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Posts tagged ‘Luke’

Fight Holiday Cynicism with Genuine Faith.



Michael Milton

Have you ever seen Miracle on 34th Street? It’s a Christmas classic. The 1947 novel became a movie the same year, earning the author an Academy Award for the Best Original Story. The film itself was nominated for the top picture. Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. But who could ever forget the child actor, Natalie Wood, who won the hearts of viewers as Susan Walker, the little girl whose doubt in the existence of Santa Claus is transformed by her association with Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle.

Miracle on 34th Street stands beside It’s a Wonderful Life as one of the two most enduring of America’s holiday movies,” says Frank Beaver, professor of film and video studies at the University of Michigan. “As with Frank Capra‘s It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Streetdraws its continuing appeal by reaffirming ideas of faith in a modern, often-cynical world.”1

“Reaffirming faith in a modern, often-cynical world” is what our business is all about as believers—not a faith in St. Nicholas or Father Christmas—but in the truth of the enchantment and wonder of the Almighty God of the universe who came to mankind as a Babe in a manger. So many today don’t buy it—or at least they seemed unmoved by the reality of Christmas in the way they live their lives. The net effect of a lack of faith in Christ is to turn off the color to life; to become like little Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street, whose childhood was dour, expressionless, unromantic, and hopeless.

Unbelief turns off the color and turns down the sound of life as it was meant to be lived. But, faith in Christ, and faith in the God who changes things, who interrupts our lives with the glorious news of salvation by repentance and faith in Jesus, turns on the sound, lights up the soul, and causes mute men to shout for joy!

Just ask Zechariah.

In Luke 1:67 we have what is often called the Benedictus, from the first words of the prophecy:Benedictus esto Dominus Deus Israelis, meaning, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.” And in this Song of Zechariah, which is really a Holy Spirit inspired praise and prophecy, there is enough Gospel to turn the lights on in our lives.

Let’s look at Zechariah’s Song. As we examine this Song in light of the Singer’s life, we might remark that this Song is:

The Song of a Heart Set Free (vv. Luke 1:59)

The father of John the Baptist, the holy prophet of God who preached repentance and faith and announced the arrival of Messiah, was a “righteous” man, “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). The old priest and his wife, Elizabeth, had no children and had been praying for a child. But, time and age seem to conspire together to close the door on that. He was a good man. But his faith was suspect. In a dramatic scene, while Zechariah was ministering in the Temple, an Angel of the Lord told him that his barren wife, Elizabeth, would have a child—not just any child, but a child named John whose birth would signal a new day of rejoicing for many.

What did Zechariah do? He had an answer that sounded like Natalie Wood’s character before she believed: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years?”

The Angel said, in effect, “I just came from God! That is how you know!” So, as a result of his unbelief, which is named as such by the Angel, Zechariah is made mute until the Word of the Lord is accomplished.

Mute. The sound turned off in his life. The judgment of God for his sin of unbelief matched the character of the sin: emotionless, expressionless, stilled, and lifeless.

Freedom Came Through Scribbling out a Name in Faith

Every aspect of the Word of the Lord was being brought about. Elizabeth was with child. She was filled, we are told, with the Holy Spirit as was the child within her. Unbelieving Dad is in quiet judgment, but by this time quite aware that God’s Word is coming true.

In a dramatic scene, the last part of the prophecy of the Angel is unveiled. At the circumcision of the child, where the “Naming Ceremony” occurs, the priest asked, like I have at infant baptisms:

“What name is given this child?” Zechariah couldn’t speak, so Elizabeth did. Everyone expected that his name would be Zach, Jr. (v.Luke 1:59), but Elizabeth surprised everybody and said, “No, he shall be called John.”

Names were important to the Hebrew people. There was no name in their family like that. They questioned her about it. While the debate was going on, old Zechariah interrupted, with some scribbling on a tablet: “His name is John.”

I love that! The scribbling was an act of faith by a man under judgment. From there, we see in verse 67 that the Holy Spirit came upon him and he preached like he had never preached before.

“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.”

