The King Rides In

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The King Rides In

Now shrugging off his rags the wiliest fighter of the island leapt

and stood on the broad door sill, his own bow in his hand.

—Homer, The Odyssey (c. 8th century BC)

The king has returned!

—Rafiki, The Lion King (1994)

The Return of the True King

The exiled king story is one of the oldest narratives ever recorded. From Odysseus to Arthur, from Richard to Aragorn and Simba, these remarkable stories all ring with the hope of a returning king.  There’s a reason for this, and it stands at the very center of Earth’s history and hope of redemption.  It’s about an archetype. It’s about the story of Jesus the Messiah.

It was the 10th of Nisan (our March-April).  Jesus had spent the previous day in the little village of Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, with His close friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  There had been a lot of buzz. People coming and going busily with a big banquet to make the day complete.  The word was out and spreading like wildfire.  Jesus had raised Lazarus to life after he had been dead four days.  People rushed to see Lazarus who was raised by Jesus.  Everyone was talking.  But, believe it or not, there was more going on than a man being raised from the dead.  It was Passover week.  Religious fervor and Messianic expectations were high. But also, a kind of desperation was in the air. And today, the 10th, a Sunday, was the day that Israel picked out her Passover lambs for slaughter.

Sometime in the morning Jesus set out on foot with His 12 disciples.  But first, he sent two ahead around the Mount of Olives to another little village close by called Bethpage.  Jesus gave His men some rather unusual and unexpected instructions.  They were to look for a young donkey … one unbroken and never ridden.  They were to bring it back to Jesus.  If anyone objected, the disciples were only to say, “The Lord has need of him.”  And so it happened as Jesus said.  The two disciples found the colt and its mother and began to untie them.  The owners, who were standing nearby, objected until the disciples spoke about Jesus needing the animals.  The disciples went their way with the donkey.  The owners had a “brush with celebrity” story to tell, and they told it.

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When the disciples caught up with Jesus, they threw their cloaks over the donkey to make a saddle. Jesus then climbed onto the lowly creature’s back.  And so, they set off.  But in the rush and excitement of the moment … no one remembered the prophecies of Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass (Zech. 9:9).

Not a warhorse.  An ass.  A donkey.  The Messiah would come in justice and humility.  He would come to save His people.  But in the chaos … amid all the shouting and hubbub … no one remembered.  Meanwhile, word continued to spread quickly and the frenzied crowds multiplied.  Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.

The Triumphal Procession

With Passover only a few days away, throngs of Galilean pilgrims crowded the road that wound around the Mount of Olives and led on to the East Gate of Jerusalem.  As the pilgrims came in, they sang the Hallel (Psalms 113-118).  Traditionally, the people of Jerusalem would come out to greet the pilgrims, and together the two groups would sing the final lines of Psalm 118 antiphonally:

Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.

Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.

God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

The Hebrew word Hosanna can be rendered “save now.”  It’s a plea for divine intervention and redemption, which was an especially appropriate prayer at Passover.

Jesus and the crowds that followed Him mixed in with the excited Galilean pilgrims and were soon greeted by the expectant crowds flowing out of Jerusalem.  Men and women began to lay their cloaks before the slow-moving donkey.  Others cut down palm branches and waved them like flags or laid them in Jesus’ path.  This was a greeting for royalty.  The clothes represented the prostrate bodies of their owners.  The carpet of palm leaves symbolically exalted Jesus into the heavens.

As Jesus reached the high point in the road where it began its descent around Olivet, the cries of the multitudes began to deviate from the standard psalms.  Disciples, pilgrims, and citizens began to improvise on the inspired words and chant some new refrains:

Hosanna to the Son of David:  Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:  

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that cometh in the name of the Lord:

Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

With these chants, the crowds greeted Jesus as the royal Son of David and the rightful King of Israel.  This hinted at the cosmic effects of His coming reign.  Some Pharisees in the crowd called out to Jesus to silence His followers, but Jesus told them, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”

But then, as Jesus looked out over the City, He halted his forward progress.  He stopped, and He cried.  With divine foresight He spoke to a City that couldn’t hear Him:  He wept over His people’s blindness and their horrible destiny.  He foresaw the Roman siege, now only 40 years away.  He saw the horror, the destruction and the total desolation that Roman general Titus and his legions would bring.

And then He moved on.  He passed over the Kidron Valley and through the East Gate of the City.  The whole City was buzzed, and people cried out, “Who is this?”

The pilgrims answered, “This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.”  No mention of David or his kingdom.  No more hosannas.  Only an earthly Galilean prophet.  Now, anticlimactic air seemed to rush out like someone took a pin to a balloon.  The excitement slowed to a halt.  The crowds dispersed.  Those who stayed with Jesus saw Him enter the Temple precincts, look around, and do nothing of consequence.  Puzzled, perhaps, the crowds went about their business, and Jesus and His disciples quietly left Jerusalem and returned to Bethany and to the home of their friends.  But the countdown to the cross had begun.

Great Expectations?

Throughout His three and half years of ministry, Jesus avoided any public broadcasting of His miracles and exploits.  He had refused the clamor of the crowds.  In fact, He had performed His most amazing miracles privately and usually told their recipients to “tell no man.”  But not just that, He normally referred to Himself as the Son of man, not the Son of David or the Son of God.  He spoke the word of His Father with power and let those who could hear draw their own conclusions.

But now Jesus officially and formally “came unto His own.”  He presented Himself as their Messiah and King.  Even more, He seemed to have deliberately provoked the loud and enthusiastic response from the crowds.  He played off of His greatest miracle.  He intentionally set the rumor mill in motion by commandeering the colt.  He went where the crowds were.  He deliberately chose Passover season, a time of religious fervor and a kind of frenetic energy.  He presented Himself “enthroned” on a donkey, like rulers of an earlier age.  And when the crowds did hail Him as the Son of David … He blatantly refused to silence them.  In fact, He promised another miracle if the crowds became silent saying, “The stones would immediately cry out.”

His enemies threw up their hands: “Behold, the world is gone after Him!”  With each careful and deliberate choice, Jesus pushed them back into a corner.  He kept upping the stakes and eventually forced their hand.  He forced them onto His timetable.  He marched with determination toward the cross for the sake and love of His people.

Another Christ?

Like the teachers of the law who hated Jesus so much, many scholars and theologians today have invented their own idea of what a savior might look like.  Their Jesus is an Eastern sage, a great moralist, a spiritual superstar, or even a prophet, but in all cases this false Jesus is always just a man with limited and very earthly powers.  He spoke words of great wisdom, so they say, but it was wisdom with no authority.  It demands nothing of those who hear it and asserts nothing that might disturb someone’s conscience or alter a lifestyle.

To keep this Christ of theirs safely intact, these scholars, theologians and pastors must misunderstand the Triumphal entry.  Jesus never claimed to be a king, they say.  He never claimed to be Messiah.  And He certainly never claimed to be the incarnate Son of God.  And so the whole thing with the donkey bordered on a mistaken identity.  To these secular theologians … Jesus’ resolve simply weakened, and He gave into the crowds.  He made a last desperate bid for acceptance.  He deviated from His chosen mission and fell prey to the conspiracy of throne and altar.  All very sad, they say, but there it is.  Too bad He didn’t cope better. And think what He could have accomplished if He had lived longer.

But Scripture will have none of this.  The Jesus of Scripture set His mission toward Jerusalem and the cross.  He presented Himself as the saving King.  He provoked an excited response from the crowds and thereby a deadly response from His enemies.  He came to claim His kingdom, a claim that also meant death and resurrection.  He came humbly, but with purpose. Jesus came to save His people and rightfully claim the throne of the universe.  This is the Christ we celebrate and worship on Palm Sunday.

What Is The Church?

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What Is The Church?

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When you hear the word “church,” do you first think of a building or a people?

Famous revivalist Leonard Ravenhill said: “In the church in Acts, the Scripture says they were all amazed, but today, everyone just wants to be amused.”

As we look out over the landscape of the church as we know it today in modern-day America, this statement could not be truer. Many are drawn to the church because their flesh is fed in a religious fashion, but their souls remain dead to God and the love of Christ. To attract the world in an age of folly and sensuality, pastors have dressed the church in the garb of a clown or the gown of a vagabond.

But what is the church? Ephesians 2:19-22 states:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The analogy the Apostle Paul uses is that of a building project—the household of God. Every true Christian—that is, the person who has turned from his sin (repented) and believed that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord—is part of the church universal (sometimes called the invisible church).

The true church is made up of those who are regenerate, repenting, believing and being conformed to Christ. We are weak sheep of a mighty Shepherd! The true church is marked by devotion, obedience and perseverance (even under trial) to the Word of God rightly preached, the ordinances faithfully administered, and church discipline employed (when necessary), not because of its own goodness, but because of its Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

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Because the whole theological scope is deeper and wider than this short column, here are 10 biblical and practical faith lessons to consider about the church:

1. The church is a divine project—God’s undertaking to eternally display His glorious grace

Christianity is a church experiencing the glory of Jesus, with the senses of the heart, through the Gospel, by God’s power (2 Cor. 3:18). That’s why a church that is weak in missions is weak in worship. If your focus is on God’s glory, your life will be about His mission.

2. We need to be constantly reminded that the church He leads is not our church; it’s Christ’s church (1 Tim. 3:15-16).

For the most part, evangelicals have not done a good job of articulating a theology of the church. At the cross, Jesus bought His chosen bride, the church, at the cost of His own life. Not a drop of His blood was shed in vain. So, God’s church isn’t a venue for us to perform at, but, rather, a garden for us to grow in. What His Word says is sufficient for all of our needs in the church.

3. The church is not a property, but a people. We can only go to church when God’s people are there.

Some people are members of the church. Others are members of the building where the church meets (3 John). The church of Jesus Christ is an organism, not an organization. That should radically shape our practice.

4. The problem in the church isn’t too much theology; it’s not enough of the right theology.

I’ve noticed that church division is rarely theological in nature. Instead it’s generally related to people being jerks and blaming theology. Yet, there’s no peace in the church without doctrinal purity in the church. True peace comes not through compromise but biblical truth (Jude 3).

What Is The Church?

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5. When we try to perform the ministry of the church in the world’s way, we not only make God laugh but the world, as well.

We’re not called to ruminate about reinventing the church. We’re called to faithfully minister ordinary means of grace (2 Tim. 4:1-6). There is change in the church — but what kind, to what end, and through what means? For that, Scripture, not culture, must provide the answer.

6. The church should not be a community of self-righteous people, but a community of broken people who know they need grace.

The church isn’t an organization of spiritual giants. It’s broken men and women who can lead others to the cross. Maybe the biggest sin in the church is this: staunchly holding to biblical doctrine, while easily accepting broken relationships (Rom. 12; Eph. 5). We should be able to say, “We’re the perfect church for imperfect people, and we do it imperfectly.”

7. The church should strive to be at peace with all men but we ought to be concerned if we’re not upsetting anybody.

A church must stand for the truth or it will fall for anything. Leading in the church is not about casting or selling our vision. Rather, it’s about knowing, following and preaching God’s vision from His Word (2 Tim. 3:16).

8. Be among those in your congregation keeping the Gospel central, guarding the church’s unity, loving as Jesus loves you & welcoming outsiders.

Unity in the church is not something we can ever take for granted (Eph. 4:1-6). Ask the Lord to show us how to guard the peace and unity of your church today, by our attitudes, words and actions.

9. Satan’s first appearance in the book of Acts is not out in the world but in the church, spreading hypocrisy (Acts 5:3).

Imagine if we all acted right, did good deeds, recycled, helped each other, went to church … but didn’t treasure Jesus. Satan would love it!

If your church is not facing spiritual opposition, it could be that you need to rethink your ministry. Satan opposes that which glorifies God.

10. Make prayer your first instinct when you see weakness in the church (John 17).

After all my years, I am still amazed at how weak I am apart from prayer. Our weakness, like all other inconveniences, leads us to Christ. Let us be more upset by our own gossip about others than we are by others’ gossip about us—and pray for all involved.

What is the church? The purpose of the church is not to attract. It is to “go.” But a missional church is attractive. Are you on mission?

Why Did Jesus Say He Would Bring ‘Division?’

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Why Did Jesus Say He Would Bring ‘Division?’

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How do you view Jesus? Is He a Yoda-like guru that is serene and levelheaded? Would you compare Him to a Peace Corps volunteer with 70s-era grooviness?

Notice what Jesus in Luke 12:51 said about Himself:

“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

The actual, biblical Jesus was very polarizing. You either hated Him or loved Him. For some, He grew more and more lovely. For others, He became despicable. Some flocked to Him while others sought ways to kill Him.

Many today view Jesus as a doting grandfather—boring but wise. Yet, no one in Scripture ever found Him to be uninteresting.

But did Jesus really come to Earth to bring division? Wasn’t He the “prince of peace”?

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The next two verses of Luke 12:52-53 are telling:

“For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus will be the lightning rod of division in some families. Why is this so? Because Jesus’ truth claims are so exclusive that you can’t be indifferent.

It is popular in our culture to call Christians divisive. “They are always stirring people up,” people say. It is just as common to view other religions and viewpoints as inclusive and tolerant, and Christianity as just the opposite.

But all truth claims are exclusive. We all think we are right and everyone is wrong.

The problem is that most people don’t want anybody – Jesus included — telling them they are wrong. They don’t want authority in their lives.

What makes Jesus’ claim in Luke 12:51-52 so “over-the-top” in today’s society is that He’s insisting to be the center of our lives in all areas.

Don’t misunderstand Jesus’ teaching, though. He isn’t promoting a cavalier attitude toward the family. Instead, those who come to this biblical Jesus become better wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, children, employees – everything. That’s because Jesus teaches what it really means to lay down your life for Him and others.

Some may say, “That’s a huge sacrifice to follow Jesus! I might lose everything. This is too burdensome.” But they’re not understanding the richness of the blessings of following Christ. Is anything greater than having a personal relationship with God and your sins forgiven? We were lost … but He offered free salvation to us.

Let’s close with two questions to ponder:

1. Do you put conditions on what it means to follow this Jesus?

Some give up following Him because things didn’t work out like they thought it should. They are in the “I-tried-Jesus-but-it-didn’t-work-for-me” crowd. They put their own conditions on following Him, instead of making Him first in their lives.

2. Are you causing unnecessary division?

Sometimes we can be divisive rebel-rousers where Jesus was not.

The gospel frees us to follow Jesus out of love rather than out of fear. What Jesus are your following today?

Water Into Wine

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Water Into WineI left the empty life behind. He turned the water into wine.

—Dave Stearman, “He Turned the Water into Wine” (1973)


He comes to make His blessings flow  Far as the curse is found.

— Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World” (1719)


A Jewish Wedding

They were getting married.  A young couple.  A simple celebration.  Their families weren’t rich.  Even scraping together enough money to pay for the food and wine had been difficult, but family and friends chipped in.

Organization was a headache, too, but the young couple had found a family friend to serve as coordinator.  Her name was Mary.  She was a widow from nearby Nazareth.  She was known for her godliness and good sense.  She had raised a large family and had lots of practical experience.  Perfect for a planner. There was more, though, something unusual.  Rumors had it that strange things happened when her first Son was born.  Angels.  Stars.  Prophecies. She and her family had spent time in Egypt, too, in Alexandria perhaps.  No doubt she had stories to tell, if only she would.

There was one more thing about the wedding.  Mary’s Son Jesus had recently taken up the calling of Rabbi, a teacher of the Law.  The desert prophet John had introduced Him to Israel, and thus He had already begun to attract a small following.  The families had invited Jesus to join the celebration and to bring His disciples.  More mouths to feed.  But rabbis were always well-received at Jewish weddings.

