.  He went out and purchased fine linen to wrap Jesus in before laying Him to rest in his very own tomb.  All of this speaks of wealth since poor people did not have access to personal tombs.  Joseph took Christ's body down from the cross and wrapped it lovingly in fine linen.  That must have been hugely difficult to do emotionally.  He then transported the linen-wrapped body to his own tomb.  He acted quickly since the Sabbath was to begin at 6PM and Jesus died at 3PM on Friday afternoon.  Work was forbidden on the Sabbath, so whatever was to be done with Christ's body must be done quickly.  That Joseph worked so quickly indicates how the cross had affected him.  He was no longer a secret believer hiding in the background, he was out front demonstrating publicly his belief in Christ. 

       What do we learn from all of this?  We learn that position, power, wealth, status do not enable us to be bold for Christ.  It requires true affection for Jesus Christ to allow us to be bold, and only as long as we see the cross of Christ will affection for Him be aroused in us.  We must remember that God's own Son possessed nothing here on earth; so when He died He had to be buried in a borrowed tomb.  Joseph sacrificed his tomb so that Christ had a place to be buried.  Several things leap out at us here.  Christ is the Savior of the poorest of the poor.  He was born in a stable.  His tomb was donated.  But the rich man/woman can yet serve Him, just as Joseph of Arimathaea did. 

       We now come to the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Mark.  It covers the resurrection and the ascension of Christ to heaven.  Here is one of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith.  Every sermon found in the Acts is a message on the resurrection.  The early Church dwelled upon it constantly.  How about today?  How many churches dwell constantly upon Christ's resurrection?  Not very many.  Social justice and activism seems to be the fad today, sweeping across the American landscape once again.  Where is there hope?  In the risen Christ!  There would be hope in every single church today if this truth were to be preached constantly with assurance.

    ~Eric



    Comment (0)

    Wed, Jan 9th - 4:52PM

    STUDY IN MARK



    For this reason I, Eric, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of all of you people--->Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the non-Jews are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given to me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given to me: to preach to the unbelievers of this world the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for centuries past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. God's intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In Christ and through faith in Christ we may approach God with liberty/freedom and confidence.

    I wonder how many of you can discover what passage of the Bible this comes from? This passage drives me to post to this blog faithfully. It forces me to desire to make plain the administration of the mystery of Christ Jesus. All people, anywhere upon this planet, at any point in time, have available to them the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. Christ has already come and created the bridge back to redemption. Christ has already come and created the salvation from sins. Christ has already made it possible for God to come and live within each of us. Amen!

    "And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but He refused to drink it. And when they had crucified Him, they parted His garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take (15:22-24)."

    Our word for the place of the skull is Calvary. The myrrh mingled wine was a drug meant to deaden the pain and suffering of hanging upon a wooden cross. Ironically, when Christ was born men brought myrrh and offered it up to Him and when He was dying men came and offered myrrh again to Him. After Christ had been crucified the soldiers gambled for His clothing. We have no details of the actual crucifixion, what happened as Christ accepted all of the sins of the world upon Himself. God mercifully pulled a veil of darkness across this movie screen to spare mankind the opportunity for sadistic gossip. Gambling for His clothing fulfilled prophecy found over in Psalm 22:18.

    "And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the superscription of His accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS. And with Him they crucified two thieves; the one on His right hand, and th eother on His left. And the scripture was fulfilled, which said, And He was numbered with the transgressors. And they that passed by railed on Him, shaking their heads, and saying, Ah, You that destroys the temple, and builds it again in three days, Save Yourself, and come down from the cross. Likewise the chief priests mocked among themselves and said along with the scribes, He saved others; He can not save Himself. Let Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with Him reviled Him. And when the sixth hour came, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus loudly cried out, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which being interpreted means, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me (15:25-34)?"

    Mark gives us the hour at which the Roman soldiers performed the crucifixion: the third hour. This would be nine in the morning to us. Mark uses the Hebrew computation of time while John uses the Roman manner of tracking time. The superscription on the cross fully comes to us by reading all four gospel accounts. John tells us that it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The charge for which Christ was crucified was "He was the King of the Jews." Yes, Jesus is the King of the Jews. No, He was not King in the minds of the people who ruled at that time. He had not come and led a crusade and uprising against the Roman occupiers of Jerusalem and all Israel. He had simply come to offer Himself to Israel, and He was rejected. 