Some of you have seen what God has been doing in your lives. Faith for you today may be a little scribbling as you name what God has done for you. You’re not ready yet to give a great testimony, but you can scribble out, “Jesus Saves Sinners!” You’re not ready to preach any sermons, but you ought to be able to scribble out and name what happened to you, “God was in it! God did this! God is on my side! Praise His Name!”

The Song of a Heart Set Free

Socrates taught for 40 years, but his life and teaching have made no songs. Plato taught for 50 years, but he did nothing to cause the human soul to blossom with life. Yet, Jesus came and lived for only 33 years on this earth and taught only three years. His teachings, as well as His Person, His Promises, and His Power have inspired the souls of Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo de Vinci to paint glorious scenes; the hearts of Dante and Milton and Donne to erupt in poetic verse; and the Songs—O the greatest music and Songs of the Ages came from those whose lives were touched by Christ: Haydn, Handel, Bach, and Mendelssohn. All of these men composed to the praise of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is said that Jesus Christ changed Mendelssohn’s music from a minor key to a major key.

This is the picture of what happened to Zechariah. The music of the Lord invaded his soul. It is the music of wonder and joy and freedom when the Word of the God comes in power to announce that salvation is at hand.

I tell you that there is nothing I desire more than to preach the Word to you and turn on the lights, to turn on the color of living and see unbelieving souls burst forth with a song of a heart set free. O dear friend, let this Advent Song be yours today.

Now, let’s get to the Song itself. As I said earlier, this Song is a praise and a prophecy. The first part of the Song is a praise and it is filled with worship for the Covenant God of Israel. The praise of the Lord is seen as Zechariah proclaims, “He has looked after His people and brought about redemption.”

Now for any who think that old Zechariah was interested in political redemption for a nation, please look at Luke 1:74 and see that this Redeemer will bring freedom unto holiness and righteousness. In Luke 1:77 he preached about knowledge of salvation and remission of sins and a light to escape from the shadow of death. This Song praises God for deliverance from sin and the reign of the devil in the world. This is the announcement of a giant movement on the divine eschatological clock. A new era is upon mankind with the coming of Christ.

Now all of this together shows us a new way of thinking. Zechariah was a double-minded man and too fleshly to see what God was up to. But, now, he burst forth with a new Song.

The Song of a Mind Made Clear (vv. Luke 1:69)

In Luke 1:69, in this praise portion, Zechariah affirmed what Mary understood: The covenant of grace. Zechariah wove together the promises to David (v. 69), the promises to the prophets (v. 70), and the extent of the promises (since the world began v.70).

This reveals a mind made clear. Now Zechariah believed. His mind, previously clouded by religion by a hermeneutical approach that underestimated the love and grace of God, finally understood. His boy, John, would announce the arrival of the Redeemer. God’s Promises were here!

The minds of men without Christ are clouded. But, more germane perhaps, is the fact that the minds of so many religious folk are clouded.

• By a failure to grasp the theme of Scripture

• By a dependence on religion, ceremony, where the reality becomes buried beneath the symbol

• By a deep-seated unbelief in the supernatural power of God and inability to see past their own experience, born out of a lack of faith in the God of Scripture.

Revival historically has been an act of God that destroys this sort of thing and transforms religion into a living relationship with the living God. People began to “think thoughts after God” because their minds are made clear. God is calling us to a vibrant Father, to an expectation of the power of God in our lives. He is calling us to clear our minds of bad, wrong, erroneous thoughts that lead to dull living if not downright sinful living.

Christ came. He was born. He died. He rose again. And nothing can be the same again.

The Song of a Soul Revived (vv. Luke 1:74)

Zechariah’s songs, if you will, speak of the practical and metaphysical (transcendental) effects of the birth of Christ to the nation of Israel. Practically he says the key to victory over enemies is the coming of Christ. Transcendentally he says that this releases signals (v.74) the ability to worship God without fear, in holiness and righteousness.

What is Zechariah singing about?

The coming of Christ releases the true believer from the tyranny of others to live before the face of the Lord. This is what Paul was writing of in Romans 8:15:

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 

And in Galatians 4:4:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

A Christian who is happy and joyful is a true Zechariah who has had the renewal of the soul. This is a free man who is singing about his new found relationship with His God because of Christ.