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The bridal procession itself had begun at dusk.  Covered with a veil and surrounded by her childhood friends, the young bride had left her father’s house and set out for her new home.  Before her went pipers.  Then came those who passed out oil and wine to the grownups, and nuts to the children.  Some carried torches or lamps on poles.  Those nearest the bride had myrtle branches or wore garlands of flowers.  Everyone rose to greet the procession and to pronounce blessings and praise.

Once the bride reached her new home, she was taken to her espoused husband.  Then came the official pronouncement:  “Take her according to the Law of Moses and of Israel.”  The groom signed the contract, the written vows in which he promised to care, keep, and provide for his wife.  Next came the ceremonial washings and their accompanying benediction.  Finally, there was the bridal cup and one more blessing.

Then came feasting.  There were many guests.  Perhaps more than the young groom had thought would come.  The wine began to run low.  In Jewish life and for a Jewish festival, this meant disaster.  Mary, always watchful, saw the problem.  There was no backup plan for wine.  But Mary had something else in mind.

Mary went to Jesus and said simply, “They have no wine.”

Mary and the Wine

We aren’t told exactly what Mary was thinking. We’re not sure if Mary completely understand who her Son really was.  Certainly, He had always been responsible and reliable as a young man.  And with Joseph gone, she had learned to trust Jesus with the ordinary affairs of money and family.  But given Jesus’ response, she may have actually been looking for a miracle.

John had baptized Jesus and hailed Him as the Lamb of God and as the One who would pour out the Holy Spirit.  And, in fact, the Spirit had descended upon Jesus, and a heavenly voice had pronounced Him the Son of God.  Surely Mary had heard of all this.  And just as surely it would have resonated with the old memories and meditations she had locked up in her heart.  What was in Mary’s heart?

Well, what had the angel said?  “He shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. … He shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:32, 35).  “Messiah the Lord.”  That’s what the angels had called Him to the shepherds.  “Born, King of the Jews,” the wise men had said.

Water Into WineHad the time finally come?  Was everything about to come together?  Did she need to give one little nudge?  Or maybe she simply needed help, and her observation veiled a motherly hint for action.

“They have no wine,” she said.

Jesus said, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?  My hour is not yet come.”

Whatever Mary may have had in mind, Jesus was now on His Father’s timetable.  His final revelation as Messiah lay three and half years in the future.  In the meantime, it wasn’t for Mary to dictate, however gently, how He should pursue His course to the cross and the throne.

In confidence, humility and meekness, Mary simply turned the matter over to Jesus and trusted Him for whatever resolution pleased God.  She told the servants, “Whatever He tells you to do, do it.”

Water Into Wine

Jesus directed the servants to six large stone water pots.  These contained the water that the faithful used for ritual purifications.  Each could hold 20 to 25 gallons.  But the crowd had already used up a lot of the water.  So Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots.  They did… up to the brim.  Jesus told them to carry some of what was in the jars to the table master, the one who oversaw the banquet.  They obeyed.

When the table master tasted what the servants brought him, he immediately called for the groom.  He said, “Every man sets out his good wine at the beginning of the feast; then, when everyone’s had plenty to drink, he puts out the worse.  But you’ve kept the best until now!”  The groom, unaware of the miracle, didn’t know what to say.

This was the beginning of Jesus’ miracles, His first manifestation of His power and glory (John 2:11).  Scripture simply says, “and His disciples believed on Him.”

A Feast of Wines

The prophets had described the coming of Messiah through a great many figures and metaphors:  water, wind, and fire were among their favorites.  But another prominent, recurring image was that of festival, of banqueting, and every good feast involved lots of good wine.  Here are a few of the prophecies that connect Messiah with the free gift of celebratory wine:

And in this mountain, shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined (Isa. 25:6).

Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isa. 55:1).

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt (Amos 9:13; cf. Joel 3:18).

It was no accident that Jesus began His ministry by providing an abundance of wine for a wedding.  The miracle was an open declaration that He was the Messiah and the divine Bridegroom. But not just that … also that the kingdom of God had come in power and that God was about to make all things new.  The sacrament He established just before His death said the same thing …  new and eternal life through the blood of the new covenant (Matt. 26:27-29).  But Jesus ordained wine for the sacrament (instead of blood) — wine for the celebration of victory.

As our Priest, Jesus has completed and perfected our atonement.  As our warrior King, He has defeated sin and death.  His work is done.  He has taken His throne (Heb. 10:11-14).  It is time to celebrate and rejoice.  He summons us to eat and drink with Him at His table in His kingdom (Luke 22:28-30; cf. Matt. 8:11).

The Lessons of the Miracle

Jesus’ first miracle displayed His power as Creator.  We aren’t told whether He called new carbon molecules into existence or merely restructured the protons of the existing hydrogen and oxygen molecules to make the water into wine.  It doesn’t matter.  This was a creative miracle.  Jesus is God.  Period.

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Jesus performed the miracle at a simple wedding, as the traditional wedding ceremonies remind us, saying of human marriage: “which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee.”  At the beginning of the world He ordained marriage and gave away the bride (Gen. 2:18-25).  Now as the Divine Bridegroom, He blessed marriage anew and revealed Himself in and through it.

Water Into WineIn the wine miracle, Jesus displayed the stark contrast between His own ministry and that of John the Baptist.  “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine” (Luke 7:33).  John majored in austerity and abstinence, traits appropriate for a nation that stood on the verge of destruction (Matt. 3).  But Jesus came to establish a kingdom whose marks are “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

To perform the miracle, Jesus used waters set aside for ritual purifications.  These were not washings that God had ordained, but ritual cleansings established by tradition (Mark 7:3-4).  Apparently unimpressed with Jewish tradition, Jesus swept it aside to rescue an ordinary wedding and ensure the happiness of two young lovers and their guests.

In this miracle, Jesus turned the ordinary into the extraordinary.  He could have left the wedding guests with water.  Certainly, water is life-sustaining.  He could have given them grape juice.  But He gave them wine.  He replaced the mundane with the extraordinary, the bland with celebration.  The good news is, He still does it with human lives today.

In the miracle, Jesus showed Himself the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and announced the advent of His kingdom.  He chose to work with images of joy, celebration, prosperity, and renewal.  This is not a Neo-Platonic kingdom locked up in our hearts, but a kingdom with real consequences in the real world.  “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”


It has been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus turned the water into wine.  Very few of the wedding guests knew or understood what He had done.  Jesus wasn’t trying to prove His identity or start an advertising campaign.  Jesus Christ is the living God who does wonders.  He is Life:  He makes all things new.  Those with faith and “eyes to see” will take comfort in the water into wine miracle.  Those without faith will see nothing but myth and superstition.  But then againv… such will not believe “though one rose from the dead.”

Dedicated To Jared Brewer, Who Makes Great Wine

For Further Reading:

Alfred Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” (New York:  Longmans, Green, and Co., 1904).

Is Christianity Essentially A Jail?

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Is Christianity Essentially A Jail?

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For many, living under the auspice of the Bible is not only seemingly impossible, but, perhaps, a ridiculous idea.

You know the story, don’t you? A young Christian at college gets invited to a party and says, “I just can’t go.” The organizer says, “Why not?” The Christian responds, “It’s not what I believe or follow.” It’s enough to make some believe that Christianity is too restrictive, rules-minded, and life-altering.

They may say, “Why should I follow something that will limit me?” Of course, the catch for our culture is that freedom is defined as having no restrictions — to shed all authority and discover what works best for you.

Ironically, that is exactly what biblical Christianity is all about – allowing you to discover what’s best for you. Following the risen Christ allows you to really thrive in the purpose God created you for (to glorify His name).

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In John 8:31-38, Jesus unpacks two truths that help answer the question, “Is Christianity a jail?”

First, Jesus—God in the flesh—teaches that true, authentic freedom is found only in serving the living God.Serving” seemingly reeks with the chains of non-freedom. But freedom isn’t just throwing off any man-made restraints. It also comes from within:

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.’” (John 8:34)

In other words, we all work hard for something – success, romance, acceptance, achievement, materialism — that we think will fulfill us. And, instead, of us controlling whatever that is, that thing ends up controlling us.

But notice what Jesus says in John 8:35-36:

“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Is Christianity Essentially A Jail?

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The son has real freedom. But why is that? Because the son knows he is in union with the Father. No matter what we may chase in this life, nothing can replace the fact that we are created for God and His purposes. Moreover, the son also knows that the Father best recognizes the way he should live. The world claims that true freedom is experienced by whatever we want. Yet, Jesus Christ says that His freedom is doing what you were created to do—following Him.

Real freedom is found only in serving the living God. Freedom isn’t just living independently. We all long and cling to something—known or unspoken. That thing becomes our master and lord. The world says freedom isn’t having a boss or master. Jesus says that true freedom comes with acknowledging and having the right Master.

Secondly, the biblical Gospel alone sets you free. Let’s be honest—when you don’t live in the Father’s house mentioned above, then yes, the Father’s house is going to be like and feel like slavery. We become resentful of being in such a home and look for “greener pastures” and a chance to get away.

Notice Jesus’ words in John 8:37-38:

“I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Jesus wants to give us back the heart of the son in this passage. A son who trusts, loves and follows his Father. One that is like the Father in all respects and loves what his Father loves. You need the Holy Spirit of God to change your heart, not more resolutions or plans to “do better.” You need to be absolutely overcome by Jesus’ love for you and what He did for you in the Gospel.

For many who are reading this, going to church and trying to live the Christian life does feel like drag. They reason many believe that Christianity is restrictive is because they’ve never accepted Jesus’ free offer of forgiveness by repenting and believing the Gospel.

Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Life isn’t a “cake walk” with Jesus. But He will sustain you and satisfy you under any burden.

So, make a choice today: Would you rather have a burden or the right master? I don’t know about you, but the biblical Jesus is my desire, not a burden. Only is Him can true, non-restrictive freedom found.

What is your choice today?

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Why Did Jesus Say He Didn’t When He Would Return?

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Why Did Jesus Say He Didn't When He Would Return?

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In Mark 13:32, Jesus says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

But wait, isn’t this Jesus, the God-man? How does the very Son of God not know when He will return? Doesn’t this show He isn’t God?

Each of these, at first, are very valid questions. It’s also worth noting that his isn’t the first time Jesus is described with restrictions. Luke 2:52, for instance, says Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature.” The book of Hebrews says that “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”

Let’s be clear: Scripture teaches that Christ had to be fully God to represent God to men, and be fully man to represent man to God (Col. 2:9; John 1, etc.). He’s 100 percent God and 100 percent man!

To save us from the Father’s due wrath upon us, He had to be both. If He wasn’t a man, he couldn’t have died in our place as a substitute. If He was not God, He would have been just like you and me—that is, unable to defeat the power of sin and death and satisfy the Father’s wrath as a perfect sacrifice.

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Throughout His life, we see glimpses of both natures.  For instance:

  • Because He was human, He got thirsty (John 19:28). But because He was God’s Son, He could turn water into wine (John 2:1-13).
  • Because He was human, He got hungry (Mark 11:12). But because He was God’s Son, He could feed 5,000 hungry people (Mark 6:30-44).
  • Because He was human, He became weary (John 4:6). But because He was God’s Son, he was raised from the dead (Matthew 28:1-15).

Why Did Jesus Say He Didn't When He Would Return? And, to answer the question posed at the beginning, because He was human, He didn’t know the day or the hour of His return. But because He is God’s Son and fully divine, He promised He would return with great power and great glory.

In other words, while on this earth, Jesus willingly emptied Himself of many of His divine powers (Philippians 2:5-11). The Greek word is kenosis, which literally renders as “emptying.” In His human nature, Jesus has limitations like you and me.

In short, the reason Jesus doesn’t know is because, in His humanity, He “emptied himself” of all that knowledge and access to it.

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But here’s the bigger question: Are you ready for Jesus’ return?

Here are four questions to ask yourself.

  1. Are you spiritually alert? How would your life be different if you knew Jesus was coming back today? Wouldn’t it make you question, “Am I ready? Am I living to please him?” For many reading this, the ultimate question is, “Is your soul ready for Jesus to return? Have you repented and believed the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15)?”
  2. Are you urgently on a mission? If you knew the world would end, how would your priorities be rearranged? We are consumed by work, possessions, hobbies and bucket lists. And there’s nothing wrong with these things. We need rest and recovery and we have to work! But in the midst of these things, are we investing our life, time and resources to eternal matters?
  3. Do you find hope in your most intense suffering? Suffering is a reminder that this world is not the way it is supposed to be. The world is full of unfathomable evil and suffering. The Lord is full of unending love and comfort. If someone you loved died of cancer, if your closest relationship is severed, or if your body is full of pain, you can lift your eyes! Jesus is coming back. His return promises us that the things of this life are only temporary.
  4. Do you have an intense power to forgive? If you believe Jesus will return as He said He would, then you can forgive as He commanded. At the return of Christ, He’s going to set all things right, and we can endure until then because of that fact.

May we long daily for heaven, pray daily for Christ’s return, and live daily content and joyful as we rest daily in the sovereignty of God.

The First Temptation of Christ

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The First Temptation of Christ

Want. Take. Have.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Bad Girls” (1999)

. . . Miracle, mystery, and authority.  Thou hast rejected all three and hast set the example for doing so.

—Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1879)

In the Wilderness

After the Spirit descended upon Him, Jesus went immediately into the wilderness.  He was there, fasting, for 40 days and 40 nights.  All the while, Satan tempted Him to abandon His mission (Luke 4:2).  He tempted Him to trade obedience to His Father for the glories of self-will and self-affirmation.  As the days wore on and the trial drew to an end, Jesus’ health and strength began to fail.  Satan then appeared to Him in visible form and made three last assaults on His ultimate trust in His Father.

Scripture insists that these temptations were real and that there was, in each of them, something that would appeal to Jesus’ human nature (Heb. 4:15).  It’s important to understand that Jesus was truly human.  Huge deal.  In addition, He is also eternal deity.  Huge deal, too.  The truth is, the psychology of all this is tough for mortals to process.  As the Son of God, Jesus was both omniscient and omnipotent.  He upheld creation and decreed its end from its beginning.  As a true man, He grew, learned, and suffered.  So, as days of temptation turned into weeks, He could feel the full effects of hunger, exposure, and exhaustion.  And so, in His humanity, Jesus felt the full force of Satan’s arguments.  He really was tempted in all points like we are, and yet He never yielded to the temptation.  He did what His mission required, never turning away from His Father’s will.

Satan’s Attacks

Satan struck first at Jesus’ very real need to survive.  “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”  The force of this temptation was simple enough …  if you die here and now, it’s all for nothing and your whole mission goes south.  Fail in your mission and you fail your Father and your people.  That said, survival becomes job No. 1, right? If you are who you claim to be, accomplish phase one of your mission by living to fight another day.  Make bread out of these stones.  Use your miraculous powers to save your life and the lives of those who will follow after you. Focus on the ends, not the means.

Satan struck next at the path to the cross.  In a moment of time he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  All these, he said, I’ll turn over to you if you fall down and worship me (Rev. 13:4).  In other words, Satan was offering to withdraw all opposition to Jesus’ mission.  Fascinating.  There would be no resistance, no sufferings, no cross.  But not just that, there would be no persecution for His followers, either.  No lions, no stakes, no martyrdom.  Satan would support Jesus’ claims to sovereignty, and no Christian would ever have to suffer for his faith.  Jesus could have it all simply by admitting that Satan’s perspective made pragmatic and existential sense.

