Turning the Page

Turning the Page

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.
Psalm 19:7

Recommended Reading
Psalm 19:7-11

One day John Strait (father of singer George Strait) distributed Gideon Bibles in a prison in Dilley, Texas. A prisoner accepted one, but later when another worker, Jerry Horn of San Antonio, visited, the inmate needed another copy. The pages were all gone from the old one; only the covers remained. “What happened?” Jerry asked. The prisoner replied, “I used them to make cigarettes.”

Jerry brought him a new copy and witnessed to him. The prisoner received the Lord as Savior and signed his name in the book, indicating his decision. After getting out of prison, he went to school and became pastor of a Texas church. “He had a new Bible, a new life, and a new way of living,” said Jerry.

Tomorrow turns the page on a new year. The liberating message of God’s Word is ours every moment. The devil may attack us, but we have the Sword of the Spirit. The world may tempt us, but we can hide God’s Word in our hearts. Let’s turn the calendar with our Bibles in our hands and the joy of the Lord in our hearts.

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.
Benjamin Franklin

 
 
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Write it Down

 

Write It Down 

Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth. 
1 Chronicles 16:12

Recommended Reading
Psalm 77:11-12

You take a trip — a trip that you have been anticipating for a long time. You pack your essentials: clothes, toiletries, maybe even a camera. But you forgot to bring a notepad and pencil to keep a journal of what happened through your thoughts. Tragically, your camera breaks a day into the trip. Far too soon you realize it’s almost time to return home to your normal life and to leave the best trip of your life. The one thing you brought along to remember the trip is no longer functioning. Now you wish you had brought a backup plan — a journal.

Journaling is a good way to remember the details of a special vacation, but it is also a wonderful way to recall God’s faithfulness.

The Bible is filled with instructions for us to make remembering things or people a high priority. “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings” (Hebrews 10:32). A journal is a great way to keep track of what happens daily in your walk with God and to record your prayers and thoughts. It’s a way to remember God’s words to you that day, and to bring to mind His goodness and mercy when you recollect that day.

Recall God’s faithfulness — write it down!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise Matthew 2:1-12

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on December 29th, 2013

Intro

Christmas is over and so is most of the hype. I saw two articles recently; one entitled “Christmas Is Over, Now get What You Really Want,” and “How To Recover From Christmas.” Now it is well documented that Christmas can be a very lonely time for many people, especially those that have lost loved ones, or can’t be with their loved ones during this season.

How is this so, If Jesus is truly the “reason for the season?” Does Jesus bring joy, and force us to worship Him because of His greatness, or is it all a hoax, a religious facade? Are we just tacking Jesus on to an already busy schedule, and is our joy connected to the traditions of Christmas and family presence and not the story of the birth of our Savior and King, Jesus the Christ?

Well as we saw last week, Matthew is a book that is emphasizing the promises of God from ancient times primarily through Abraham (The promise that he’s be a great nation and blessing to “All Nations.”), and David (The promise that there would be a King over Israel that would last forever).

The trajectory of Matthew then, recalls the coming of the Christ (Messiah)/King, who would be that blessing and the subsequent mission of the church to “Go” to the nations and proclaim Him as King (Matthew 28:19-20). Gentiles have a special place in this book, which is the most Jewish of the four gospels, and is obviously written to a Jewish audience. As we saw last week, there are four gentiles in Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:3-6). It is a gentile nation (Egypt) that gives refuge to Jesus and His family (Matthew 2:13-15). It is a Roman Centurion and a Canaanite Woman that are called out for their extraordinary faith (See Matthew 8:10; 15:21-28). We are told that many gentiles will come to Christ (Matthew 8:11-12), and as we have already seen, the apostles are commanded to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (The word is the word for “Gentile).

The Messiah has always been the hope of the nations (See Isaiah 60:3), “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

Big Picture: Jesus the Messiah came as a baby to be the “King of the Jews!” We either worship Him as king, or abuse Him for our own gain.

From the Head…

A Bit of History

Herod the “Great,” was a Jew of Idumaean descent, which meant that he was a Palestinian/Edomite, which was in constant conflict with Judah, and subsequently was not liked by those that were Jewish by tribe, and not conversion. Herod married into the Hasmonaean family, which was acceptable to the Jews, but then was hated because his paranoia led him to kill most of the family off including his wife Mariamne and two sons Alexander and Aristobulus. That same fear, led him to kill of their half brother Antipater too.

Herod was made “King of the Jews” by the Roman senate under the advice of Antony and Octavian, and ruled for about 33 years as a loyal ally of Rome. Herod was always resented by the Jews (In spite of him being a converted Jew) because he displaced the Hasmonaean family on the throne and the fact that he as an Edomite.  Not to mention he wiped out most of the Hasmonaean family because of his fear that they would retake the throne.

God Sovereignly Led the Wise Men to Jesus

The fact is we don’t know how many wise men came. Three is the tradition because there were three gifts, but we have no idea. What we do know is that these three men, were pagan sorcerers or magicians (magi). Instead of speculating in regard to whether this story is connected to pagan mythology, it may be more accurate to assume that God is sovereign and draws men to Himself, no matter what their religion, race or background is, which fits in with the theme of Matthew, “The Messiah of Promise.” Christ came to “All” Nations, and all kinds of people, and God can meet anyone where they are.

We do not know how, but it is funny we can get very caught up in the minutia of this passage trying to figure out how the star appeared, and miss the point; God drew these men to Worship Jesus as their Lord and King!

When men and women are drawn to Jesus and their hearts are transformed, the only real reaction is worship, because Christ is seen for who He is; God, their King and Savior!