Conclusion

Zechariah concludes his song with a prophesy over his son, John. John will be a prophet (v.Luke 1:76); lead the way (v. 76); and preach on how to be saved (vv. Luke 1:77). John, Zechariah’s son, will lift up Christ as the Light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

In the end, this is “A Joyous Song for Sad People.” It’s not “the blues,” which is a Sad Song for Sad People, but a joyful and triumphant invitation to people living in darkness to embrace the Light of Jesus and be released from the shadow of death. It is an invitation to have the lights switched on in life; to have the color turned up in living.

Jesus is Life, and without Him is death. Turn to Him today and live. Meditate upon Him and enjoy life rather than be crushed under it.

It’s a joyous Song for sad people who have no peace. In Christ there is perfect peace.

The old Dutch scholar, William Hendriksen, listened to the music of Zechariah’s song and remarked that his exuberant song has objective and subjective tones to it:

Objectively it amounts to reconciliation with God through David’s horn, the Rising Sun, the Messiah. Subjectively it is the quiet and comforting assurance of forgiveness and adoption. It is the smile of God reflected in the reconciled sinner’s heart, the shelter from the storm, the hiding-place in the shadow of His wings, the stream that issues from the fountain of grace. To that peace the Rising Sun directs our feet.2 

Do you enjoy that peace today?

This Song arises from a heart set free, a mind made clear, and a soul renewed. Across the ages and through the presence of the Lord today, this is your invitation to end the stillness of your soul and muteness of your life without the Spirit of God in you.

Dr. Michael Milton (Ph.D., University of Wales, Lampeter) is an ordained minister and long-time pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. He serves as the fourth chancellor and chief executive officer of Reformed Theological Seminary, and is a regular contributor to christianity.com and other Salem Web Network sites such as Crosswalk.com, BibleStudyTools.com, and Preaching.com. Find more of his articles and reflections at http://michaelmilton.org

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1. Quoted from the University of Michigan Information Services home page.
2. From The New Testament Commentaries: The Gospel of Luke (Baker Books, 1978), 129.

The Stigma of Jesus’ Virgin Birth.


Mary and Jesus

The discussion I had with the late Yasser Arafat during my first visit with him in Ramallah in 2002 was almost entirely theological. I stressed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins. Arafat reached for his Quran to show me something he thought would impress me. Pointing to a certain passage (as if I could read Arabic), he said, “Did you know that the only woman mentioned in the Quran is the Virgin Mary?”

“Well, how interesting, Rais [Arabic for president],” I replied, “it sounds as if the Quran is proving that Jesus had no earthly father and therefore must be the Son of God.”

Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin and had no earthly father? Muslims do. In fact, one of the most successful evangelistic approaches when talking to Muslims is to focus on the virgin birth of Jesus. They are committed to the Quran, which teaches this truth.

And yet Muslims say they do not believe Jesus is the Son of God. Noting the contradiction in their beliefs, you can lovingly point out to them that if Jesus had no earthly father, it can mean only one thing—that God Himself is His father, and Jesus is therefore God’s Son.

The virgin birth of Jesus is one of the clearest teachings in the New Testament. The accounts in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38 are unambiguous and leave no doubt that Jesus of Nazareth had no earthly father but was born of Mary, who had never known a man.

Why is this fact significant? Primarily because it is in the Bible. But there are other reasons for exploring the truth of the virgin birth.

First, it shows the stigma, or offense, Christians must bear in upholding this truth. The word stigma is a Greek word. It refers to a mark or tattoo on the body, often used on a runaway slave in the ancient world so he would be easily identified. Paul used the word to show he was unashamed of being a slave of Jesus: “I bear in my body the marks [stigmata] of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17, NKJV).

The stigma of the virgin birth is made clear in the New Testament. Consider what an offense it was for Joseph to accept Mary after she disclosed to him that she was pregnant. It was a horrible moment for him—and for her.

Why should he believe her when she assured him that she had been faithful to him, knowing he had never slept with her? They were engaged, but “before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18). Joseph’s immediate reaction was to break their engagement quietly.

To have remained engaged would have demanded that he bear a stigma of incalculable proportions. Being pregnant out of wedlock is no big deal today. But in Joseph and Mary’s day, having sex before marriage was possibly the worst thing a couple could do. Everyone would assume this is what Joseph and Mary had done. The couple knew they hadn’t, but who would believe them? And why should Joseph believe Mary?

