Monday, December 25, 2006
It Is Because...
KNOW HIM...He lives in His Word and in the believer's heart.
Friday, December 22, 2006
The signs of Jesus’ identity were literal. In place and time, Jesus was born of a virgin in Bethlehem. Sure, Joseph and Mary could have lied about their premarital activities, and you could say, “Uh huh! Mary wasn’t a virgin REALLY!” Doubters and believers alike are helpless in proving Mary’s virginity, but one thing is certain, she told QUITE a story. So many events of Jesus’ life which were predicted in ancient writing could NOT be connived and manipulated to provide the appearance of legitimacy. The census really happened (according to archeological discoveries, 9-8 B.C.—McDowell; Evidence for Christianity), Mary and Joseph were obliged to return to the City of David (another law record found by archeologists), and the Lamb was born, not amongst men, but in a stable! Are men’s puny brains even capable of connecting EVERY dot to form such a perfect conspiracy? Surely they would slip up on at least one point! But Dr. D James Kennedy claims 333 Messianic prophecies, fulfilled (Why I Believe). He doesn’t list them and I have never seen all of them in concise form. I only know that I am learning about them from the many writers out there, with great anticipation. Where are the most thrilling teachings coming from? Messianic Jews!
A story of His living testimony comes to mind. It was a road trip with a young man of Hebrew descent. Raised with synagogue exposure, the youth had little knowledge of Old Testament, (as worship is traditionally performed in Hebrew) and had not received New Testament anything from his Christian-born mother. As he traveled with my friend who has acquired Messianic teaching from Jews of the faith, he was taught how the Passover lamb (which he understood since the celebration is performed in English), its blood on the doorposts, was a foretelling of Christ’s blood, covering a believer’s heart, the doorpost of our souls, protecting him from death. Then, this young man learned of how Isaac’s salvation from his father’s knife was the type for Jesus’ death, the Lamb God provided as He also provided the ram for Abraham’s sacrifice that fateful day. Jehovah-jireh—“The Lord will provide!” Thirdly, my friend revealed the Temple as the picture of Christ, including the rending of the curtain between men and God (the separation of the rest of the Tabernacle from the Holy of Holies, where God dwelt) when Christ gave up His Spirit on the cross.
These are not typical teachings in the Christian church. I sit here now wondering and marveling at how these arrows pointing to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, were all but lost in mainstream Christianity. Perhaps if they had been kept alive, this whole conspiracy theory of how the story has been spun from generation to generation WOULD seem valid, somehow. But because prophecy has NOT been the prime tool of the gospel message, how can the writers and teachers through the ages be convicted of spinning a yarn? If “they” made it all up, then “they” would use their fabrications to further their agenda. “They” would not forget their talking points! The Divine Planner and Executer of Salvation, Jehovah God, caused Judaism and Christianity to split. The Gospel stood on the life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son alone and the accusation that the two religions orchestrated and synchronized their stories is verging on absurdity. Although founded on Jewish roots, the divergence of Christianity away from prophetic teachings brings home the point. It is the Messianic Christians such as Jews for Jesus and Zion’s Hope who are retelling the Story of Salvation as it was meant to be heard. The Truth of Jesus and His claims have stood the test of time and the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church, despite the grossly numerous New-Testament-only “bibles” used for evangelizing! It is just that the reuniting of Old and New Testaments for the spreading of the Word brings a revitalizing perspective on Who Jesus Christ truly was. All in God’s perfect time and amazing way.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The Plan of Joseph
“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that wich is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus (the Lord saves---my insert) for He shall save His people from their sins.” ~An angel of the Lord to Joseph in a dream (Matt. 1:20,21)
Joseph’s plans were majorly interrupted. Humbly, this gracious man, “being raised from his sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son, and he called His name Jesus.” (vv 24,25)
I had some plans for my blog this fall, Clean out some of the excess writing and go forth, teaching and preaching! Not so fast…Joseph, in order to trust and believe that he was going to be Daddy to Messiah, the Anointed One, he had to drop his plans to break engagement, re-think it, and surrender to God’s perfect and pleasing will. Mrs. Schaeffer says Joseph’s belief was the hardest to swallow because of his very personal involvement. God was “the other man”! Raw emotion, romantic love—if you’ve experienced it, you know what Joseph was dealing with. Or maybe it was an arranged marriage, as in the movie, The Nativity Story. Still, men surely understand the turmoil of feelings involved here. Joseph had been committed to Mary for a lifetime of devotion and sharing. What was he to do with all this? Thankfully, his manly pride did not turn his love or sense of honor into sheer mistrust and hate!
From the time of disruption in my life and God’s redirection of late, I have also been dealing in raw emotions. Those closest to us, our personal lives, can make us or break us. But in the pain, God has remained faithful to show me what to do, just as the Lord made it clear to Joseph—“Go ahead and marry your betrothed.” And while Joseph was told to wait awhile for God’s purpose to be carried through, God would use him mightily to raise His Son! Don’t think for a minute Joseph had it easy! Jesus was sinless and obedient, a parent’s dream, right? But what kind of pressure is that? Joseph had to carefully weigh every direction, every instruction, “What can I teach to my boy? I dare not misguide him, because Jesus is under God’s direction to listen, honor his parents and obey.” Joseph KNEW the commandment. Personally, surrendering to God in faith has meant great sacrifice. Obedience can be very uncomfortable and sometimes means painful loss, even persecution. It is precious how God reached into Joseph’s heart and pulled him up, gave him courage…spoke to him.
God has clearly conveyed the forgotten practice of daily repentance to me as He has me stepping out into the community with my sisters in Christ, working in an outreach ministry to the lost and hurting. God’s revelation of Himself as Healer and Encourager in my close relationships is emerging. More specifically, at a place and time of despair recently, I found the broadcast of a ballet—oddly since neither ballet nor PBS are an attraction for me! This particular dance was called “Rubies”—my favorite! I was pulled like a bungee at its limit, straight back to my childhood dreams of a lovely ballerina, a sparkling red dress and shoes; a picture of beauty and grace perfected in a little girl’s fantasies. God was comforting me; NO DOUBT in my mind. He knows us more deeply than we know ourselves.
To clarify my view, I do not agree with the pc faith of total tolerance and forgiveness. It has left out the crucial need for repentance and humble, yet firm, confrontation. Therapeutic, feeling-good Christianity is steeped in relativistic confusion but, God will not be mocked. That does not mean God does not want us to feel good! Jesus is the Great Physician, Comforter, and Lover of our souls. Josh McDowell, The Relational Word and Cloud and Townsend’s How People Grow stress close, deep relationship, which requires trust. The risk of openness and honesty makes us vulnerable to betrayal so, of course, tread carefully. The Savior to Whom Joseph bowed and gave way, can and will spare us from separateness, self-reliance and the pain of loneliness.
I hope to continue this Christmas series. May the Lord grant us courage and wisdom as we re-define who we are, who we will be to each other within the Christian community, and most urgently, who we will be to those who are watching. Let Joseph’s willingness be our model…even when it hurts.