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Finally, Satan struck at the actual definition of the mission.  People, he implied, are a tough sell.  They’re not going to buy in to your mission on your word alone.  They need real reasons to believe.  They need evidence.  Give them some.  Jump from the pinnacle of the Temple.  The God you call your Father won’t let you die.  He’ll send angels to catch you, land you and get you safely among “credible” witnesses … the Pharisees and Sadducees.  With those kinds of witnesses and that kind of buzz, everyone in the Temple precincts will know beyond a doubt that you are the Messiah!  And to punctuate this third argument, the devil quoted Scripture: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.  They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11-12).  In this version of Satan’s plan, the Temple and the scriptural promise of the supernatural “safety net” were to launch the ministry in a big new way. It would be the “P.T. Barnum” way.

What Would Jesus Say?

The First Temptation of ChristJesus had walked His prescribed path all His life.  He knew His Father’s word.  It was indelibly stamped on His heart (Ps. 40:8).  When He responded to each of Satan’s attacks with Scripture, He didn’t speak like a child who, from a memory that has been crammed with Bible verses simply spits out the necessary, parent-pleasing responses.  He spoke from a firm, heart-felt commitment to the power of God’s Spirit.  And He spoke as the eternal Son of God.  There was no word-magic here, only a firm and full commitment to God the Father.

Satan’s first temptation was addressed to the desires and needs of the physical body.  Satan had tried to place these bodily needs above the very word of God.  But in words borrowed from Deuteronomy (8:3), Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).  Jesus didn’t deny that man needs bread and food to live, but He insisted that obedience to the words of God was a far greater need.  Man doesn’t need to merely live … man needs … first and foremost … to obey God.

Satan’s second temptation appealed to man’s desire for possessing the big, the shiny and the beautiful.  Man sees, wants, and takes often without any regard to God’s law.  Jesus could have all the kingdoms of the world immediately, Satan said.  No delayed gratification necessary.  No killing the will to self. All He had to do was admit Satan’s underlying and most fundamental premise …

The right to challenge divine authority. Simply stated… men can be as gods.  But Jesus responded with: “It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve” (Matt. 4:10).  The universe functions in terms of God’s law and His decree.  There are no other gods, no other sovereigns.  Man must acknowledge God as the only true source of legitimate authority.  His Word alone is the only legitimate explanation of reality.  And with respect to man’s place in all of this … true authority comes from submission to God and His law.

Satan’s third temptation aimed at human pride.  Man wants celebrity status.  He wants attention, acclaim, admiration … and he wants it now.  Just like Veruca Salt in the original Willy Wonka movie, who wanted to be the first to find the golden ticket and wanted an Oompa Loompa pretty quick, too. But that was mild compared to vanity and pride offered in the place of worshiping God.  Again, Jesus answered Satan with Scripture: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matt. 4:7).  God’s promises are not to be a launching pad for our own private plans and pleasures, our own pursuits of glory.  Man’s chief end is the glory of God.  And we are created for precisely that.

Three Deceptive Hooks

The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  This is how John sums up the lifestyle of the world apart from God (1 Jn. 2:16).  These were the three hooks with which Satan tried to deceive Jesus and if “sold separately and without responsibility” are the ones he throws at us.  These were also the big three hooks that Satan used in the Garden against Eve:

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Gen. 3:6).

Here’s what’s important:

This threefold hook is directed at man’s threefold office, that of prophet, king, and priest.  Satan would have man put his bodily needs and desires over the (prophetic) Word of God.  He would have him seize (kingly) power and dominion without regard to the law of God.  He also would have mankind seduce and abuse others in an anti-priestly bid for prominence and pride.

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The First Temptation of ChristBut since man is always prophet, king, and priest … every temptation appeals in a greater or lesser degree to all of these at once.  In other words, every temptation appeals in some measure to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  And every sin is a surrender of our hearts and souls … to the power of Satan and self.

Victory Over Satan

All of Satan’s temptations implied a kind of soft-and-easy-to-digest “marketing message” for Jesus and those who would follow Him.  He encouraged Jesus to use miracles to save life, power to establish His kingdom, and mystery to gather a following.  Miracle, authority, and mystery.   These are exactly the words Fyodor Dostoevsky uses in “The Grand Inquisitor” section of The Brothers Karamazov (1879).  In this parable, the Grand Inquisitor, like Satan before him, berates Jesus for failing His people, for not loving them enough.  Of course, Satan and his messengers regularly pose as angels of light.

But Satan’s worldview assumes that man’s biggest problem lies in his current situation or condition. This could be found either in the outside world around him or even in his own current physical or psychological status.  But how can we turn the misuse of miracle, authority, and mystery into something we can use?

Here’s the thing that should immediately grab us and is the very bottom line:

Our true problems are NOT environmental or psychological.  Our real problems are ethical and judicial.  Our natural, unbridled impulses push us to be ethical rebels against God’s law and we then find ourselves under His temporal curse.  The truth is, no miracles, no heavy-handed tyrannical power, no slick and seductive mysticism carry any real meaning and authority.  They’re only the devil’s lies.  Jesus knew this, and He rejected every and all options except a very painful but obedient walk toward Calvary.  He set His face toward the cross.  He trusted His Heavenly Father.  He obeyed the Word of God, and Satan fled. That’s the only formula that makes Satan flee.

Then God intervened.  Angels came and ministered to Jesus.  He was in the wilderness with the wild beasts, and for a moment Paradise was restored (Mark 1:13).  It was Jesus’ ethical obedience that won this battle.  But the war had only begun.  There would be fierce, future engagements.

Crazy Voices Crying In The Wilderness

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Crazy Voices Crying In The Wilderness

For the herald’s voice is crying / in the desert far and near,

calling all to true repentance / since the kingdom now is here.

—Johann Olearius, “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” (1671)


Alone of all the prophets, John hailed the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

—The Church of England, Common Worship (2008)


The Voice

He came out of the wilderness.  His hair was long and caught up in seven braids.  He wore camel’s hair clothes, rough and not so fashionable.  He tied it together with a leather belt.  Locust was his superfood and he preferred wild honey to Stevia.  His name was John.

He cried with a loud voice.  Anywhere he could.  From a bluff.  From big rocks.  From a rise along the riverbank.  Wherever there was a makeshift camp, a passing caravan, a crowd gathering at a waterhole … suddenly he would appear, and he would lift up his voice and cry:

“Repent!  For the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Kingdom of God?  The people knew those words.  Daniel the prophet had spoken of a kingdom the God of heaven would set up in the latter days (Dan. 2:44).  Kingdom of God.  Kingdom of heaven.  The kingdom of the coming Messiah.

The Messiah.  Could the Messiah be John himself?  Was he the promised King?  Or was he perhaps some other figure out of a distant prophecy?  Elijah was supposed to come as the Messiah’s herald (Mal. 4:5).  And, if anyone could pull off the look and feel of Elijah, it was John.

Then again, Moses had spoken of a great Prophet, the greatest Prophet, who would speak all of God’s words, do great signs and wonders, and know God face to face (Deut. 18:15-19 and 34:10).  Maybe this man was He.

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Whoever he was, his message bit the soul with great force.  He called the religious leaders “a generation of vipers” — “the seed of the Serpent.”  He called all of God’s people to turn from their sins, not in word only, but most especially in deed.  “Bring forth fruits appropriate for repentance,” he demanded.  And he did something else.  He summoned men and women alike to baptism, a cleansing rite that the prophets had associated with Messiah.

More and more people flocked to the wilderness to hear this man preach and — before long — he established himself on Jordan’s banks where Israel’s religious leaders could easily find him.  It was only a matter of time before they showed up.  Church police.  He was an outside voice in religious matters and a potential rival to their authority.  They came to examine his credentials, to see what he would have to say for himself.

“Who are you?” they demanded.  “The Messiah?”  Not that they would have believed him if he had said yes.  “Or are you Elijah?”

“Nope,” he answered to all three.

“Who are you, then?  We need to give an answer to those who sent us.”

And John said: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the LORD,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

“Then why are you baptizing if you’re not the Messiah or Elijah?”

Keep in mind … baptism was an Old Covenant concept and ordinance (Heb. 9:10; Num. 19).  That’s why the theological experts didn’t ask, “What are you doing?” but rather, “Why are you doing it?”  The baptisms they knew mostly pertained to certain Jewish sects in the area. But they knew there was another baptism, one that was both Messianic as well as eschatological (Isa. 52:12; Ezek. 36:25).  But who was John that he should offer it?

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance,” John said, “but He who comes after me is mightier than I whose sandals I am not worthy to bear.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit . . . and with fire.”

John’s Baptism

We’ve all heard it in Handel’s Messiah:

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

The words come from Isaiah 40:1-5.  The voice is that of John the Baptist.  God was about to manifest His glory before all flesh, and He chose this particular man to serve as His voice.

John was the son of a priest and a Nazarite from birth, a birth that had been foretold in the Temple (Luke 1:5-22).  He came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” to prepare Israel for the Messiah’s coming (Luke 1:17).  His message was one of glory and judgment.  The kingdom of heaven, the redemptive rule of God through His Messiah, was about to explode into history with news of the King.  John’s message regarding the new King posed a challenge to all men, beginning with Israel:  Will you submit obey and be faithful or will you be a rebel?

Crazy Voices Crying In The WildernessJohn hit a nerve.  Submission requires repentance.  Men must acknowledge their transgressions of God’s law and turn away from them.  The King required action, visible fruit.  Mere “bloodline” descent from Abraham meant nothing: “God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham,” John said.  He pictured the King, the Messiah, standing at the threshing floor that was Israel with a winnowing fan already in His hand.  This Messiah would separate the chaff from the wheat:  He would gather the wheat into His barn and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.  The Judge was knocking at the door.  Israel … each Israelite … must make a choice.  The consequences would be eternal.

Those who professed repentance, John marked with baptism.  Baptism pointed to cleansing, to new birth and resurrection (Ps. 51:7; Ezek. 36:26-27; Titus 3:6).  It was a sign and seal of the work of God’s Holy Spirit.  The Messiah was coming to baptize Israel with God’s Spirit or with the fires of God’s wrath.  There could be no neutral ground.  Those who would repent and receive their King would have the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Those who rejected repentance, who continued in their self-righteousness, would face temporal and eternal wrath.  (The destruction of Jerusalem, with all its horrors, was little more than 40 years away.)

Behold, The Lamb Of God!

John’s first work was to call Israel to epistemological self-awareness.  Each Israelite needed to know his own sin.  And each needed to repent.  John’s second work was to introduce the Messiah Himself.  And so one day, John saw his cousin Jesus coming to Jordan for baptism.  John knew Him for who He was, and he tried to put Him off, “hey wait a minute … I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

But Jesus insisted.  For though He had no sins, He needed to be identified with His people, and He needed to be set apart to His priesthood by one already a priest (Matt. 21:23-27).  And so John baptized Jesus in the Jordan.  As Jesus came up from the river, the heavens opened, the Spirit of God, dove-like, descended upon Him, and the Father in heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17).  And so, baptized and anointed, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, became the Christ, the Anointed One, the Prophet, King, and Priest of divine redemption.

It was about this same time that John pointed to Jesus and called out, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”  And here is the last puzzle piece.  How can a sovereign and holy God forgive sinners?  Good works have no merit.  Repentance has no merit.   Man has broken God’s law, and God is rightly offended.  His wrath is just and inevitable.  Unless …

“The Lamb of God.”  A sacrifice.  A substitute.  One whose life is of infinite value.  One who in His own body and soul bears the wrath of God against sin in the place of His people.  To repent, then, means to embrace the Lamb, to trust His shed blood, to find in Him new life and the power for obedience.  Entry into God’s kingdom lies through the blood of the Lamb.

A Dying Voice

John died a martyr’s death for condemning King Herod’s marital sins (Matt. 14:3-12).  Jesus said he was the greatest of the Old Testament saints, the greatest of the prophets.  But John got to see Jesus, his Messiah.  He had the amazing privilege and responsibility of introducing Him to Israel.  And yet, Jesus said, “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11).  John still operated in the shadows of the Old Covenant.  He didn’t live to see the cross or the empty tomb.  He didn’t live to Pentecost.  The blessings of New Covenant life far surpass even the glories of John’s ministry … because the King has come.  The kingdom of heaven, then and now, is a reality.

Wise Men From The East

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Wise Men From The East

And lo, to their great surprise, the star which they saw in the east then appeared . . ..

—John Gill, Exposition of the New Testament (1746-8)

Nothing will awaken those that are resolved to be regardless.

—Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (1712)

Where Is He . . .?

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, there came Magi, stargazers, from the East to Jerusalem.  These wise men weren’t from the Orient.  They most likely came from Persia.  They weren’t kings, and Scripture doesn’t say how many of them there actually were.  But certainly, their arrival was enough to get Jerusalem all wound up and draw the attention of the whole city to their one question:  “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?”

There was no ambiguity in the question.  The wise men weren’t asking after recently born “princelings” in general.  They weren’t asking about a child who would one day become a king.  They were looking for the One whose very birth made Him the King of Israel by divine right.  They were looking for the Messiah.

Everyone who heard their question understood its significance.  These wise men claimed that the Messiah had already been born.  They further claimed to have astral evidence:  “We have seen His star in the East and are come to worship Him.”  We don’t know exactly what they saw, but the few details given in Scripture are only beginning to match up with the conjunctions, comets, and super novae that we’re familiar with.  Whatever the nature of the star, these wise men were sure that it was a sign from the God of heaven.

The Magi came to the court of Herod the Great.  It was the obvious place to begin.  Herod, after all, was king of Judea.  If the newborn Child wasn’t his, he would certainly know where to find it.

But Herod didn’t know.  Aside from some itinerant shepherds, no one with first-hand knowledge had made any announcements.  The Magi’s star had gone unnoticed or at least unappreciated.  Still, Herod believed the Magi.  For political reasons, Herod had converted to Judaism and learned its rhythms.  He knew its structure and basic theology.  He knew the prophecies and understood the hope of Israel.  And one thing was certain beyond doubt … he wasn’t about to let it interfere with his reign.  While politely putting the wise men on hold, he summoned the chief priests and scribes (the authorities on Jewish Scripture) and demanded of them where the Messiah would be born.

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They knew, of course.  All Jews knew.  The prophet Micah had given the location 700 years earlier.  “In Bethlehem of Judea,” the priests said, and they paraphrased his prophecy:

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel (Matt. 2:6; cf. Mic. 5:2).

Herod went back to the wise men and enquired about elapsed time.  When had they first seen the star?  Then he pointed the wise men toward Bethlehem, a small village about six miles south of Jerusalem.

“Go and search diligently for the child,” Herod said, “and when you have found Him, bring me word again that I may come and worship Him also.”

The wise men were completely taken in.  But at this moment Herod’s much-vaunted political acumen wholly failed him.  He offered the Magi no guide, sent no escort, ordered no spies or surveillance teams.  He sent the wise men off on their own and trusted these strangers to be his eyes and ears.  No doubt, he commended himself for his cunning and craftiness.  The wise men set out.

And no one followed them.  No one at all.

Wise Men From The East

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As the wise men journeyed south, the star they had seen in the East suddenly reappeared and led them through the dark night to Bethlehem.  There, it stopped and shed its light on one very specific house.  A house, not a stable.  Remember, months had passed since Jesus’ birth.  Joseph had found his family a real house and had probably picked up work of some kind.  He was away when the Magi first arrived, so when the wise men entered the small home, they found only the Child with Mary his mother.  Immediately, they fell to their knees and worshipped the infant King.  Then they unpacked their gifts and presented them:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Princely gifts, indeed.