This is the reason God graciously stepped in on Mary’s behalf. “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’” (Matt.1:20). That was news to Joseph, but it made sense in the light of what Mary had claimed. It meant she had certainly not been unfaithful to him.

But it also meant that he had a major decision to make—namely, whether to leave her entirely and let her bear the stigma of being a single parent, or to stay with her and be seen for the rest of his life as the man who got Mary pregnant out wedlock. If he stayed with her, they would bear the offense together. They alone would know the truth and would be able to comfort each other in this sublime knowledge—that it was a miracle of God.

Could they tell anyone? No. For one thing, nobody would believe them. But also they would not tell because they had to be willing to suffer for the glory of God.

This unseemly situation meant the loss of their reputations, a stigma for which they suffered the rest of their lives. They would never outgrow it.

As a matter of fact, more than 30 years later, people were still talking about it. As long as Jesus was performing miracles and feeding thousands with the loaves and fishes, the people appeared to be willing to overlook the rumor that He had been born an illegitimate child.

But the moment Jesus said things such as, “‘I am the bread which came down from heaven,’” they resorted to the gossip of the day: “‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’” (John 6:41-42). This comment shows that the followers of Jesus probably suspected Jesus was illegitimate but let their suspicions surface only when His message became a stigma too.

In any case, Joseph made the hardest decision of his life. When he woke up from the dream, he “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son” (Matt.1:24-25). Joseph determined to live with his decision and became the unsung hero of the Christmas story.

An Untold Mystery 

There is another reason the virgin birth of Jesus is relevant; it shows the importance of being able to keep God’s secrets. Consider this comment by Luke: “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). There is reason to believe that Mary never told the miracle of Jesus’ birth until years after He had died and ascended to heaven. At that point she apparently broke her silence and told Luke what had happened.

In the very first chapter of his Gospel, Luke records the occasion when the angel Gabriel came to Mary unexpectedly and said, “‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you’” (Luke 1:28). Mary was puzzled by the angel’s greeting, but the angel said to her, “‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus’” (v. 31).

Mary questioned the angel: “‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ [The NIV translates the last part of Mary’s question, “since I am a virgin?”] And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God’” (vv. 34-35).

Imagine having an experience with God like this and keeping quiet about it for many years! Yes, she did stay during her pregnancy with her cousin Elizabeth, who discerned Mary’s condition by the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:39-45). But there is no indication that anybody else knew, not even the disciples of Jesus.

Mary must have been tempted to reveal this extraordinary secret a thousand times, but she didn’t. Why? First, she would have been doing so largely to clear her own name. She chose instead to bear the stigma. Second, it might have been like casting a pearl before swine (see Matt. 7:6). The enemies of Jesus would not have believed her, and the news could have been counterproductive. So Mary did not tell it until she revealed it to Luke before she died.

There’s a good possibility that the followers of Jesus were willing to follow Him not knowing what Mary knew and very possibly assuming that Jesus really was an illegitimate child, as implied in John 6:42. What would have been their thinking in following Jesus if indeed they believed He was born out of wedlock?

Peter could answer: “‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (John 6:68-69). And yet it must have been a sweet consolation to their souls to have the word spread among the church many years later that Mary was in fact a virgin when Jesus was born, showing that He was truly the Son of God.

The virgin birth of Jesus reveals our helplessness in the face of God’s commands and our need for His power to fulfill them. When Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her what God wanted, she had a significant question: “How can I have a child since I am a virgin?” (see Luke 1:34).

“‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you,’” the angel replied, and added, “‘For with God nothing will be impossible’” (vv. 35,37).

An Essential Truth 

The virgin birth lays the foundation for the most essential truth of all—that Jesus was and is the God-man; He was man as though He were not God, and God as though He were not man. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” the apostle John tells us (John 1:1,14, emphasis added).

Only God could have performed the miracle of His Son’s conception. He caused the Word to enter the womb of Mary and become a seed. At that moment, the Word became flesh. Even as an embryo, He was fully human as well as fully God. The God-man lived in Mary’s womb for nine months and then was born.

