Monday, December 31, 2012

Alive and Powerful

12 For the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT).

The Holy Bible is the Word of God and this Word is alive, powerful, and life-changing (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God exposes our innermost thoughts, heart motives and true intentions. Through His Word, God speaks to our hearts, shares His love and care, and protects us from evil (John 3:16; Ephesians 6:17). Most important, the Word of God helps shape our lives for the better. Therefore, God’s Word must be received, obeyed, and believed as life’s guidebook for living (Psalm 95:7). No decision or plan in life must be made without seeking God and God’s Word for guidance (Proverbs 16:9).

Moreover, God’s Word created the universe and He controls the universe by His Word (Genesis 1:3-28; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 11:3). In the past, God’s Word came through angels or prophets, but now God’s Word has come dominantly through Jesus Christ, who is God’s Son (John 1:1-14; Hebrews 1:1-4; Hebrews 2:3-4). Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1-4; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12, 16; Revelation 19:15).

Likewise, God is omnipresent meaning God is everywhere and all-seeing. No one can hide from God as God sees all we do and think. Knowing that God is forever present should bring us comfort. God is present to help us when we need Him, and He is just a pray away. So, obey God’s Word! Spend time each day reading and mediating on God’s Word and applying God’s Word to your life. God’s Word will make your year a Happy New Year!

Living By Faith With Jesus Christ

1 The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. 2 If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. 3 But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. 4 For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 That is why, when Christ came into the world, He said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given Me a body to offer. 6 You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. 7 Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do Your will, O God— as is written about Me in the Scriptures.’” 8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were You pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then He (Jesus) said, “Look, I have come to do Your will.” He cancels the first Covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. 11 Under the old Covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest (Jesus) offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 13 There He waits until His enemies are humbled and made a footstool under His feet. 14 For by that one offering He forever made perfect those who are being made holy. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For He says, 16 “This is the New Covenant I will make with My people on that day, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”  17 Then He says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” 18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. 19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.  23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near. 26 Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. 27 There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume His enemies. . . . 35 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised. 37 “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. 38 And My righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” 39 But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved. Hebrews 10:1-27, 35-39 (NLT).

Jesus Christ was the final Sacrifice for the sins of the people (Hebrews 10:10).  In the Old Testament period, the priests and people would gather to offer sacrifices for their sins year after year.  However, these annual sacrifices never took away their sins, but only provided temporary relief.  These sacrifices were only a shadow of Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

Still more, God desired the people’s wholehearted love, obedience and a right heart for Him as God and not just religious rituals and sacrifices (Hebrews 10:22). In fact, one of the central teachings of the Old Testament and the New Testament are not gifts and sacrifices, but wholehearted and genuine love, faith, and obedience for God (1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalm 40:6-8; Psalm 51:16-19; Isaiah 1:11-15; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 9:13; and Matthew 22:34-40). Sacrifice and rituals are not unimportant.  However, genuine love, faith, devotion, and obedience to God are far better in God’s eyes than following empty, half-hearted rituals and rules (Hebrews 10:5-7).

Moreover, the people needed a permanent and greater sacrifice for forgiveness of their sins from within their hearts.  Jesus Christ offers to all people by faith that permanent and final forgiveness of sins. God sent Jesus Christ to offer His sinless body on the Cross as our final sacrifice for sin. Moreover, Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross did away with the sacrificial system contained in the ceremonial Old Testament law (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:16-18). However, Jesus Christ’s death did not eliminate God’s moral law (e.g., the Ten Commandments at Exodus 20:3-17; Deuteronomy 5:7-21).  Thus, God's new way to please Him is by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. When we genuinely and wholeheartedly confess our sins, Jesus permanently and forever removes our sins and cleans us from the inside of evil, sin, and wickedness (see also 1 John 1:9). Best of all, God remembers our sins no more.

Moreover, Jesus Christ sends His Holy Spirit to live within our hearts to help us obey God’s moral law and walk with Him in obedience and love (John 14 – 16). God wants everyone to wholeheartedly love Him and to obey His will. When we truly trust in Jesus Christ to forgive our sins, God’s Holy Spirit to help us walk with God and grow holy and righteous. If we stumble, Jesus Christ encourages us to confess our sins to God and God promises to continually forgive us (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4).