The hour must have been very late because the wise men didn’t attempt the fairly short return journey to Jerusalem.  Instead, they found a place to unburden their camels and set up their tents for a quick night’s sleep.  But hardly had sleep fallen upon them before God’s word burst through into their dreams with a solemn warning …  they must not return to Herod.  Treachery and danger were the heavy implications.  The wise men rose, packed up their things, and fled from Bethlehem and Judea.

Then the angel of the Lord entered Joseph’s dreams with a more specific warning and admonition.  “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13).

And so, Joseph gathered his small family and immediately headed for Egypt.  The gifts of the Magi would fund the flight and their time away.

It didn’t take Herod too long to realize what was happening.  The wise men had betrayed him and he would entertain no more indirect approaches.  In a rage, he sent his soldiers with orders to kill all the children under two near Bethlehem.  The soldiers obeyed zealously.  And Bethlehem wept as the prophets had foretold.  Another night, not so silent, not so calm.

Only The Wise Men Went

Herod was a cagey political realist.  He understood the political implications of Jewish theology as well as anyone in the kingdom.  Before a divine King, all earthly kings would have to bow.  To a divine King, all temporal rulers must pay homage.  If the infant Messiah lived, Herod would be obligated, sooner or later, to conform to his policies, laws and prescribed way of life.  Herod would rather murder a bunch of babies than accept such terms.

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The priests and scribes, on the other hand, lived in a dichotomy of practical occupation. That, versus a vague fairytale religion of “Bible people, Bible stories, Bible times.”  Oh yes, they knew the prophecies.  They knew the promises.  They knew the theology, all too well.  But it never occurred to them that the implications of this theology would radically uproot their own world in the blink of an eye and set them on a collision course with some pretty big players. And that it would begin with their own personal agendas and turf battles.

You see, the priests were in bed with Rome.  In fact, they worked hard to maintain their position, power and wealth all while balancing a necessary allegiance to Rome.  The scribes, mostly Pharisees, majored in secular moralism and religious manipulation.  They strained at theological gnats while swallowing moral camels, all the while basking in the admiration of God’s poor.

Here’s what’s so often overlooked:

Despite their knowledge of Scripture, neither the priests nor the scribes made the obvious connection from “Messiah is born” to “Let us go and worship Him also.”  When the wise men set out for Bethlehem, not a single Jewish theologian went with them. Interesting.

Then there was the city itself.  When the Magi’s question was made public, the populace fell into confusion, fear and tumult.  What did it all mean?  What would Herod do?  What would this mean for relations with Roman?  For religious coexistence?  For market prices?  No doubt, this created a great deal of buzz on the streets. But not one of God’s covenant people came to the wise men and said, “Look, I’m in, wherever you guys go, I’m going.”

The wise men, of course, had come a long way.  They brought expensive gifts.  They crossed a desert.  They advanced into a strange culture, into a political situation full of intrigue and treachery.  All to ask one, very important question.  They risked everything to see the culmination of 4,000 years of prophecy and hope.  They risked everything for a few brief, if expensive, moments of worship.  And then they went home.  Fascinating.

One More Thing

We’ve all sung the carol called “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  But few people realize that the Twelve Days of Christmas doesn’t end with December 25.  That’s where it begins.  It ends on January 5 Twelfth Night. The next day is Epiphany, a feast that celebrates the revelation of God in human flesh and, more particularly … the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles.  The focus of which, at least for Western churches, is the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus.   The Book of Common Prayer gives us this prayer for the day:

O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles:  Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Think about this: How much will we give up, how far will we journey, how much will we risk, what crazy culturally driven thoughts and misconceptions will we abandon in order to see God made flesh in Jesus Christ? And then if we find Him, will we worship Him?  After that …. how, then shall we live?

Think Twice Before Saying ‘Merry Christmas’

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Think Twice Before Saying ‘Merry Christmas’


“The joyful news of the birth of Christ is this restoration of man to his original calling with the assurance of victory.”

—Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (1973)


“He comes to make His blessings flow / far as the curse is found.”

—Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World” (1719)


The First Christmas

Jesus of Nazareth was born about 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, a small Judean village six miles south of Jerusalem.  At the time, Caesar Augustus was the emperor of the Roman world.  The king of Judea itself was Herod the Great, a master politician … cruel, insolent, and murderous.  Jerusalem, rich and cosmopolitan, was the pearl of Palestine.

The Jewish temple, which Herod had adorned, was magnificent beyond words, but its priestly rulers were apostate and worldly.  The Pharisees, who were the primary teachers of God’s word, were immersed in self-righteousness and legalism.  They strained at moral gnats and swallowed theological camels.  The faithful were few and mostly poor.  The age they lived in, both in Judea and beyond, was marked by disillusionment, despair and unbelief with spiritual leanings towards the mystical and irrational.  In many ways, Jerusalem at the time looked a lot like any big city in America today.

When Jesus was born, his mother and adoptive father were some 65 miles from their home in Nazareth, a backwater town in northern Galilee.  A Roman census had compelled Joseph to return to his family’s hometown to enroll himself for future taxation.  Mary, his espoused wife, went with him.  She was in her ninth month and “great with child.”  Apparently, the almost newlyweds didn’t want to be separated at this crucial time, and it is likely that Mary’s support network in Nazareth had unraveled.  Her friends and family would have judged her unchaste and either crazy or the queen of lies:  “Son of God, indeed!”

Crowds thronged the narrow streets of Bethlehem.  By the time Joseph and Mary reached the village, all the normal accommodations were taken … and there would have been few to begin with.  Finally, someone offered them a place in a stable.  Tradition says it was a cave.  The cramped area no doubt smelled of urine and dung.  The city streets were anything but silent.  The star that hung above the city went unnoticed.

Christian Heroes For Christian Kids: These Amazing Stories Are Putting God Back Into History!

Joseph most likely played midwife.  There was blood and screaming and placenta.  The baby cried.  There was no cradle.  Joseph cleaned out a manger, a feeding trough, to receive the baby.  Mary or Joseph wrapped the baby tightly in strips of linen cloth, “swaddling clothes,” and placed the newborn in the trough.  Mary tried to rest.

Think Twice Before Saying ‘Merry Christmas’

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It would be a few hours later, perhaps, that a bunch of strange, tough-looking men would poke their heads into the stable and ask about a baby.  Joseph, at first defensive, would yield in wonder as these shepherds told of an angelic visitation announcing the birth of the Lord Messiah.  The shepherds had come to see the child.  Joseph let them pass.  The shepherds stared for a bit at what seemed a perfectly ordinary baby, and then they plunged back into the cold streets and told anyone they could about the angels and the baby.

So far, that’s the first Christmas.  The Magi or wise men (not kings) were still in the East (Persia, probably) planning their pilgrimage.  It would take them several months to reach Herod’s court in Jerusalem.  By then, Joseph had moved his family to a small house in Bethlehem and had found some type of daily work.  When the wise men arrived, slaughter came close on their heels, and the holy family fled into Egypt for sanctuary.  The gifts of the Magi funded their life in exile.

The Flight From History

Over the last hundred years the Church and the world have slowly but surely shoved the birth of Christ into a fairy tale world of “Bible stories, Bible people, Bible times.”  There is an incipient Gnosticism at work here and a strong contempt for real history.  The actual history of Christ’s birth has been ignored, adorned, and rewritten to give the whole thing a Romantic, otherworldly feel.  The “super-holiness” of sentimental awe has pushed aside the actual holiness of the holy God incarnate in the midst of His people.  What remains is a separation of the Gospel from historical reality, a separation of the religious and the real.

This disdain for history is nothing new.  It’s implicit or explicit in every form of unbelief known to man.  To see this more clearly, simply consider the consistent extremes of materialism and pantheism. Both streams of consciousness are alive and well, “worldviews” with us today.

The materialist reduces everything to atoms.  Reality is matter in motion.  Just that.  Nothing more.  Love, joy, hope … these are all just chemical reactions within other chemical reactions.  For folks who think consistently this way, there can be no such thing as history, let alone a meaning for history.  Energy particles explode in and out of chaos and eventually collapse in upon themselves again.  Or maybe they spread out beyond their own gravitational pull as the universe dies a cold death.  Who knows? And why should anyone care?  And what is “caring,” after all, but another meaningless chemical reaction?  Why should anyone care about anything?

The pantheist sees all historical and material things or “particulars” as illusions. To the pantheists, everything you see and touch in everyday life is simply a manifestation of an impersonal reality.  All is One.  John Lennon lived in this world and you probably remember the song … “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try.” So, to John Lennon and the folks that profess such things … “all that is” … is an equal expression of that One.  Master and slave, warmonger and peace child, rapist and victim, murderer and the murdered … not one of these distinctions are even real.  In this way of seeing the world, history doesn’t exist.  Neither does crime. There is only the One.  Meaning itself, as far as that goes, is a meaningless concept. Why? Because it suggests that there is something beyond the static reality of One.

The Word Was Made Flesh

Over against this nonsense, the biblical doctrine of the Incarnation establishes the reality of history and reveals its purpose and goal.

mary-josephFirst, the doctrine of the Incarnation presupposes the reality of Creator and creation.  God and His creation are real.  The Triune God exists eternally and necessarily as not only absolute personality but as the personal Source and Origin of all created reality, of all matter, space, and time.  God’s eternal decree and providence structure, determine, and define creation and its temporal flow.  History is what God decrees and is brought about by His providence.  It is … “His story.”

Second, the doctrine of the Incarnation highlights the central conflict within all history.  Humans are fallen.  We are in ethical rebellion against our Creator.  We have eternal punishment coming.  We are incapable of saving ourselves.  But God in His infinite mercy and grace has entered our history … has joined Himself to His creation … to save us from our sins through a death of penal substitution.  Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

Third, the doctrine of the Incarnation establishes the meaning and goal of history.  The eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, entered creation, became flesh, to undo the work of the Fall, to restore men to fellowship with God, and to establish His Kingdom in history and beyond history.  The Son of God came to save the world and to accomplish the restitution of all things to the glory of God.

Because Jesus Christ is eternal deity and because He has come in terms of God’s sovereign decree, He will accomplish His mission.  Jesus has redeemed the earth, and all history since the Resurrection is the outworking and application of that redemption.  History will see the full manifestation of His redeeming work.  He will reign until all enemies have been put under His feet.  But not just that … He will spread the blessings of His reign to the ends of the earth.

This is the message and reality of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

3 Myths About The Christmas Story (That Most People Believe)

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3 Myths About The Christmas Story (That Most People Believe)

Artist: English School

The Christmas story is well-know, but many myths and misconceptions nevertheless abound.  Below are three of the most common myths:

1. Did the angels actually sing at the night of Christ’s birth?

Specifically, this deals with the angelic announcement to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth. A large number of Christian Christmas songs, old and new, indicate that the angels sang that night.

But did you know the Scripture doesn’t actually say this? Rather, the Bible says that they praised God and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).

True, the angels may have really sung that night. The counter-argument is that the Bible often links singing and praising (Psalm 47:6-7; James 5:13). Yet, it doesn’t actually say the angels sang. The word used (legonton) in Luke 2:13 is often translated “saying” from the root word lego, which means to “say” most commonly.

This idea of the angels not actually singing may rub some the wrong way. But the Bible doesn’t explicitly say this.

Christian Heroes For Christian Kids: These Amazing Stories Are Putting God Back Into History!

What’s the takeaway? Simply that all traditional understandings are not inherently wrong in themselves. But, with all things, we must examine the Scripture (Acts 17:11) to see if these things are true. And, if they go against the Bible, we must reject them as such.

2. Didn’t the wise men see Jesus the same night he was born?

According to Hollywood and tradition, the wise men were present that first night Jesus was born. Again, though, what does the Bible say? In Matthew’s account (2:1), the magi traveled to Jerusalem and visited with King Herod after Jesus was born.

Remember that the angels came to the shepherds at night (Luke 2:8). We can infer, then, that Jesus himself was born at night. What’s more, recall that Luke 2:11 tells us that the shepherds were told at the announcement of the angels that “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The translation of “this day” literally refers to the same day — today. Historically, the Jewish day started at sundown, which was about 6 in the evening. The angels’ use of “this day” (KJV) shows us that Christ was born during the night since the day would have begun at sundown.

3 Myths About The Christmas Story (That Most People Believe)Why is this so important? The possibility that the wise men came to Jerusalem the same night Christ was born and had an audience with Herod is highly unlikely. Matthew 2:4 tells us that Herod “gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together” to determine “where Christ should be born.” They responded with the prophecy of Micah 5:2, which indicated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. From Jerusalem, the distance is about six miles to Bethlehem. If the wise men did meet with Herod the following day after Jesus’ birth, the soonest they could have visited Joseph, Mary and Jesus would have been the second night after the birth.

So, who was present at Jesus’ birth? The shepherds, Joseph and Mary for sure. But most likely not the wise men. Matthew used the Greek word paidion to describe Jesus (Matthew 2:8-9, 11, 13-14, 20-21, etc.). This word can mean anything from an infant to a toddler. This variety of meanings would be on par with King Herod killing all the young Jewish boys ages two and under (Matthew 2:16-17). In short, Jesus was probably two years or younger when the wise men visited him.

3. Was Jesus born in a stable?

There’s no doubt that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-6). The question is: “Was Jesus born in a barn, a stable, a cave, or where?” It is clear from Luke 2:7 that there “was no room for them in the inn.”

Traditionally, Christians have made nativity scenes depicting Christ surrounded by animals. In fact, there are many books for children that give the biblical account through the eyes of the animals the night Christ was born. Yet, Luke’s account, coupled with historical consideration and knowledge, outlines the following events.

Joseph brought his betrothed Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem (Luke 2:5). Since Bethlehem was Joseph’s hometown (Luke 2:3) and in step with the marriage customs of the time, it is likely that they completed the marital process by bringing Mary into Joseph’s family home. Because he was newly married, he didn’t have to sleep in the main house any longer with his relatives.

Most likely, Joseph and Mary would have been in a marital chamber attached (or near) the house. They stayed in this smaller dwelling until she was ready to give birth (Luke 2:6) to Jesus in the main room of the house, which was larger. These ancient farmhouses included mangers (Luke 2:7) where she would have laid Jesus. And, finally, after residing there for roughly 40 days (Luke 2:22; Lev. 12:2-8), this young family moved to Nazareth to make their life together in her family’s hometown (Luke 2:39; 1:26-27).

Certainly, that isn’t your typical understanding of the Christmas narrative. There’s no innkeeper, inn or stable.  However, careful Bible study in the context is grounded in the above. The Greek word kataluma used in Luke 2:7 is, perhaps, best translated “because they had no space in their [place / home] to stay.”

This Christmas season, your house may be a mess, the kids and your in-laws may be nuts, laundry may be overdue, but Immanuel means “God is with us,” even in the midst of many misconceptions and myths. Praise God today that His Word is true and the eternal Word, the God-man, Jesus Christ, became flesh to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Advent In Space And Time

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Advent In Space And Time

“After all, nitpicking the timeline of Xena: Warrior Princess is the surest way to madness.”

Chris Sims on the Xena Christmas Special (2015)


“Chronological Bible teaching presents a foundation for understanding Jesus’ death and resurrection”              

New Tribes Mission (2016)


Bible Stories, Bible People, Bible Lands

Remember the TV series Xena, Princess Warrior?  Frankly, there’s no reason you should.  My daughters caught some of this show in the 90s. But this crazy sword-and-sorcery series did serve up a good lesson on how not to think about the Bible.  In one episode Xena meets Ulysses, the shepherd boy David, and Julius Caesar.  That same season featured a Christmas episode.  Officially, it’s a Winter Solstice episode, I guess, but in the last few minutes Xena meets a young Jewish couple and their newborn Child.  Xena and her young partner provide them with a donkey.  Why not?