God chose a virgin from the tribe of Judah living in Nazareth to be the mother of our Lord. She had the genealogical credentials to qualify, being in the line of David. God chose a virgin to prove that only He could have been Jesus’ father.

The virgin birth of Jesus further demonstrates that salvation is ultimately the work of God. It was His idea alone and was brought about solely by His initiative. God had promised that the seed of the woman would ultimately destroy the serpent’s head (see Gen. 3:15).

The virgin birth of Christ shows that salvation can never come through human effort; it must be by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. In His perfect timing “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). The purpose of Jesus’ coming was for Him to save His people from their sins (see Matt. 1:21). He was born to die.

If God had made Jesus a complete human being in heaven and then sent Him to earth without any human parent, it would have been impossible for Him to be human as we are. If, on the other hand, God had brought Jesus into the world with two human parents, both a father and a mother, it would have been impossible for Him to be fully God.

Besides the supernatural component of God’s sending His Son to earth, there was a natural one that was essential for Jesus to be born: Mary had to agree to God’s plan! She might have said “No,” or perhaps, “Let me think about it.” I fancy that all heaven waited with baited breath for Mary’s consent.

That consent came immediately. “‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word,’” was her reply to the angel (Luke 1:38). In that moment the eternal Word left His glory with the Father and the Spirit and became flesh, to be the God-man forever and ever. It was the greatest moment in heaven and earth since creation.

Do you believe in the virgin birth? Will you accept the stigma of being a follower of Jesus, especially in this day of pluralism when His words, “‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6) are a tremendous offense?

Will you bear this stigma? Joseph did. Mary did. Let us follow in their steps and be willing to let our vindication come long after we are gone, in order to prove to the world that Jesus, born of a woman, was indeed the Son of God.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is well-known internationally as a speaker and teacher and is the author of more than 50 books.


IS CHRISTMAS BAD?

Tired of people bashing “Christ’s-mass”? Go to christmas.charismamag.com to find out the rich meanings behind the symbols of the season.

‘Tis the Season to Attack the Gospels?.


Dr. Jerry Newcombe, Truth in Action Ministries

Every year at Christmastime, like clockwork, you can expect the mainstream media to come out with some sort of “fresh” perspective on Jesus. We see this on TV specials and in magazines and reports. Since December has just begun, I thought I’d be pro-active in answering the critics.The basic questions are these: Can we trust the Bible? Can we trust the Gospels? If they were put on trial, as in a court case, how would they hold up?

One man who contributed significantly to Christian apologetics was one of America’s great legal leaders. Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) was a professor at Harvard Law School (1833-1848). He contributed a great deal to the school, expanding it, including its library.

Greenleaf wrote a major textbook used widely, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence

Contrary to some accounts (even found extensively on the Internet, to this day), Greenleaf was not an atheist or agnostic converted to Christianity by the evidence for the resurrection. He was livelong, active member of the Episcopal Church. In 1847, Greenleaf applied his expertise as a pioneer in the area of trial evidence to the Gospels in a landmark book.

Greenleaf wrote The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospel Examined by the Rules of Evidence. The evangelists, of course, are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As he applied the rules of evidence to the Gospels, he found them reliable.

Greenleaf says, “The foundation of our religion is a basis of fact—the fact of the birth, ministry, miracles, death, resurrection by the Evangelists as having actually occurred, within their own personal knowledge. Our religion, then, rests on the credit due to these witnesses. Are they worthy of implicit belief, in the matters which they relate? This is the question, in all human tribunals, in regard to persons testifying before them; and we propose to test the veracity of these witnesses, by the same rules and means which are there employed…” He answers, Yes.

He goes on from there to highlight the four Gospel writers:

*Matthew (also called Levi), the tax-collector and one of the twelve, an eyewitness of the Gospel events. Writes Greenleaf: “Matthew was himself a native Jew, familiar with the opinions, ceremonies, and customs of his countrymen; that he was conversant with the Sacred Writings…”

*Mark (also known as John Mark) was essentially Peter’s scribe in his Gospel—from the early Church comes the consistent report that Peter’s recollection of the Gospel events are found in the second Gospel. Mark went on to preach the gospel in Egypt, where he was martyred.