    Mark quoted Isaiah 53:12 when he said that Jesus was numbered with the transgressors. Now, picture the scene outside the city walls of Jerusalem. It is after the Passover and the Feast that followed. Visitors are streaming out the city gates to go home. As they pass by Golgotha they can't resist the temptation to mock Christ as He hung upon the cross of shame. Even the chief priests and scribes from the Sanhedrin are out there to get their final rounds of mocking in before Christ dies. Can anyone doubt that Satan was there, working the crowd from in the background? What might Satan prevent from ever happening if he can get Christ to come down off of that cross and save Himself? It was true, Christ could save Himself rather easily. He was fully capable of coming down from that cross and leaving the hammered nails behind in the wood. But if He chose to do so He would throw away our opportunity to be reconciled to Him. God was not going to surrender to temptation and dares. Christ therefore remained fully focused upon the joy that awaited Him in heaven if He remained obedient to the Father's will in this matter. 

    Mark informs us that at noon (sixth hour) darkness shrouded the entire land of Israel. The sun was supposed to be shining overhead at noon, but we are told that there was complete darkness. This is not a solar eclipse nor a lunar eclipse. It is God intervening in the universe's orderly routine. For three hours no one could see anything. Jesus had been hanging on the cross for six hours. During the first three physical hours there had been light from the sun in the sky but there had been spiritual darkness because man did his worst to Christ. In the second three hours there was physical darkness but spiritual light. Yes, He was dying because of our sin but God was working. Jesus was making Himself a sacrificial offering for our sin. At this time He was made sin for us; He became sin for us. He was forsaken by God and yet, even at that time, God was with Christ, reconciling the entire world to Himself (II Corinthians 5:19). It is a paradox. 

    "And some of them that stood nearby, when they heard this, said, Look, He calls Elijah. And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down (15:35-36).'

    Obviously the crowd misunderstood what Christ had said. They thought He had said Elias rather than Eloi. But why hang around to see if Elijah would actually appear to help this man? Unless deep down inside their religious teaching was talking quietly to them even still. This offering of drink was not rejected by Christ for it had no drug in it. This fulfilled the prophecy found in Psalm 69:21. 

    "And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the Spirit. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against Him, saw that Jesus cried out loudly and gave up His Spirit, said, Truly this man was the Son of God (15:37-39)."

    Jesus Christ did not die because anyone took His life. He did not die because of mortal injures given to Him. He voluntarily surrendered up His Spirit for all of us. It is not shocking for people to have witnessed the temple veil being torn into two pieces from the very top to the very bottom. Priests served within the temple each and every day. Three in the afternoon was the time of the evening sacrifice and thus priests would have been busily at work within the temple. I can't imagine what the impact of seeing this happen before their very eyes must have been. Shocking I am sure. Life altering we can assume from what we read in Acts 6:7. Many of the regular priests obviously knew about Jesus and what He had been saying and doing over the previous three and half years. It was no coincidence that the veil was ripped apart exactly when Christ gave up His Spirit. It was done to visually show that the path to approaching God had now been opened up to all people. No longer was it only the high priest who could enter the Holy of Holies. Now each believer in Christ could come into the presence of the Father. What a wrenching, world perspective change for the Jew! What a life altering concept for people today who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!

    That is all for today, beloved! Today was Epiphany Sunday, first Sunday of the New Year. New beginnings. New possibilities. New life. Long ago a little baby boy was born in a manger on a bed of straw, amongst a bunch of domesticated animals. Groups of shepherds wandered into town to see the infant that the angels had told them all about while they had tended their flocks of sheep out in the neighboring countryside. I truly hope that each of us take the time to "wander" into the Bible once again, and rediscover our first love: Jesus Christ. It all begins with Him. Become His Wife, gain new life. 