Xena apparently lives in “ancient times” or “the mythic ages.”  These seem to include at least the whole 1,200 years that preceded the birth of Jesus Christ.  Every character … historical or mythical … lives in these “mythic ages” and thus could show up on Xena as the needs of each week’s script required.

Now, what has this to do with teaching the Bible?  Just this:  An awful lot of Bible teachers … especially those who teach children … treat the historical accounts contained in the Old and New Testaments as “Bible stories” about “Bible people” who lived in “Bible times.”  These teachers apparently have, for the most part, a lot in common with the script writers of Xena. No sense of chronological history and no sense of cultural and sociological change in history are required.  No attention whatsoever is paid to the “cause-and-effect” flow that moved ancient history toward the coming of Christ.  Particularly, no attention is paid to the progression and development in God’s covenant dealings with His people over the first 4,000 years of Earth’s history.

Christian Heroes For Christian Kids: These Amazing Stories Are Putting God Back Into History!

Advent In Space And TimeAnd so, children come to Sunday school or Bible class week after week and hear stories about David and Goliath, Jonah and the whale, Noah and the Flood, and Jesus walking on the water.  Children hear stories out of historical sequence and with all the important “connective tissue” missing.  Children are then left with the lasting impression that these characters lived in “Bible times,” an upper-story, otherworldly existence, a lot like Xena’s mythic ages.  For such children, biblical history has become mythology and real only in the sense that myths are “real.”  The result borders on the tragic:  Teachers tell the Bible story, tag a moralistic lesson to it and call it a day.

The Gospel In Space And Time

This problem isn’t limited to Sunday school.  Many foreign mission programs seem to suffer from a similar malady.  Missionaries come to previously unreached people and master their language. They then hurry to tell them of the Savior Jesus who was born long ago in a land far, far away.  While this approach is better than leaving these folks in total darkness, it does carry with it very real and long-term liabilities.

At least one missionary organization has taken on this potential pitfall head on.  New Tribes Mission sends their people into the mission field with a timeline in one hand and an inflatable globe in the other.  NTM missionaries don’t begin with an in-depth study of the gospels.  Rather, they teach the Bible in historical order and then place these “histories” within the context of Earth’s actual geography.

Unreached people groups have no concept of the God of the Bible. So, Bible teaching begins at the same place God began with His chosen people: at the beginning. Chronological Bible teaching presents a foundation for understanding Jesus’ death and resurrection (

NTM has found that this approach to evangelism leaves fewer holes in their hearers’ understanding and provides a better foundation for discipleship than the more traditional approach.

The Historicity Of The Gospels

The gospels stand firmly in chronological sequence with the writings of Moses and the prophets.  Matthew begins his gospel with a genealogy that reaches from Abraham to Jesus.  This is Jesus’ legal genealogy through his foster-father Joseph and the kings of Judah.  Luke gives us a balancing genealogy.  This is Jesus’ genealogy through His mother Mary, and it reaches all the way back to Adam.  Together, these genealogies tie the biblical account of Jesus’ birth to all the rest of human history and help fill in the gap between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New.

Not just that, but both Matthew and Luke set Jesus’ birth during the reign of Herod, the Roman-appointed king of Judea.  Matthew also names Herod’s son and successor, Archelaus.  Secular history tells us a great deal about Herod the Great, and it all dovetails exactly with how the Bible describes him.

But the gospels’ historical context and accuracy doesn’t end there.  For example, when Luke begins his account of Jesus’ ministry, he sets up the political situation in and around Judea with precision:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness (Luke 3:1-2).

Luke also tells us that John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus (Luke 1:36) and that some six months into John’s ministry, Jesus came to him for baptism.  At that time “Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age” (v. 23).  Jesus was old enough to begin a priestly ministry lawfully (Num. 4:47 and Matt. 21:23-27).  Jesus’ submission to the Mosaic law at this point was key to the priestly dimension of His redemptive work.  Historical chronology matters to God and it should matter to us.

The Christmas Story

christmas-934177_640Of all “Bible stories,” the history of Jesus’ birth has probably suffered more than any other from an abstracted and Gnosticized disregard for history.  Nativity scenes and carols regularly ignore the historical facts of Christ’s birth and blur the harsh, down-to-earth realities described or implied in the gospel accounts.  The manger was a feeding trough for animals, not a sanitized cradle.  The Baby most certainly cried a lot and the night was most likely not particularly silent.  And unless the light from the Christmas star somehow poured through a hole in the stable roof … “round yon Mother and Child” wasn’t all that bright.  The Magi didn’t come to the manger that night, and the angels didn’t hover around the stable.  Not one participant wore a halo.  And let’s not forget the slaughter of the innocents by Herod’s soldiers in this story.  Yep, this is one huge epic drama full of terror, uncertainty and flight.

The truth of the Christmas story is this:  The Son of God came down into our history, in God’s perfect chronology and geography … for our salvation.  He came as a real man and lived among real men.  He was born a real baby with all that that means.  He humbled Himself for our salvation.  He carried our curse, all the way to the cross.  And then He rose from the dead victorious.

When we teach the “chronology of Christmas,” the gospel makes a lot more sense.

Was Mary A Virgin Her Entire Life?

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Was Mary A Virgin Her Entire Life?During the Christmas season, people are absolutely fascinated by the extraordinary virgin birth described in the Bible (Matthew 1 & Luke 1). For many, Mary’s status as a virgin didn’t end once she gave birth to Jesus some 2,000 years ago. For others, Jesus was, indeed, born of a virgin, but Mary went on to have marital relations with her husband and bore other children.

It’s like a championship sports match – and one group has to be right and one group has to be wrong. So, what’s the correct answer?

The Backstory

The virgin Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph, living with her parents, still waiting for Joseph to prepare for their marriage. Mary is highly favored (Luke 1:28), not because of anything she had done, but because God chose her. Gabriel tells Mary who Jesus will be: God’s son and Mary’s son (1:32-33). This was prophesized in verse 35: “the most high will overshadow you,” or, as Gabriel says in verse 37, “nothing is impossible with God.”

That’s the point: God is omnipotent. The eternal Creator can take on the form of man and come down to live among His creation.

The cost for Mary was high. She was pregnant, and Joseph knew he wasn’t the father. Mary had a humble response when she said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Joseph could have believed Mary’s unique story, or he could have considered her to be an adulteress. Mary is a good example for us. Her faith was strong and she accepted the role that God wanted her to play (1:38). It was not an easy role. Under Old Testament law, she could have been stoned for being an adulteress.

And, yet, God Himself became a man and He suffered. That’s why we can trust Him with our lives on this earth.

Before we get to the question of whether Mary was a virgin the rest of her life, we should consider: Why was it significant that she was a virgin in the first place?

First, Christ’s birth represents the uniting of full humanity and divinity (John 1:14; Col. 2:9.  So, we can see that Christ was both fully man and fully God.

Second, the virgin birth enabled Jesus to be born human without inheriting our sinful nature.  Luke 1:35 says that the Christ child will be “holy.”

Third, the virgin birth reminds us that salvation is solely by God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-9).  Our human efforts can’t bring about our salvation—only God can. Our salvation is a miracle just like the virgin birth (John 3; Titus 3:5, etc.).

The Answer to the Question

Alright, but was Mary a virgin forever?

First, we must ask, “What biblical evidence there is stating she remained a virgin?” Simply put, there’s little biblical evidence that Mary remained a virgin. If we believe in sola scriptura (Scripture alone), then we must consider what the Bible does say and not trust tradition or mere human opinion.

From The Creators of Adventures In Odyssey … Christian Heroes For Christian Kids!

Was Mary A Virgin Her Entire Life?Second, we must ask “What does the Bible actually say?” The plain reading of Matthew 1:25 is that Joseph didn’t have sexual relations with Mary until after the birth of Jesus. The word “know” in the Old and New Testaments is a word that, contextually, refers to the sexual union of two persons. If there were other Bible verses to mean something else, it would seem that Matthew or Luke would have given them. There’s no reason to reject the simple reading of Matthew 1:25 as stated.

Third, other verses suggest that Jesus had brothers and sisters.  Mark (3:31-32; 6:3), Luke (8:19-20), John (7:5), Paul (Gal. 1:19), and Matthew (12:47; 13:55-56) all record this. Since there are no other verses that state Mary remained a perpetual virgin, we shouldn’t take liberty to stretch the literal meaning of “brother” or “sister” in these passages.

One common objection to these verses about Mary’s other children is that Joseph might have been an elderly widower, not been interested in sexual relations with a younger Mary, and had previous children from his first (now deceased) wife that became step-brothers and sisters to Jesus. While this is an interesting theory, there’s no biblical or historical evidence to corroborate this.

Finally, we have to ask, “Honestly, were Joseph and Mary really married? Or, was it just a front?” Yes, the Bible says that Joseph took Mary as his wife (Matt. 1:24b). A marriage, much like it is today, was official by way of a verbal witness in front of family and friends, as well as the physical consummation in sex. Unless both the verbal and physical aspects are involved, no biblical marriage is maintained.

What’s more, according to the Lord’s command to Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, one duty of every married person is to engage in sexual intercourse with their spouse. If Mary failed to do this, she would have been in sexual sin—as would have Joseph.


When we think of Mary, we should admire her humility and faith but not allow ourselves to idolize or worship her. Like every human, she was a sinner in need of saving grace found only in the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Remember, too, that in Luke 11, Jesus said it is not so much the one who bore Him who is blessed, but rather those who hear and obey the Word of God. Similarly, in Luke 8:19-21 when His mother and brothers came to Him, Jesus taught that those who hear and obey God’s Word are His true family.

The story of God being born of a virgin and killed by men is the most unbelievable story ever told, and one only God Himself could tell. And we’d do well to speak not only of the virgin birth of Jesus, but of his virgin conception.

In short, it’s essential that we stick to the Bible as our sole authority in matters of faith and life—including on this issue. When we cut ourselves from the moorings of Scripture, we are susceptible to any whim and idea.

Zach Williams Chain Breaker

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Zach Williams Chain Breaker

It has been too long. Time to be reminded on this glorious day the Lord has made. Zach Williams Chain Breaker brings us the reminder of who we should depend on.

The Chain Breaker will take the pain. He delivers it and provides a way. Enjoy it and remember this over the next two days.

If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside
There’s a better life
There’s a better life

If you’ve got pain
He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost
He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker

We’ve all searched for the light of day in the dead of night
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right
And there’s a better life
There’s a better life

If you’ve got pain
He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost
He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker

If you believe it
If you receive it
If you can feel it
Somebody testify

If you believe it
If you receive it
If you can feel it
Somebody testify, testify

If you believe it
If you receive it
If you can feel it
Somebody testify

If you’ve got pain
He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost
He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker

If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker

Flee The Cities: The Biblical Case For Bugging Out

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Flee The Cities: The Biblical Case For Bugging OutMany survival writers and instructors have tackled the problematic question of bugging out versus bugging in. For the most part, we all say that the average person is better off bugging in, than they are bugging out. I’ve taken that stand myself on more than one occasion, but I’m not so sure that the Lord agrees with me.

Jesus Himself actually addressed this issue in the Gospel of Matthew, saying:

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) 16 Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains. 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. (Matthew 24:15-18)

This is about as clear a description of bugging out as you can ask for, taking into account biblical language, as compared to today’s language. The term “bugging out” wasn’t part of the ancient Hebrew language, nor was it part of their culture. Nevertheless, we find Jesus admonishing those who were listening to Him to flee when the abomination of desolation should appear.

The first question that this section of Scripture begs is: What is this abomination of desolation? There are many ways that that phrase can be understood, both in a cultural context of that day, as well as taking it to be in reference to End Time theology. The fact that reference is made to Daniel’s prophecy makes us quickly jump to thinking of End Time theology, but Daniel’s prophecies actually started being fulfilled long ago. So, it could refer to events in Jesus’ time.

If you look at most commentaries, you’ll find that this abomination of desolation refers to the Roman army and their destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. That would tend to close the story, showing us that prophecy had been fulfilled and we need not concern ourselves with this verse — except for one thing … the context.

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When we talk about context, we are asking ourselves two things: Who was he talking to and in regards to what? This is extremely important, especially when we are talking about biblical prophecy. It is always imperative in biblical interpretation to take context into account. Most false doctrine comes about from failure to obey this one precept.

Earlier in the chapter we find the answer to those questions. It says in verse three that “…the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?’”

This then answers the question of who Jesus was talking to and in what context. He was talking to His disciples, in private, responding to a question about His return and the End Times. This is important, because even though He hid many things from the crowds who gathered to hear Him speak, Jesus was always honest in answering His chosen disciples.

Flee The Cities: The Biblical Case For Bugging OutSo, while Jesus might have made reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in this passage, we also know that He was talking to His disciples about His return and the End Times. That puts the verse into a totally different timeframe. This is no longer something that just referred to the Jews or to His disciples, but it is something that applies to every believer from the time of Christ up until the End Times have been completed. Since that hasn’t happened yet, that includes us as well.

Before giving this instruction, Jesus gives His disciples a number of “signs” that the end is coming:

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. Matthew 24:5-8

These signs have been used throughout the ages to say that the time of the Lord’s return is near. But tell me, when in the history of the world have there not been wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes? There always have been and there always will be. That isn’t the answer. In fact, right in the middle of all that, Jesus said, “all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

Jesus refers to those times as “the beginning of sorrows.” What an apt name. Whenever any of those events happen, they bring sorrow, regardless of whether they are connected to the End Time prophecy or not. No, they aren’t portents of the End Times; they are just the problems of life.

So, what is the sign of the end coming, then? If we go back to verse 15, we see it; the “abomination of desolation.” Jesus is clear. He says that when we see that sign, then we are to flee; then we are to “bug out.” But what is the abomination of desolation?

That we don’t know. If we were to take it as the Roman Army, as many have, then we could say that UN troops rolling down the road would be that sign. But UN troops have rolled down many roads around the world in the last 50 years, without the end coming. So, I would have to say that this would be a false sign, nothing more.

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In reality, we don’t know what this name refers to. We just know that it is associated with End Time prophecy and that when it comes, it’s time to flee.

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Historically, mankind has been very poor at interpreting prophecy before it happens. Perhaps that’s because we’re not supposed to be able to identify it before it happens, but rather, as it’s happening. We can look back and see prophecy fulfilled, but when we look forward to see it coming, we tend to misinterpret it. Even our greatest End Times theologians are probably making mistakes in their interpretation. We will never know until those events come to pass.

We do know the end is coming. We also know that it will be a worldwide event. We also know, from what Jesus said in these verses, that when it comes, we’d better get out of town. So I would say prudence is our best course of action. When a worldwide catastrophe comes, it’s time to grab out survival kits or bug-out bags, and head for the hills. For that matter, we’d better have our bags with us, because Jesus warns us not to go into our homes to grab them.

Why would Jesus say this? Clearly He knows things that we don’t. He has already foreseen these events and knows exactly what is going to happen. In the light of this, He is giving us a warning: Get out.

So, I don’t know about you, but if I see a worldwide event unfolding around us, I’m fleeing. I’ll figure out if I’m right or wrong later.

In the larger sense, there is some wisdom in bugging out. In almost any disaster scenario you can imagine, city dwellers will have a harder time than those in the suburbs, and those in the suburbs will have a harder time than those in rural areas. So, maybe it’s time to rethink our philosophy. If the Lord says it’s better to flee than to be caught in the city, who are we to argue?