*Luke, believed to be a physician, traveled with Paul. Says Greenleaf, “If…Luke’s Gospel were to be regarded only as the work of a contemporary historian, it would be entitled to our confidence. But it is more than this. It is the result of careful science, intelligence and education, concerning subjects which he was perfectly competent to peculiarly skilled, they being cases of the cure of maladies.”

*John was a fisherman of Bethsaida, on the Sea of Galilee. Greenleaf says he wrote his Gospel after the other three, recognizing their truthfulness, and added things not found in the others.

Greenleaf notes a great unfairness shown the Evangelists in modern scholarship: They are somehow guilty until proven innocent. They are viewed as untrustworthy for no cause, until they can somehow be corroborated by some outside secular source. (If it was true in Greenleaf’s day, how much more is it true in ours—despite the wealth we have of additional archaeological and manuscript evidence in favor of the Gospels’ veracity.)

Says Greenleaf: “But the Christian writer seems, by the usual course of the argument, to have been deprived of the common presumption of charity in his favor; and reversing the ordinary rule of administering justice in human tribunals, his testimony is unjustly presumed to be false, until it is proved to be true.”

Greenleaf adds, “It is time that this injustice should cease; that the testimony of the evangelists should be admitted to be true, until it can be disproved by those who would impugn it; that the silence of one sacred writer on any point, should no more detract from his own veracity or that of the other historians, than the like circumstance is permitted to do among profane writers; and that the Four Evangelists should be admitted in corroboration of each other, as readily as Josephus and Tacitus, or Polybius and Livy.”

He affirms: “their honesty…ability… the consistency of their testimony…the conformity of their testimony with experience…the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstances. Let the evangelists be tried by these tests.” He does and finds them trustworthy. He also answers common objections, such as the miraculous elements found in the Gospels.

So, be prepared, when you see the TV specials coming up about “the true story of Christmas” or the like, when they attack the Gospels. The Gospels have been put on trial, and they have passed the test.
Dr. Jerry Newcombe is a key archivist of the D. James Kennedy Library, a spokesman and cohost of Kennedy Classics. He has also written or co-written 23 books, including The Book that Made America and (with Dr. Kennedy) What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? and (with Peter Lillback),George Washington’s Sacred Firewww.truthinaction.org.

Favor With God.


And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with GodLuke 1:30

The greatest message of the advent of Christ into this planet are the words “fear not.” Why? Because you have found favor with God.

The God of all creation came to earth with the specific purpose of revealing Himself to you. If you are born again of God, you are on your way to heaven; you have been made righteous in God’s eyes; and favor is part of your covenant right.

The literal translation of the word “favor” is from a Hebrew word meaning “cause for rejoicing, exultation, exuberant joy, and gladness of heart.”

The precious blood of Jesus paid the price for your sin and made God’s heart glad. He sits on His throne and rejoices, because He knows you will be in eternity with Him. Fear not; you have found favor with God.

Jesus, allow me to walk in Your favor,
being fearless and bold for You.
I long only for Your favor
and grace. Amen.

By ROD PARSLEY.

Visions of Christmas: Seeing White.


Visions of Christmas: Seeing White

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.
Acts 2:46

Recommended Reading
1 Corinthians 14:33 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=%201%20Corinthians%2014:33&version=NKJV)

Our modern Christian activities are much more elaborate and complicated than those of the early church. That’s not to say their lives weren’t complicated. In any age, the duties of life seem to expand to fill the time and resources available. Yet Luke, the author of Acts, noted something about the early Christians. He didn’t say their life was simple, but he did say they lived their lives with “simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46). Is it possible to live with simplicity of heart in a busy season like Christmas? It must be. If the early Christians did it from week to week, we can surely do it at Christmas.

Watch This Week’s TV Broadcast ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/television.aspx?tid=email_watchedevo )

We don’t know exactly what Luke meant by his words, but it must have something to do with staying focused on the basics which he mentioned in verse 42: teaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. What are the basics of Christmas? Love, generosity, worship, service, giving, contemplation, gratitude, and others.

Like a pure white garment (Revelation 19:8), keep this Christmas clutter free by living with simplicity of heart.

Read-Thru-the-Bible
1 Timothy 1-2 Timothy 4

By David Jeremiah.