    ~Eric



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    Sat, Jan 5th - 10:36AM

    STUDY IN MARK



    "And Pilate asked Him, Are You the King of the Jews?  And He answered him, You do say it.  And the chief priests accused Him of many things: but He did not respond.  And Pilate asked Him again, saying, Do You refuse to answer?  behold how many things they witness against You.  But Jesus did not reply; so that Pilate marveled.  Now at that feast he released to them one prisoner, whomever they desired (15:2-6)."

       Jesus gave Pilate nothing to work with.  Jesus did not desire to be exonerated from these false charges.  His appointment with the Roman cross must be kept.  So Pilate was shocked and amazed at this prisoner standing before him who refused to defend Himself.  Everyone ever accused falsely always defended themselves,  they argued their innocence.  Not Jesus though.  Mark does not give us much conversation in his account, he is focusing upon the action.  We must go to the Book of John to find the interplay that was happening between Pilate and the religious rulers.  Pilate hoped to get cooperation from Jesus.  But he discovered that he must stand on his own two feet and make a decision concerning the Christ.  We must do the same thing today, beloved. 

    "And there was one named Barabbas, who lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.  The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he normally did.  But Pilate answered them, saying, Will you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?  For he knew that the chief priests had delivered Him because of envy.  But the chief priests influenced the people, that Pilate should rather release Barabbas to them.  And Pilate answered and said again to them, What do you want me to do to Him whom you call the King of the Jews?  And they cried out again, Crucify Him (15:8-13)!"

       Pilate clearly understood that the religious rulers of the Sanhedrin envied Jesus and were falsely accusing Him.  Pilate has a murderous rebel in Barabbas and an innocent man in Jesus.  So he offers Jesus to go free.  Pilate is shocked by the crowd's response to his question.  He never thought that they would ask for the release of Barabbas.  He then asks the crowd what he is to do with Jesus, their response is to crucify Him.  Mob rule.  Granted the religious rulers worked the crowd, but it would seem that Satan worked the greater influence here.  People who move far away from God end up being very receptive to the influence of Satan.  They will believe the lies that he whispers into their minds. 

    "Then Pilate said to them, Why, what evil has He done?  And they cried out even more exceedingly, Crucify Him!  And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas to them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged Him, to be crucified (15:14-15)."

       The crowd had been sufficiently influenced so that they demanded Jesus be crucified.  Mobs rarely think coherently.  They react emotionally.  They could not tell Pilate what evil Jesus had done to them, for Jesus had done none.  Mobs do not use reason or good judgment when they act.  We also see here how Pilate failed as a governor of this region.  He did not want people to hate him, so he acquiesed to the demands of the religious rulers and the crowd.  He would rather crucify an innocent man rather than stand up for what was right.  We must also remember this:  Jesus was innocent but He was taking our place and we are not innocent.  He chose to put Himself in this position so that all of us would have the opportunity to become redeemed through His shed blood. 

    "And the soldiers led Him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they called together the whole band (15:16)."

       According to Roman policy, when any criminal was to be crucified, he was turned over to a band of soldiers, more than likely an entire regiment.  In general they were brutal and could do whatever they pleased with the prisoner, short of killing him.  They humiliated their prisoners, tortured them, used them as playthings to sate their sadistic appetites.  From all accounts they beat Him to a pulp, so that He was not recognizable anymore.  It is one reason why Simon of Cyrene was commanded to carry the cross for Jesus, Jesus no longer had the strength to do so. 

    "And they clothed Him with purple, and plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on top of His head, And began to salute Him, Hail, King of the Jews!  And they struck Him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon Him, and bowing their knees worshipped Him.  And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple from off of Him, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.  And they compelled one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear His cross (15:17-21)."

       The soldiers mocked Him.  The verbs used in the scriptures are in the imperfect tense, indicating that they kept on striking Him and spitting on Him.  Jesus Christ was a strong, muscular, young man but He could not endure such a physical beating from all of these soldiers.  Jesus endured this punishment in our stead.  We should be the ones beaten unmercifully for our sins against God.  Yet God chose to substitute Himself in our place, out of love. 

       That is all for today, beloved.  May each of us properly identify ourselves, and put ourselves in Jesus' place during all of these events.  Jesus took our beating for us.  Jesus took the humiliation for us.  Jesus took the cross for us.  May we so live each day that our thankfulness is never misplaced.  Grace and peace be yours.

    ~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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