Obviously, that means having a plan, a destination and the proper preparations in place to survive, once we bug out. While Jesus may say run, without returning to the house to grab your coat, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared. Yes, we must put our trust in Him, but we are responsible for doing our own part as well.

Do you agree or disagree with the writer? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Are Christians Narrow-Minded Bigots For Believing Jesus Is The Only Way?

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Are Christians Narrow-Minded Bigots For Believing Jesus Is The Only Way?

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“Will those who are saved be few?” (Luke 13:23). Or, said another way, “Is this Jesus really the only way to heaven?”

That was a big question in Jesus’ day, and it’s a big question in our day, too. Jewish rabbis were kicking this question around a lot in the first century, and it was widely believed that every Israelite would somehow have a share in eternal salvation—except the really bad ones, of course.

But Jesus upsets the apple cart, because up to this point in Luke, His teaching has ruled out the very people everyone thought had it made easy—moral people, rich people and religious people.

And in our day, the question is just as relevant, but for different reasons. The reason many people ask this question, both Christians and non-Christians, is that we think God should be an equal-opportunity redeemer. We judge God by our standard of fairness, and we assume humanity’s moral innocence. So, when we’re confronted with the reality of hell, or the idea that Jesus is the only way (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), or the cost of following Jesus (Luke 9:23-27), or the fact that our morality isn’t good enough for God (Rom. 3:10-18), then we come out asking, “Will those who are saved be few?”

And we ask it with a chip on our shoulder. We’re dubious about it.

Are Christians Narrow-Minded Bigots For Believing Jesus Is The Only Way?

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We say, “If the God of the Bible is worth His salt, then surely those who are saved will not be few, because the God I believe in wouldn’t do X, Y or Z; or He wouldn’t require this or that of people.”

It’s a challenging question, but how does Jesus respond?

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Jesus doesn’t answer the question as it was asked. He actually poses and then answers a different question. He says, in effect, “You’re asking the wrong question.” He answers a question about the few in 13:23 with a statement about the many in 13:24:

“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

Jesus answers a question about the passive idea of being saved, with a command about the active idea of striving. And he answers an impersonal question about others with a personal question of His own.

It’s not about the few, but the many. It’s not about passively being saved, but actively striving to enter. And it’s not about them; it’s about you.

Someone asks, “Will it be few?” Jesus asks, “Will it be you?”

Asking “will those who are saved be few?” or, “how can there be only one way?” is a smokescreen. It makes us appear humanitarian, but it only serves to hold Jesus at arm’s length.

The right question is, “Am I entering, am I striving to enter, through the narrow door?” Jesus is saying we should be, in some sense, be narrow-minded. We should agonize to enter God’s kingdom through repentant faith in Jesus Christ alone.

How we answer the question, “Aren’t Christians just narrow-minded, bigots? Wasn’t Jesus?” is telling. Here are a few key answers that will help us understand the answer.

1. It’s no narrower to claim that one religion is right than to claim that your way to think about all religions is right.

Logic cuts both ways. Every faith is “narrow.” Even the faith that says all faiths are equal excludes those who disagree.

Yet, at His birth, Jesus was unlike any baby ever born—eternal Deity joined to sinless humanity, the Infinite Infant. The God revealed in the Bible is no local deity, one of many. He speaks as the King of the whole earth (Jeremiah 46-51). One would have to read their Bible upside down, in a dark room, with their eyes closed not to see the deity of Jesus Christ and His superiority over all and the only way.

2. No Christian struts through the narrow gate of Jesus—we’re sheep, not peacocks.

True Christians realize that the irony of Jesus’ Gospel is that the only way to be worthy of the Gospel is to confess you’re utterly unworthy of it. Neither does anyone who truly understands the biblical truth strut through the narrow gate, but all enter with lowly humility. No one snickers through the narrow gate, but all who enter come mourning over their sin. The narrow path is difficult, demanding and less traveled, but is paved with blessing, and it only leads to life. Better to travel on the narrow path with the few than on the broad path with the many.

This is why all Christians are called to be “fishers of men.” We understand that before the thrice-holy God of the Bible that we are simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. We are to tell of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—who He is and what He can do—not just in deeds, but we are to speak of the Gospel in words.

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Are we willing to risk being misunderstood and maligned in order that the truth of the Gospel might be told and men might be saved? Yes, as Christians, we are to share this eternal message.

3. Christianity is radical inclusion, yes, but through the narrow gate.

Are Christians Narrow-Minded Bigots For Believing Jesus Is The Only Way?

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Our culture’s madness rests on the assumption that the gate is wide and the way is easy. Jesus said otherwise in John 14:6:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Unabashed critics of Christianity demand a false inclusion; they want not the word that their sins are forgiven but that their sins aren’t sins. The Bible doesn’t say that as we know God more, we are more comfortable with God. As we draw near, we are more mindful of our own sins and God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

Jesus gives inclusion to the disqualified. He never sells it, especially to those who think they deserve it (Romans 9:30-33). The command to believe in Jesus Christ can only be obeyed to the exclusion of all other objects of faith.

Those of us who have passed through the “small gate” must walk in the narrow way — the way marked out by Scripture. Which one are you on?

What Does The Bible Say About Worrying?

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What Does The Bible Say About Worrying?

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Anxiety. Worry. Fear. Whatever you call it, these three words describe the reality for millions and possibly even billions of people from every race, every walk, and every way of life. Worrying is like a growing cancer within both unbelievers — and believers in Christ. It starts small, but when fully grown, completely overtakes the weary soul and trains the mind to fear the outcomes of any given situation.

If you’re one of the desperate people mentioned above, or just know a friend who is seeking answers to this awful issue, you need not look any further than the Word of God.

The Bible is very clear and concise on the subject of worrying, just as it is with practically any given topic. After all, the words of the creator hold weight with the cares of His creation. So what does the Bible REALLY say about worrying? Glad you asked!

1. Worry is not of God.

We must first remember that worry is not of God. Jesus Christ Himself said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11: 28). God is always offering rest. From the beginning of creation, He even set apart the Sabbath day as a time of rest and resting Himself (Gen. 2:2), demonstrated the importance of taking it easy and enjoying the journey. Worry, essentially, is a lack of trust in God and His capability to handle our needs and desires.

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From Scripture, we can easily infer that God’s offer to His people is rest, and rest should be the constant state of each believer in Him. We should always be confident in this and seek to live in the fullness of this reality.

2. Opportunities for anxiety are real and WILL come.

There’s no way around this. Anxiety comes in all shapes and forms and sizes, but it WILL come. Life is tough, rough and unrelenting and at times, entirely overwhelming. I once heard a man, when asked how “life” was treating him, respond very plainly: “Awful. Life is treating me awful. But God is treating me wonderfully.” What an honest statement!

For some, it’s the mounting bills they owe. For another, it’s the woes of yet another marital fight. For the man around the corner, he’s not sure if his job will be there next month, and for the lady next door, she’s just simply trying to figure out how to keep her kids from rebelling.

What Does The Bible Say About Worrying?

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Even though God is a God of rest, the Bible teaches us that the devil is prowling around like a lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). If we’re to win the worry-war, we should recognize that Satan is ALWAYS crouching and waiting, seeking an opportunity to lead us into fear and doubt. As the old adage goes, admitting is the first step. We should admit that there is a real battle taking place, and that it’s our enemy’s goal that we lose confidence in the one we trust!

3. Worrying accomplishes nothing.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus taught very specifically on worry and anxiety, pointing to the birds as His prime illustration. “Look at the birds of the air,” He said, “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26). He goes on to explain that worrying is absolutely pointless, because it is not active and produces no fruit except more worry: “Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27).

When we truly believe that worrying is vain and pointless, we can begin to take our thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) and CHOOSE to trust God.

4. When it comes to worry, someone has to own it: us, or God.

Someone is GOING to take the cares and the weight. The only question is, will it be us, or will it be Christ? Seeing as how Jesus died on the cross so that we could boldly approach God and make our requests known to Him, it’s pretty clear who the worries should be cast upon. In fact, the Bible teaches us to do just that!

“Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).

“Cast all your cares up on Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

We are instructed to come to God in prayer and lay our cares at His feet. Christ came to heal the broken-hearted, bring deliverance to those who are bound and pour His life into every person who calls on His name. Because we have the opportunity to talk to God in prayer, we should make a point DAILY to lay our cares at His feet. When we give our burdens to God, we receive peace and comfort and joy in return.

What Does The Bible Say About Sex?

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What Does The Bible Say About Sex?

You likely have heard of one or more of these terms: “friends with benefits,” “open marriage” and “one night stand.”

According to a survey published by the National Center for Health Statistics of adults aged 20- 59, women have an average of four sex partners during their lifetime and men have an average of seven.

The culture has embraced an anything goes view of sex, but what does the Bible say about it? While the Bible may be vague on some topics, it is perfectly clear on this one. Men and women were created to complement and complete one another in a sacred bond, and that bond is marriage. It is to be one man and one woman, joined together to “become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

Without debating every single discussion of sex in the Bible here, we can narrow the subject down to four main topics: sex within marriage, sex before marriage, adultery/fornication and homosexuality.

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If we start with Genesis, we see God creating a man, making the determination that the man needed a partner (woman) and then joining them together in a very special, sacred relationship that required no other human elements. As more and more people entered this world of sin, more and more problems arose around the subject of sex.

Sex within marriage. This is God’s design and has always been His plan for the sexual relationship. Think about it: God created sex. “Marriage should be honored and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb 13:4).

bibleSex before marriage (fornication). Today, people often give into temptation and change their sights from desiring an intimate sacred relationship with one person for life. They give into their physical passions and desires and refuse to exercise self-control, and they refuse to follow God’s plan – which was oneness and procreation. “Now to the unmarried … if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor 7:8-9).

Adultery. No longer are people satisfied and happy with the partner that they have made a commitment to for life; the sex act has now become an idol. They lack self- control. “But a man [or woman] who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot and his shame will never be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32-33).

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Homosexuality. People have grown weary of the male-female relationship and yearn for more forbidden fruit – members of the same gender. “We also know that the law is not made for the righteous, but for law breakers and rebels, the ungodly and the sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexual immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders, liars, and perjurers — and for whatever else is sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God…” (I Tim 1:9-11).

Each of us was created and designed by God to live a life that is pleasing to Him. He has given us many gifts, and one of those is the gift of a sexual relationship to be shared with our spouse of the opposite sex. Our bodies are designed in such a way to be a complement to each other, a source of pleasure and procreation.

Jesus Himself, in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 7:20-23, defined marriage as between one man and one woman, saying it is a bond for life and that sex should only take place within that bond.

Pastor Ray Stedman put it this way:

“Sex is so designed that we have no control over it ourselves within marriage. We need each other to minister to us and that is designed of God in order to teach us how to relate…if you try to meet your own need, if you put that first in your life, saying ‘I am going to have my needs met,’ the result will be that you will lose the joy of life and you will lose everything you are trying to gain. Instead of finding fulfillment you will find emptiness…”

God has not changed His plan for man, but man has made the choice to change God’s plan. If you find yourself struggling with sexual sin, you are not alone. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind” (1 Cor 10:13). God is always ready to forgive. Go to Him now, repent, be forgiven and change your path to honor God. He will not turn his back on you, and you will be forgiven. He will restore you and give you a new life.

What Does The Bible Say About Taking Care Of Our Bodies?

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What Does The Bible Say About Taking Care Of Our Bodies?

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While you may strive daily to look and feel your best, what really motivates you? Is it that size 4 dress you have been wanting to get into for years, your upcoming high school reunion, your brush with a weight-related medical condition or perhaps your desire to feel young again?

There are hundreds if not more reasons that could be noted for taking care of your body. How often, though, do you stop to think about the fact that you’re not your own? That your life was purchased with a price and you, if you are a professing Christian, are to glorify God in all you do – including what you do with your body?

May I suggest to you that before any other reason, this should be the first reason that you take the time and energy to care for your body …

Caring for your body glorifies God, it demonstrates a good testimony to others and it gives you the energy that you need to do God’s will, spreading the Gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 10:31, we are told to do whatever we do to the glory of God. In Isaiah 43:7 we are reminded that we were made by God to glorify Him. That is our primary purpose in life — to glorify God. If you choose to not follow a healthy lifestyle, to not eat in a healthy manner, to not practice self-control, to not exercise, and to not care about your body, you are choosing to not honor God.

The Body Is a Temple

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16

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When Christ went into heaven, He told us that He was leaving something very valuable for us: the Holy Spirit. The third Person of the Trinity resides within us. God’s Holy Spirit lives inside of every believer, making our body a temple. You wouldn’t walk into your church and dump trash all over the place, would you? Think about this as you choose how to eat and in what other ways you can honor the temple by how you live your life.

We Are Called to Do God’s Work

What Does The Bible Say About Taking Care Of Our Bodies?

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We are called to share the Gospel and to be the hands and feet of Christ. We can’t do this very effectively if we are burdened by lifestyle conditions. To be a willing vessel for God is one thing, but to be a healthy willing vessel that God can use is a totally different thing. You never know what God will call you to do and where He will call you to go. Being prepared physically and spiritually for any task the Lord gives you is always best.

We Are a Witness

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” – Acts 1:8.

In Acts, we are reminded that we are to be a witness to others. How we live our lives matters. We are called to be good representatives of the Christian faith. It is imperative that we be mindful of all aspects of our lives, including our health.

God Gives Us Help

Making your health a priority is sometimes difficult. God understands this, and provides us with many Scriptures of encouragement in His Word. Here are just a few:

Isaiah 58:11: “And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

2 Timothy 1:7: “For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”


Frankincense And Myrrh: Modern-Days Uses For The Wise Men’s Gifts

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Frankincense And Myrrh: Modern-Day Uses For The Wise Men's GiftsMost of us are familiar with the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that the wise men brought to young Jesus. However, have you ever thought about why the wise men might have brought those particular gifts in honor of Christ?

While the gift of gold was likely given to honor the divinity of Christ as Emmanuel (meaning “God with us”), there were likely physical, emotional and spiritual reasons why the wise men also brought frankincense and myrrh.

Today, we also can benefit from these oils.

Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)*

Frankincense essential oil is steam distilled from the gum resin of a tree. Traditionally, this resin was burned in religious ceremonies and was an ingredient in the holy incense burned as an offering to God. Frankincense is referenced more than 50 times in the Bible, and it was considered to be a holy oil in the Middle East.

Role of Frankincense in the Biblical Christmas Story

Frankincense And Myrrh: Modern-Day Uses For The Wise Men's Gifts

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Because frankincense symbolized holiness and righteousness, during Biblical times, the gift of frankincense to Jesus symbolized His willingness to become a holy sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Health Benefits

Frankincense essential oil exhibits many potential health benefits for a variety of conditions, including allergies, asthma, coughs, diarrhea, headaches, scarring, ulcers, warts and wrinkles.

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Frankincense may help to improve emotional balance, increase resistance to stress and tension, and may also help to improve one’s attitude. Frankincense also may help those with mild depression.

How to Use

Frankincense oil can be applied to the bottoms of the feet, directly applied to the area of concern, diffused in a diffuser, or taken internally as a dietary supplement (for those over the age of six years).

Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia sacra), found only in modern-day Oman, is considered by many to be the most highly valued variety of frankincense on Earth. Experts believe that this is likely the variety of frankincense that was given as a gift at Christ’s birth.

Biblical References to Frankincense

Exodus 30:34; Leviticus 2:1, 2, 15, 16; 5:11; 6:15; 24:7, Numbers 5:15; Matthew 2:11; and Revelation 18:13.