Why Should We Study the Genealogies?.


At first glance, the beginning of Matthew is a less-than-exciting literary starting point of the New Testament. It is a list of “begats” tracing Jesus‘ lineage back to Abraham.

What this beginning lacks in literary punch it makes up for in theological significance. Among other things, the genealogical tables of the New Testament place the gospel squarely on the plane of history. Jesus was born “in the fullness of time”—His ministry is defined and interpreted against the background of Old Testament history.

The New Testament provides two genealogical tables for Jesus, one by Matthew and one by Luke. These tables differ at significant points. Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience and Luke for a Gentile audience. Matthew was concerned to show that Jesus legally descended from David and was therefore a descendant of Judah to whom the messianic kingship was promised. Matthew treats the legal descent of Jesus and limits the lists to three groupings of fourteen generations, allowing himself to make omissions.

Luke follows the natural descent with greater detail. He takes the list back to Adam, as it was a central theme in his Gospel to set forth the universality of the gospel. Jesus is indeed the Son of Abraham and the Son of David, but He is also the new Adam who comes to redeem not only Israel but men and women from every tribe and nation.

Taken from “Tracing the Genealogy of Jesus” by Ligonier Ministries (used by permission).

Was There Really a Census at the Time?.


According to Micah 5:2 and Jewish tradition, the Messiah (the Christ) would be born in Bethlehem, a small town near JerusalemLuke 2 informs us that Mary and Joseph traveled to the town for a census prior to Jesus‘s birth, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Some critics, however, see the lack of corroborating historical accounts as evidence that the census and Quirinius‘s governorship at the time must have been fictitious—a myth invented later.

If this story had been a myth, though, it would have been a rather poor one. First of all, a census at the bidding of the Roman Empire repulsed Jewish sensibilities and desire for sovereignty. This hardly seems the place to begin a legend.

Beyond this, Luke’s precise language emphasizes a particular census, as if to contrast it with similar ones. In fact, another census did occur ten years later, which Luke refers to in Acts 5:37. The author’s additional information concerning Qurinius’s governorship (Luke 2:2), which is unnecessary for the narrative, reveals a familiarity with the recent past. Luke knew his audience would need clarification between similar events, so he gave them the details necessary to understand the date he meant.

The emperor at the time of Jesus’s birth, Caesar Augustus, kept count of the population throughout his empire for taxation purposes. Israel would have been no exception. Even if we have no other accounts of the census taken during that time (which is no proof that the event didn’t happen given the sparse records available), the event seems likely from what we do know of the Roman Empire.

Quirinius may, in fact, have governed Syria at the time and also ten years later. However, the original Greek suggests another possible reading. Luke’s statement may imply that King Herod performed a Jewish style census (counted according to the historic location of the tribes and clans) to keep the peace. Thus, the command of Caesar was not really carried out in the Roman method (counted by where the person was born) until ten years later when Qurinius was governor and Herod had died.

Adapted from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (Book II, Chapter VI).

Alfred Edersheim

The Nine Guys Who Missed Thanksgiving (1 of 4).


Series: The Optimism Factor
Pastor Chris Brown
Luke 17:11-19

A QUESTION AND AN OBSERVATION:
Luke 17:11-14

- What does it take to get you to use your “Master” Card?
Luke 17:13

- Obedience always precedes God‘s blessings.
Luke 17:14

GRATITUDE: IT’S WAY MORE THAN AN ATTITUDE!

1. It’s a decision and an action.

Luke 17:15, Philippians 4:4-7, Colossians 3:17

2. It’s an act of humility.
Luke 17:16, Deuteronomy 8:11-17

3. It draws us closer to God.
Luke 17:12 and 16, Psalm 100:4, James 4:7-10, Romans 1:21

4. It’s God’s will.
1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:19

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE:

TAKING IT HOME
1. We’ve all found ourselves at some point falling into the trap of not showing gratitude just as the nine lepers did. Which of the following gratitude roadblocks could most likely become a barrier for you?
- Not realizing all I have been given
- Taking for grant …

When God Doesn’t Answer.


Susie Larson
Susie Larson (Facebook)

Do you ever find yourself asking God questions that leave you feeling more despair than hope?