It is interesting when they are asked “Where the Christ was,” they quoted Micah 5:2, but they only answered what they were asked; “Where.” If they were asked “Who,” they may have finished the verse in Micah which read, “Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

God had revealed to these pagan magicians the truth of who Jesus was, and they fell at His feet to worship Him, and they laid very expensive gifts at His feet in honor of who He is.

God Sovereignly Led Herod Away From Jesus

God had not only given the wise men the ability to find Jesus, but He also gave them a dream to protect His Son from death before He could accomplish all His Father had sent Him to do. Satan wants to destroy God’s plan, but He can’t, because God is sovereign over His plan and His promises.

All Herod wanted to use Jesus for was to eliminate Him, in order to keep control and power over his own life.

What Do We Learn?

  1. We either worship Jesus as God and King, or use Him for our own gain
  2. That God is sovereign in the affairs of humanity
  3. That God sovereignly draws men/women by all means
  4. That God is a keeper of His promises

…to the Heart

Is Jesus the Lord of your heart? What is it that keeps you from worshipping with your heart, mind and soul? Has Jesus and this story become mundane and ordinary, or is Jesus truly your joy and your peace? What are you hoping to get through Jesus? Or is Jesus all you need?

 Questions To Ponder

  1. Why did Matthew tell this story regarding the Magi?
  2. In what way did God show His sovereignty here?
  3. How does God’s sovereignty make you feel?
  4. Why did the magi worship Jesus?
  5. What keeps you from worshiping Jesus?

For Further Reading

A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener

The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins

The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti

 

Visions of Christmas: Seeing Gold

Visions of Christmas: Seeing Gold

The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
Revelation 21:18

Recommended Reading
Revelation 21:21

Three times in Revelation 21 the apostle John uses the word “gold” to describe various aspects of the eternal city (verses 15, 18, 21). That’s because, in the ancient world and still today, gold remains the most sought-after symbol of wealth and purity. The only way John knew to assign ultimate value and beauty to the New Jerusalem was to describe it as “pure gold” (verses 18, 21).

The combination of gold and white is often seen at Christmas, especially in ornaments on “Chrismon Trees” — trees decorated with symbols depicting Jesus Christ. White (for purity) and gold (for value) are two appropriate colors by which to depict Christ. Combining those with John’s vision of gold reminds us of the ultimate meaning of Christmas: God’s eternally valuable gift to us. Yes, Christmas is about Christ’s birth. But it is ultimately about why Christ was born — to live a perfect life before God and qualify as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Let every gift, every card, every festive occasion this Christmas be a reminder that the eternal celebration is yet to come in the city of gold!

Worldlings make gold their god; saints make God their gold. 
Matthew Henry

 

Living Words

Living Words

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

Recommended Reading
Proverbs 4:20-22

Wildfires race up a mountainside like they are alive; the flames in our fireplace spread the same way. God compared His words to a fire (Jeremiah 23:29) and the disciples on the Emmaus road said Jesus’ words “burned” within them (Luke 24:32).

What sets God’s words apart from any other? Moses gave the first clue, telling the Israelites that the word of the covenant “is your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). Stephen, in his speech to Jewish leaders, describes the words Moses received on Mount Sinai as “living oracles” (Acts 7:38). Finally, the writer to the Hebrews expands the idea of “living” words, saying the “word of God” is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). It’s not that God’s words seem to be alive like fire — they are alive. God is life, His words are life, and they create life in us as the Holy Spirit conforms us to them. Life begets life!

As you read the Word of God today, read it with expectancy and anticipation for the changes it will make in you.

The only true reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God. 
J. H. Merle d’Aubigné

Lyin’

Lyin’

You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are truth. 
Psalm 119:151

Recommended Reading
Psalm 119:145-152

The zoo in Luohe, in the Chinese province of Henan, was closed temporarily last summer because zookeepers tried to pull the wool over patrons’ eyes. It happened when the resident lion was removed for breeding purposes and workers substituted a Tibetan mastiff, which is a large, hairy breed of dog resembling the king of the jungle. But when the lion barked, the cat was out of the bag.

The world lies to us all the time, and the devil is always offering substitutes for the truth. Our culture is now predicated on the concept of relativity — that there is no absolute truth, that everything is relative, that all standards are flexible and changeable, and the truth is whatever we want it to be. We must get back to the Word of God, which is the absolute truth for our age and every age. God’s revealed Word has sustained us through the old year; it will carry us through the new. It is clear and unchanging; and we can say with the psalmist: You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are truth.

The Bible is the repository of God’s eternal, non-negotiable truths …. The Bible is God’s perfect and complete message to humankind. 
Robert Jeffress in Outrageous Truth

By Prophets Foretold

 

By Prophet Bards Foretold

We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote — Jesus of Nazareth 
John 1:45

Recommended Reading
John 1:1-14

Every aspect of our Lord’s birth, life, personality, character, ministry, arrest, trial, death, resurrection, and ascension were predicted hundreds  of years in advance. The entire Old Testament is simply a preview of the life of Christ. We’re told He would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15); to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14); of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3); of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10); through the line of David (Isaiah 9:7); in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); and that His name would be Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

The virgin birth and all the other aspects of our Lord’s life, having been accurately predicted, were wondrously fulfilled, proving His origin and identity. Jesus told His enemies to search the Old Testament Scriptures, for “these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).

The same Bible that pinpointed His first coming is brimming with references to His return. Let’s rejoice in His virgin birth today, and await His victorious return.

“For lo! The days are hastening on, by prophet bards foretold, when with the ever circling years comes round the age of gold.”1

1 Edmund H. Sears, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”