Myrrh Essential Oil (Commiphora myrrha)*

Historical Uses

In the ancient world, myrrh was highly prized as one of the most costly items in the world. Myrrh is extracted from a tree in the same fashion as frankincense. It was traditionally used as a spice, in religious rituals, for embalming applications, and for a number of health conditions such as leprosy.

The Role of Myrrh in the Christmas Story

Frankincense And Myrrh: Modern-Day Uses For The Wise Men's Gifts

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In Biblical times, myrrh symbolized bitterness, suffering and affliction. As a gift for Jesus, it symbolized the fact that He would suffer greatly and would ultimately sacrifice His life to bring eternal life to a lost world.

Health Benefits

Myrrh essential oil also exhibits many potential health benefits, including for allergies (skin), athlete’s foot, chapped/cracked skin, coughs, diarrhea, eczema, stretch marks and ulcers.

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Myrrh essential oil also may help to promote improvement in mood and emotions.

How to Use 

Myrrh essential oil can be applied to the bottoms of the feet or applied directly to the area of concern. It may be taken orally as a supplement by those over the age of six years, and must be used with caution if taken during pregnancy.

Biblical References to Myrrh

Genesis 37:25, 43:11; Exodus 30:23; Esther 2:12; Psalms 45:8; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 1:13, 3:6, 4:6, 4:14, 5:1, 5:15, 5:13; Matthew 2:11; Mark 15:23; John 19:39

*Some words of caution: This information is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any particular health condition. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health practitioner to determine if these or other essential oils are right for your individual health condition(s), and those of your children and loved ones.

How do you use frankincense and myrrh? Share your tips in the section below

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The ‘Off-The-Grid’ Christmas Story

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The 'Off-The-Grid' Christmas Story

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus / Born to set Thy people free.

– Charles Wesley, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” (1744)

 The Redeemer has broken every bond: / The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.

– Placide Cappeau, O Holy Night, (1847)


In the Beginning

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  Then God created man in His own image.  He gave us the world and promised us life and joy.  But we rebelled against God’s word.  Adam chose to place his own interpretation on reality, an interpretation shaped by his inward desire to be his own god.

God could have destroyed man and his world on that day.  But instead, He made a promise.  A Hero would come to reconcile God to man and man to God (Gen. 3:15).  And as a sign and seal of that promise, God sacrificed animals … probably lambs … and clothed our first parents with their skins.

As the faithful thought about that sacrifice, as they repeated it year after year, they should have seen that the sacrificial lamb died in the place of rebels.  The lamb was a representative, a substitute of sorts.  Through the sacrificial lamb, God was promising reconciliation and peace through a substitute.

But the lamb itself was not the substitute. After all, the slaughter of lambs and goats and bulls would go on for 4,000 years.  Every sacrifice pointed to the Substitute, but no animal sacrifice was the Substitute.  The faithful could have reasoned that the promised Hero would be the Substitute, but that would be an incredible conclusion, because the Substitute had to die.  But Heroes never die in a good story … do they?

Waiting for Messiah

The 'Off-The-Grid' Christmas StoryTwo thousand years after God gave His first promise, He called Abraham out of the city of Ur in Mesopotamia and led him to the land of Canaan — what we call Palestine.  God gave him a promise.  Abraham would become the channel through whom God would bless the whole world.  “In thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18).  Abraham would be the ancestor of the great Hero who would restore the world to God’s blessing.

To confirm this promise, God swore an oath to Abraham.  In a terribly stark but powerful ceremony, God swore unilaterally that He would not let His promise fail … that He Himself would die rather than let His promise fail (Gen. 15).  There was a hint here.  Later, God imposed the bloody rite of circumcision on Abraham and his descendants.  Circumcision pointed to the necessity of God’s saving grace.  There could be no hope in natural generation.  The flesh could only produce the flesh.  The promised Seed, the Hero and Substitute, would be born through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Abraham, of course, was the ancestor of the Jewish people.  And for 2,000 years their prophets and seers drew word-pictures of the coming Hero:

He would be the Seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of David.  He would be born of a virgin, in Bethlehem of Judea (Isa. 7; Mic. 5).  He would appear 70 weeks of years after Cyrus ordered the Temple rebuilt (Dan. 9).  He would arrive in the days of the fourth great world empire, the one that succeeded Babylon, Persia, and Greece (Dan. 2).  He would come when Rome ruled the world.

The Hero, the Substitute, would be God’s Anointed, His Messiah.  He would be a Prophet like Moses, a Priest like Melchizedek, a King greater than David.  He would sit at God’s right hand, ruling in justice, wrath and mercy.  His government and peace would fill the earth (Isa. 9).  All kings would bring Him tribute; all nations would serve Him (Ps. 72).

And yet this great Hero, this Messiah, would be despised, rejected, afflicted — without comeliness, without beauty (Isa. 53).  His own people would conspire with the Gentiles to destroy Him (Ps. 2). He would be betrayed by His friend, deserted by His disciples, surrendered to the Gentiles, numbered with criminals, mocked by His enemies, pierced in His hands and feet, hung on a tree, slain and buried in a borrowed tomb.

And on the third day He would rise from the dead and take His seat at God’s right hand (Ps. 110).

With this picture of the Messiah fully drawn, the prophets fell silent, and 4,000 years passed.

The Child Is Born

The 'Off-The-Grid' Christmas Story

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Finally … in the fullness of time … when Augustus was emperor, when Herod the Great was king of Judea … when pagan idolatry and Greek philosophy had not simply failed, but carried culture into the depths of depravity … the Messiah came (Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2).  They called Him “Jesus.”  He was born by miracle, born of a virgin without the interference of a human male.  He was born in innocence and holiness.  He was born the incarnate Son of God.

Incarnation.  What a word.  And on it the whole promise of reconciliation turns.  God Himself becomes the Hero.  God became man.  He took to Himself a true human nature.  And yet He remained God, eternal deity:  one Person, two natures.  “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

The creeds of the Church put it this way:

I believe . . . in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man (Nicene Creed).

. . . [W]e teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation. . . (Formula of Chalcedon).

This Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, the Hero.  No other.

Because Jesus was truly man, He could suffer and die in the place of men.  Because He was true God, His life was of infinite value, and He could bear all of God’s wrath against sinners.

The Belgic Confession (1561) summarizes the Gospel with these words:

We believe that God, who is perfectly merciful and just, sent his Son to assume that nature, in which the disobedience was committed, to make satisfaction in the same, and to bear the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. God therefore manifested his justice against his Son, when he laid our iniquities upon him; and poured forth his mercy and goodness on us, who were guilty and worthy of damnation, out of mere and perfect love, giving his Son unto death for us, and raising him for our justification, that through him we might obtain immortality and life eternal.

Jesus died on the cross in the place of guilty sinners.  The third day He rose again.  He returned to life to give life to His people.  He ascended to heaven and sat down at the Father’s right hand.  He is Lord of all, and He reigns with truth and grace. He forgives sins and changes lives. He frustrates and destroys His enemies. He directs history in all its details toward the peace and blessedness the prophets foretold.  Those who trust in Him have peace with God now and an eternal place in His kingdom.

This is the meaning of Christmas.

The Incredible Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Traditions

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Have you ever wondered why we put up Christmas trees? Why we celebrate Jesus’ birth on Dec. 25? How the tradition of Santa Claus really got started?

If so, then this week’s special Christmas edition of Off The Grid Radio is for you. Our guest is Ace Collins, the author of the book Stories Behind The Great Traditions of Christmas, which explores the fascinating background of more than 20 Christmas traditions – traditions in which we all participate, even if we don’t know exactly why.

Collins tells us:

  • How Christmas landed on Dec. 25, even if it likely isn’t the real date for Christ’s birth.
  • Why many Christians around the world didn’t even celebrate Jesus’ birth for 1,800 years.
  • How World War II transformed Christmas into a month-long shopping extravaganza.
  • Why Christmas, at one point in history, was bemoaned as a “Mardi Gras on steroids.”
  • How the tradition of Santa helped spark a renewed interest in celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Collins also explains how a 19th-century poem turned Christmas into the holiday we celebrate today, and why the practice of giving gifts grew exponentially in the past 150 years. And, he gives us the background for why we put lights on the trees.

If you enjoy Christmas, history and – as Paul Harvey would say – the “rest of the story,” then you won’t want to miss this week’s show!

Religion, influence on America!

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Religion, Influence on America
James Walton “I Am Liberty

Religion influence on AmericaIn a country where religion is moving towards the outskirts and people feel better about simply closing the book on divinity we cannot deny its influence on America. Both today and during the revolution as well as the very colonization of the continent. Whether you agree with the tactics of your American ancestors or not its the reason we are here today.

12-18-2015 islam_will_dominate_world_768330Religion plays a major part in the war we are currently in with ISIS. Its very important to understand that fact. I understand the powers that be attempting to take religion out of the ISLAMIC STATE argument. Its because a small portion of our population cant wrap their head around nuance and will be lynching Muslims.Still, looking at a religion based on what it does for the community and the practitioner. That to me is the best metric for religion in 2015.There is definitely an argument for morality and population management as well.

I am not a very religious guy but I understand its importance. I understand its power as well. I know that it can drive people to do better. We know now better than ever in this century that it still has the power to drive people to do powerful things. I pull motivation from the bible. There are times when I turn to that book above all else.

12-19-14I wear a cross. Do I believe there was a man name Jesus who walked the Earth, did miracles, died for us and came back from the dead? I have my days when faith is strong and days when I am just way too cynical for any of it. Still I wear a cross. I want to talk about why.

Its a night for religion in the midst of some of the worlds most holy days. Join us and bring your knowledge and opinions. Its important that we look at this thing and put it into perspective because we are also on the door step of 2016.
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Returning To The True Meaning Of Christmas

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Returning To The True Meaning Of Christmas

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Christmas tree lots and stores open weeks prior to Thanksgiving. Then we get Black Friday, and then Cyber Monday. In the midst of it all, people get pushed and trampled for chasing deals. Then there’s the balloon yard decorations that get bigger every year. And the aisles and aisles of ornaments and decorations. But what is it all for? The celebration of Christmas?

For Christians, hopefully, the celebration of Christmas is focused on Christ — the Savior of the world who came to us in the humble beginnings of a manger filled with hay. Who grew as a boy in wisdom of both his parents and his Heavenly Father’s teachings. The Savior, who as a man, chose to bare our sins past, present and future and endure the excruciating beatings and humiliating death upon the cross.

It is so easy to get swept up into the holiday clamor, the spending, the buying, and all of the deals. But do you ever find yourself running out of ideas, running out of things to buy and give? I know that I have. In fact, for the last few years I have been finding myself losing my Christmas spirit as I walk into all the stores.

Where I have found my renewed spirit of the season is in my home, my creativity and time spent with family. And it is this that I offer to you as my first gift this season: a homemade, Christ-filled Christmas.

Returning To The True Meaning Of Christmas

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Now you may be thinking, “Sure that’s okay for women, but what’s a guy to do?” Don’t worry, I’ve got everyone covered! Take a look at this list of ideas and see how you could change your shop-aholic season into a heart-aholic season of giving:

  • Return to handmade gifts! If you have a talent such as crochet, painting, drawing, woodworking or other crafty ideas, make a personalized gift for everyone on your list. Best of all, make a family night of it and spread the goodwill of doing for others, with each other.
  • Bake it up! Do you have a special holiday recipe that everyone loves? A favorite cookie or cake? Bake a special dish or dessert for those on your list. Who wouldn’t love a night with a homemade dinner on the table that someone else took the time to prepare? Think what that might mean to a hard-working single mom or dad in your family.
  • Family photos! Make a special collage for your parents, grandparents or new parents with pictures from the past and recent present! Memories are a wonderful gift to give. They are also great for college students who are away from home for the holidays.
  • Travel! Make it a special trip to see someone you haven’t seen in years! No wrapping required! What a wonderful sentiment that you would give up your local celebration to spend it with someone else in their hometown or state.
  • Charity! If you absolutely have money to spend and feel led to make those purchases, why not make donations to each person’s favorite charitable cause this holiday in their name? Just think: You’ll be saving them a Saturday spent having a garage sale with all the needless junk they didn’t need!

Above all, the old adage holds true: It’s the thought that counts. How much thought will you be putting into your gifts this Christmas? I know I’m glad that my Savior, my Lord, gave so much consideration to my ultimate gift that it is indescribable. When was the last time you received a gift that was indescribable? Jesus did that for us, by choice and obedience. What an amazing thought.

Lastly, take a moment to pull up this song on iTunes or YouTube this Christmas and consider the lyrics:

How Many Kings

By Downhere

Follow the star to a place unexpected

Would you believe after all we’ve projected,

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A child in a manager?

Lowly and small, the weakest of all

Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl

Just a child

Is this who we’ve waited for?


How many kings stepped down from their thrones?

How many lords have abandoned their homes?

How many greats have become the least for me?

And how many gods have poured out their hearts

To romance a world that is torn all apart?

And how many fathers gave up their son for me?


Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior

All that we have, whether costly or meek

Because we believe.

Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure

And myrrh for the cross he will suffer

Do you believe?

Is this who we’ve waited for?

The Bible, Slavery And ‘Jubilee’ Freedom

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Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land

unto all the inhabitants thereof.

—Inscription on the Liberty Bell (1752/3)


This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

—Jesus of Nazareth (AD 30)


Jubilee Bond Servants

The Bible, Slavery And 'Jubilee' FreedomThe Mosaic Law permitted and regulated various sorts of bond service.  In previous articles (located here and here) we’ve considered penal service, indentured service and lifetime service as a home-born slave. A fourth type was wrapped up with the Jubilee laws and had a couple of forms, both of which were terminated every 50 years by the Jubilee.

Israel’s liturgical calendar was an expansion on the seventh day Sabbath.  In addition to the weekly Sabbath, Israel celebrated the new moon each month and five annual sabbatical feasts.  Three of these – the Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles — fell in the seventh month Tishri.  Beyond that, every seventh year was a Sabbath of the land, a year of release from charity loans, and a time when short-term indentured servants were set free (Lev. 25:1-7).  After seven such Sabbath years came the Jubilee, a 50th year Sabbath (vv. 8-12).

In the Jubilee the land continued to lie fallow, all agricultural lands returned to the heirs of the original owners and Hebrew bondservants who hadn’t been freed in the previous year were set free.  The Jubilee was announced in the last month of the 49th year with a trumpet blast on the Day of Atonement.  So our concern will be with the two sorts of bondservants freed by the Jubilee, but first we must better understand the Jubilee’s significance.

The Jubilee as a Type and Shadow

As an extension of the Sabbath theme under the Old Covenant, the Jubilee pointed forward to the world to come, the Kingdom of the Messiah.  It spoke of the security, liberty and peace that would characterize that coming era.  In that new world, the prophets said, “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid” (Mic. 4:4; Zech. 3:10).

In Isaiah’s prophecy, the Messiah speaks of His own ordination and mission in terms of the Jubilee:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD . . . (Isa. 61:1-2a).

The “acceptable year of the LORD” is the cosmic Jubilee, the final realization of all God’s promises to His people.  Notice the emphasis on liberation and particularly the words, “proclaim liberty.”  Clearly, the Jubilee was typical and prophetic and because of this … the things associated or interwoven with it must have an end … in both senses of the word.  Both a goal and a termination.

When Jesus preached His first sermon in Nazareth, He began by reading Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the Messianic Jubilee.  Then He sat down to teach and, with every eye fastened on Him, He said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).  Jesus came to free men from sin.  The liberation of bondservants at the Jubilee was a picture of this.  This is why the Jubilee began with the Day of Atonement.