Though God has done some amazing things in our midst over the past year, we’ve also experienced our share of heartache and despair. Certain battles raged, the enemy flaunted our disappointments in our face, and the sense of loss threatened to swallow me alive.

While I don’t want to go into the details of my heartbreak, I will say I learned something very valuable that I never want to forget. Perhaps it’ll help you too.

When in the midst of my disappointments I’d stare at the barren field that was supposed to be flush and fruitful and wonder aloud, Why didn’t this field produce fruit? How did this happen? I planted seeds. I watered them with the Word. I lived by faith. Why am I not seeing the results I pictured in my head? What happened, Lord?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve realized that those kinds of questions suck the life right out of me. Though God invites us to pray all kinds of prayers in every situation because He delights in every detail of our lives, for me, at least, certain kinds of prayers leave me feeling more burdened, not less so.

In fact, maybe they’re not really prayers at all but more so misdirected questions.

On the flip side, when I step back from my barren field and I look up; when I remind myself of whose I am and Who He is, something in me changes. The Spirit-life within me flutters and awakens once again.

When I let go of my ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions and I realize they’re not for me to ask right now, I’m able to find my place of peace once again.

Years ago my son Luke said these wise words to me, “Mom, I’ve learned that the ‘how’ question isn’t ours to ask because it isn’t ours to answer. The how is always God’s to perform as He will. It’s our job to show up and to do what He says. And the why question is for young children who don’t know how to wait or trust. At some point we have to grow up and trust Him with our whys.”

Okay, so his wise insights left me dumbfounded.

I’ve found that the questions that bring me life are these…

Will you remind me again, Lord, who am I to you.

Jesus, will You reveal Yourself to me in this place?

What does obedience look like here, Lord?

What are You saying to me right here, right now?

What am I clinging to that I need to let go of, so I can lay hold of more of You?

Is there any anxious way in me? Point out anything in me that offends You, Lord.

What impossible thing do You want to accomplish in and through me, Lord?

I’m telling you, what! The Lord makes strong and secure promises to us. He loves us with an everlasting love. And He loves to reveal Himself to those He loves.

He also promised we’d experience hardship during our time on this earth. He warned us that we’d have to live and walk by faith (which means we’ll at times need to go forward without having all the answers). He knows we have a tendency to lean on our own understanding and logic so He asked us to trust His heart more than we trust our sight.

Maybe these thoughts don’t resonate with you, but I pray they do. Are you asking certain questions that God doesn’t intend to answer right now? Are those questions holding you back when God beckons you forward?

Maybe it’s time to let go and let God. Maybe it’s time to ask some different questions. Jesus says that things are proven right by their fruit. You’ll know you’re asking the right questions when peace and perspective return. You’ll know you’re on the right track when your disappointment takes a back seat to your divine appointment.

May the Lord lift your chin and give you a new perspective today.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE.


Susie Larson is an author, speaker and radio host for KTIS in Minnesota and Focus on the Family. Visit Susie’s web site at susielarson.com.

Step into the Impossible.



(http://www.stockfreeimages.com/)

“For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

The angel Gabriel told Mary that God was planning to do something humanly impossible. All human logic would agree a virgin could not give birth to a child. It is impossible. Yet this is exactly what was to happen.

When God speaks of doing the impossible, it is no longer absurd. When was the last time God did the impossible in your life? When was the last time God spoke to you about what He wanted to do and you were scared to death by its magnitude?

God still does the impossible! Too often we acknowledge our belief that God can do whatever He wants; then we add a safety clause: “But I just don’t think God will do that with me!” We become practical atheists, believing that God can perform miracles but never expecting a miracle in our own lives.

God wanted to bring salvation to all of humanity. It is critical that Mary not only believed God could perform a miracle, but also adjusted her life to the awesome work He planned to do through her.

The difference between a Christian and a moral person is the divine. The difference between a church and a social club is the miraculous.

Some can duplicate the morality of a Christian, but no one can reproduce the miraculous that should be a part of the Christian experience. Do you believe that nothing is impossible for God? Tell us onFacebook.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby are the authors of numerous books, includingExperiencing God, Day By Day, from which this article was adapted.

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