The Nature of Jubilee Bond Service

To understand Jubilee bond service, it’s important to remember how the shorter “indentures” worked.  These indentures were normally the result of a man defaulting on a zero interest charity loan.  A man who defaulted on such a loan would sell himself (or be sold) into service, and the money would go to his creditor.  He would receive no wages during the time of his service.  That service could last no more than six years, and when the indentured servant was released to return to his own lands, his employer was to supply him liberally from his own flocks, threshing floor, and winepress … that is, with capital for a new beginning (Deut. 15:7-15).

dead sea scrolls -- youtubeJubilee service dealt with a more serious sort of financial misfortune.  Say a man has already mortgaged (leased) his family’s lands.  Having nothing else, he has made his own labor the surety for a commercial, interest-bearing loan.  But in the end, his business venture falls through.  He can’t repay the loan.  Probably happened a lot actually. So, at this point he must sell himself into service and pass on the price of that service to his creditor(s).

This is where the two forms of Jubilee service come in.  The debtor could either sell himself and his services to an Israelite, one of the covenant people, or to a “stranger,” a resident alien.  The Israelite was required to treat his servant with kindness and respect, but interestingly, the stranger was under no such legal restraints.  Here is most of the relevant legislation:

And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave.  As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee. . . . You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God (Lev. 25:39-40, 43).

Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family, after that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself (Lev. 25:47-49).

In general then, life in an Israelite home would be easier for the indentured servant than life in the home of a resident alien.  The Israelite was required to treat his servant as hired man and “not rule over him with rigor.”  This might imply that he was to pay him wages on top of the purchase price.  In any case, he was to be generous with him.  Furthermore, the indentured servant would live and work in the context of a family that feared God.  He would not have the spiritual and psychological strain of living in a home dominated by pagan thought forms and residual idolatry.

On the other hand, the resident alien might be in a better position to buy the man’s services.  He would not have the prior obligations of making charity loans or buying short-term indentures.  And he might expect a higher return on the Jubilee servant since he could work him harder.  The implied lesson was this …  Financial responsibility and future-orientation are the best way to avoid being enslaved to pagans with all that might involve.

The Kinsman-Redeemer

It is in connection with bond service to a stranger that God introduces the figure of the kinsman-redeemer, the go’el (Lev. 25:48-49).  This man is the bondservant’s next of kin.  He has the duty to buy back his kinsman from bondage if he is able, particularly if that kinsman in bondage to a resident pagan.

The New Testament reveals Jesus Christ as our Kinsman-Redeemer (1 Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 5:9).  He is our brother, the divine Son of Adam, who has paid our redemption price with His own blood (Heb. 2:10-18).


Jubilee bond service then, was a kind of picture of our bondage to sin.  God addressed that picture with two others … the bondservant could be freed by the coming of the Jubilee or through a price paid by the Kinsman-Redeemer.  With these pictures fulfilled in Christ, Jubilee bond service has faded from covenant life.  Christ now promises His Holy Spirit and “Freedom in His Spirit” to those who believe the Gospel, and He calls us through the Gospel to live responsible and self-disciplined lives.  The goal: He wants all of His people to act and live like free men and women.

The Greatest Survival Tip I Ever Discovered

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amber-fields-mountainWe all know it, don’t we? Something is terribly wrong with our world, and things could go downhill fast!  But there IS hope! Allow me to share the greatest survival tip I’ve ever discovered – with you.
Let’s get started…

What is THE Ultimate Survival Tip?

Over the years, I have passed on survival tips, tricks and training to help you and the others we serve. But I’ll be honest, I think I learn more from you guys than I share…

So I was curious what you, our fans, followers and friends, thought was the MOST important survival tip –  The “Ultimate” Survival Tip, if you will.

Here are a few of my favorites from the hundreds of responses we received:

– Stay Positive and Believe You Can Survive
– STOP = Stop, Think, Observe, Plan
– Never Give Up
– Become Friends with Bear Grylls
– Control Your Core Body Temperature… in Other Words… Stay Alive
– Always Have Toilet Paper
– Be Prepared – Because You Never Know…
– Avoid Situations Where Survival Tips May Come in Handy
– Pray. Then Act
– Don’t Die
– Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Which is your favorite?
Mine is, “Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best.”

You Are Part of the Ultimate Statistic?

Some of these tips are good advice. Some are just funny.  But NONE are THE greatest survival tip I’ve ever learned. So stand by, I’ll get to that in a minute…

The plain and simple fact is, that regardless of how many cool survival tips we know, no matter how much we train, how far underground we build our survival bunker or how many years of food we have stored up to prepare and position ourselves to outlast a WCS (Worst Case Scenario) we are still only delaying our participation in the Ultimate Statistic…

What is Ultimate Survival Statistic?

Doctors agree, 10 out of 10 people will one day die.

Whether it’s tomorrow, next week or in 80 years from now, every one of us will die. Regardless of our training, stockpiles, connections, wealth, health, wisdom or position.
And for some, maybe even you, death may come knocking at your door long before you’ll use a single #10 can of beans or bag of rice stored in your basement for survival.

After all, 154,000 people will die in the next 24 hours. And most will die unexpectedly.

Now, I’m not saying you are going to die today, but what I AM saying is that we are all taking great effort to prepare to survive a bit longer on this earth IF a disaster strikes – but we all KNOW for certain that one day death WILL come our way. We just don’t want to think about it. I know I don’t!

So, if you are preparing to survive a disaster that may or may not come – shouldn’t you have a plan to deal with death, since you KNOW that death WILL certainly come?

No, I’m not talking about a putting together a will and making sure you have enough life insurance for those you leave behind (although these are good things).

So I Feel Like I Need to Ask You This…

“Do you know where you are going, when your heart beats for the last time on this planet we call home?”

Why Do We Die?

Okay, now that we have established that death is inevitable for all of us, AND the fact that surviving a WCS is not… let me ask you,  
”Why do we die?”

There’s probably a million opinions as to why we die. I don’t know about you, but for me opinions don’t cut it with such serious and eternal matters.

So I went back to the book that I have grown to trust as my manual for life, the “Good Book,” the Bible, to search for some answers to share with you.

The biblical explanation as to why each of us will die is really quite fascinating.

It essentially says that we die because we have sinned and rebelled against God and His laws (Romans 5:12 and Genesis 2:17). And it boils down to “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).

In short, we get paid our just wages for sinning against God. And those wages are death.

If that doesn’t slap you upside the head, I don’t know what will.

IS there Life after Death?

It’s one big question, “Is there life after death – and what does that look like?”

The answer to this question is fundamental in not only how you and I die but also how we live the rest of the days we have on the earth.

Exactly What Happens After We Die?

Do we simply cease to exist? Is life a revolving door of departing and returning to earth in order to eventually achieve personal greatness (which is reincarnation)?

Does everyone go to the same place, or do we go to different places?

Is there Really a Heaven and a Hell?

The Bible tells us that there is not only life after we die but two places we can go.

One place is called heaven (or paradise). It’s a perfect place that has NO sin, no suffering, no war, no disease, no death and no bad people.

It’s the place where those who have faith in Jesus get to live an eternal life so glorious that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

The bad news is that those who are bad people and don’t love God (or place their faith in Jesus) will live in a terrible place forever. This place is called hell. “Their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur…”  (Revelation 21:8)

Are You Serious… Heaven and Hell? Come on David…

Now, just in case you are laughing, skeptical or even mad right now, and don’t believe there is a heaven and hell… let me ask you, “Where do YOU say that we go when we die?

Okay, got your answer?

Now, let me follow up with this question, “What if you are wrong?”

If I am Wrong, I have NO Regrets… How About You?

I have followed a path I believed was true. Along the way I have lived my life for others, been made a better person, lived according to good and right biblical principles that brought much love and fulfillment to my life.

I have a WONDERFUL wife of 26 years and 2 grown and married children, and two cool grandchildren. They all love Jesus and get to live the awesome legacy that my wife and I have enjoyed.

This life has not been perfect. We have suffered much, grown a ton and gone through hard times. But it’s been a good and blessed life. And through all of life’s joys and sorrows – we have had a keen sense of the Lord being right there with us – along the way.

So if I am right about heaven and hell, I am looking forward to hanging out with Jesus in a place beyond my wildest dreams – forever!!!

Either way, whether I am right (which I have pretty strong evidence that I am)… or wrong, I believe I’m the better man for it.

But if you don’t believe in a heaven or hell and are wrong, and you are not good enough to get to heaven – there IS hell to pay… and from what I have read, hell sucks!!! Big time!

Are You Good Enough to Go to Heaven?

So let me ask, “Are you good enough to go to heaven? Or asked a different way, “Do you think you are a good person?”  You probably do.

The most a common reaction to this question is, “Hey, I’m a pretty good person, and I’m certainly no Hitler or Osama Bin Laden… and I’m better than most.”

But the problem, according the the Bible is that being “good enough” is NOT “good enough” to get you into heaven (Romans 3:23, Romans 3:10-18)

You see, Heaven is a perfect place, and if you’ve sinned even one time in your whole life, you are disqualified.

Don’t get mad at me, I didn’t make the rules.

Here’s the problem.

The Fatal Mistake

In today’s culture we often make a HUGE mistake thinking that God’s standards are the same as ours. This is like saying that we should have no laws, and every person should just do whatever they please, according to what they believe is right.

The last time I checked…this is called anarchy. But this is often how we deal with God’s clear standards as recorded in the 10 Commandments.

Have You Sinned Against God?  

As we talked about earlier, each of us WILL die because we have sinned against God.

Let’s see if that’s true for you:

1) Have you ever lied (even once -this includes, white lies and half truths)?

2) Have you ever stolen (anything – no matter how small)?

3) Have you ever committed adultery? No!?

Jesus said, “Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery already with her in his heart.” That’s a tough one… and one that nailed me.

If you have said, “Yes” to any or all of these you are a liar, thief and an adulterer at heart.

And we’ve only take a look at 3 out of God’s 10 Commandments.

So, How Will You Do on Judgement Day?

Will you be innocent or guilty? Now tell the truth.

If you are honest with yourself, you know you will be found guilty. And when you are found guilty, you deserve hell not heaven!!!

…Long Silent Pause…

BUT, that’s not God’s will for you!

He provided a way for you to be forgiven.

He sent His Son, Jesus, to die in your place and take your punishment by being nailed to a cross for YOU!

“God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  (Romans 5:8).

THE Greatest Survival Tip I Ever Discovered!!!

Okay, here it is… If I ever give you a survival tip that you should seriously consider… this is THE one!

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to the earth to give us a gift of eternal life. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Essentially, this means, Jesus was killed in your place.

Jesus took on the punishment that each and every one of us deserve because of our sins (Romans 3:23, Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 6:23) and sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for our sins.

ONLY Jesus could take the punishment for your sin, and my sin, and every sin past present and future, because He was totally without sin himself and was the perfect sacrifice (the only sacrifice God the Father would accept) for us (1 Peter 2:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 1:19).

Three days later, He (Jesus) proved Himself victorious over death by rising from the grave. Something NO one else has ever done – ever!

He remained on the earth for forty days and was seen by more than 500 people before ascending to heaven (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” This means that he paid for our sins in full and was raised from the dead to prove that it was true. His bodily, visible, documented resurrection was the proof!

The resurrection of the Christ is a well-documented event and has never been disproved. We celebrate this every Easter.

This also means that Jesus is NOT in the grave. Every other religious leader is in the ground to this day. But NOT Jesus. Jesus is alive!

The apostle Paul challenged people to question eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection for its validity, and no one was able to contest its truth. The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

Because Christ was raised from the dead, we can have faith that we, too, will be resurrected and live with Him in Heaven. And that’s pretty cool.

The Ultimate Proof of Life After Death

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate proof of life after death.

Christ was only the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again. Physical death came through one man, Adam (of Adam and Eve fame), to whom we are all related. But all who have been adopted into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ will be given new life (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Just as God raised up Jesus’ body, so will our bodies be resurrected upon Jesus’ return (1 Corinthians 6:14).

The Choice is Yours

Although we will all be eventually resurrected, not everyone will go to heaven. You must make a choice, and this choice will determine your eternal destination.

The Bible says that it is appointed for us to die only once, and after that will come judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We will all be judged according to our works… and even one sin disqualifies us from heaven.

This means that without a ticket from Jesus, there’s NO way to work, earn or reincarnate your way to heaven (John 14:6).

Those who have been made righteous by and through faith in Christ will enjoy eternal life in heaven, but those who reject Christ as Savior will be sent to eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 25:46).

Hell, like heaven, is not simply a state of existence, but a literal place. It is a place where the unrighteous will experience never-ending, eternal wrath from God. Hell is described as a bottomless pit (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1) and a lake of fire, burning with sulfur, where the inhabitants will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).

In hell, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, indicating intense grief and anger (Matthew 13:42).

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires them to turn from their wicked ways so that they can live (Ezekiel 33:11). Remember we are ALL in the “wicked” category without faith in Jesus Christ.

But God gives us the DIGNITY of Choice and will not force us into submission; if we choose to reject Him, He accepts our decision to live eternally apart from Him, cursed and in eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41, Revelation 21:8).

Life on earth is a test, a preparation for what is to come, if you will.

For believers in Jesus Christ, life after death is eternal life in heaven with God (Revelation 21:1-27, Luke 23:43).

For unbelievers, life after death is eternity in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41). Ouch!

How to Receive Eternal Life – And Live Forever!

So, how can you receive eternal life after death and avoid an eternity in the lake of fire?

I’m glad you asked!!!

There is only one way— by acknowledging your sin, turning from it, asking forgiveness and having faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only ticket to heaven.

He’s the only parachute, He’s the only life raft. There is NO other way.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die…” (John 11:25-26).

The Free Gift of Eternal Life Is Available To All

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

Just in case you are thinking you might just hold off on all this “Jesus stuff,” I hate to tell you that (according to the Bible) YOU will NOT be given the opportunity to accept God’s gift of salvation after death.

And so, you are at risk every day of your life… It’s a bad gamble (at best) to put off Jesus.

Your eternal destination is determined in your earthly lifetime by your reception or rejection of Jesus Christ. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

When you trust the death of Jesus Christ as the full payment for the sin that you have committed against God, you are guaranteed not only a meaningful life on earth, but also eternal life after death, in the glorious presence of Jesus Christ.

I personally am looking forward to hanging out with Him! And I’d love to hang out with Him, with you!!!

Jesus is the BEST I have to Give You!  

There is NO other survival tip, no gold or gear that I can give you of greater value than  this loving recommendation:

“Turn from your sin, ask God for forgiveness, and trust Jesus for the rest of your life.”

I have been a believer in Jesus now since 1986. He has never let me down… although I have failed him many times.

Yet He remains faithful. And He has changed -and is changing- me, for the better. He has somehow changed my hard, selfish and rebellious heart. And He is making me more caring, and selfless, a better man, a better husband, a better father, and friend.

So THE Ultimate Survival Tip is… “Trust Jesus!”

If you want a pardon for all your sin, and a NEW start, you can talk to Jesus right now:

Lord Jesus, I believe You died on the cross for me and that You were penalized for my sins so I could be set free. I now turn away from evil and ask You to be my personal Savior and Lord. Please forgive me for my sins and make me a part of Your family forever. Thank you, Jesus!

Have you made a decision to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior?

If so, please let me know. It would be my pleasure to pray with and for you and help point you in the right direction as you live out the rest of your life as a follower of Jesus.

NOW What?

If You Are Wondering What to Do NEXT in Your Journey with Jesus… Click Here to Save Yourself Some Pain – and Learn How to Grow as a Christian (from my friend Ray Comfort – at Living Waters)

Have a really blessed day!



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