God through Jesus Christ offers everyone the free gift of eternal life and salvation so we can now concentrate on loving others and doing good work (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 2:8-10). We are saved not by following the law or good deeds but by God’s grace. However, we are saved to do good works for God’s glory (Ephesians 2:8-10). 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Is Jesus Real?

The story of God’s love continues into the New Testament with the arrival of His Son, Jesus.  Jesus is the central figure of the Christian faith. The New Testament, especially the four Gospels, tells the story of Jesus.
Yet, traditions about Jesus appear in many sources outside the Holy Bible. The ancient non-Biblical sources have been valuable because they offer information about Jesus from a non-Biblical perspective. In many instances, these non-Biblical sources confirm or explain the Biblical story as well as the existence of Jesus. Four ancient sources discuss or reference the earthly Jesus: Josephus, Roman historians and other writers, Rabbinic writings, and the Qur’an.

The non-Biblical sources can be divided into two groups: pagan and Jewish. Both groups are limited in their value. There are essentially three pagan sources of importance: Pliny (Epistles x.96), Tacitus (Annals xv.44), and Suetonius (Lives xxv.4). All of these sources date from the second decade of the second century. The main Jewish sources are Josephus (Antiquities) and the Talmud. These non-Biblical sources provide little information about Jesus, but they all establish the fact that He truly lived, that He gathered disciples, performed healings, and that He was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate.

Other Biblical sources outside the four Gospels also provide essential knowledge of Jesus’ life. The information from the Books of Acts through Revelation is essentially as follows: Jesus was born a Jew (Galatians 4:4) and was a descendent of David (Romans 1:3). Jesus was gentle (2 Corinthians 10:1); righteous (1 Peter 3:18); sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21); humble (Philippians 2:6); and tempted (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15). In addition, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23–26), was transfigured (2 Peter 1:17–18), was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:23), was crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23), rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3–8), and ascended to heaven (Ephesians 4:8).

The major source of information of Jesus is the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Although all four Gospels present the life and teaching of Jesus, each Gospel concentrates on unique features of His life and character. Matthew, Mark, and Luke—the “Synoptic” Gospels—tell the story of Jesus and His public ministry in Galilee. John is separate from the other Gospels. Over 85% of John’s Gospel is unique to Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Yes, Jesus is real!


Green, Joel. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Intervarsity Press, 1992.
Draper, Charles. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Holman Reference, 2003.
Life Application Study Bible. Tyndale House Publishers, 2005.
NIV Study Bible. Zondervan, 2008.
NLT Study Bible. Tyndale House Publishers, 2008.
Meek, James A. One Great Story: Study Guide to the Bible, 2007.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cling To God!

Joshua:  6 “So be very careful to follow everything Moses wrote in the Book of Instruction. Do not deviate from it, turning either to the right or to the left. 7 Make sure you do not associate with the other people still remaining in the land. Do not even mention the names of their gods, much less swear by them or serve them or worship them. 8 Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now. 9 For the Lord has driven out great and powerful nations for you, and no one has yet been able to defeat you. 10 Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord your God fights for you, just as he has promised. 11 So be very careful to love the Lord your God. 12 But if you turn away from Him and cling to the customs of the survivors of these nations remaining among you, and if you intermarry with them, 13 then know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive them out of your land. Instead, they will be a snare and a trap to you, a whip for your backs and thorny brambles in your eyes, and you will vanish from this good land the Lord your God has given you. 14 Soon I will die, going the way of everything on earth. Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed! 15 But as surely as the Lord your God has given you the good things He promised, He will also bring disaster on you if you disobey Him. He will completely destroy you from this good land he has given you. 16 If you break the covenant of the Lord your God by worshiping and serving other gods, His anger will burn against you, and you will quickly vanish from the good land He has given you.” Joshua 23:6-16 (NLT).

Before dying, Joshua gathered the people of Israel together and gave them final words of encouragement and instructions to help them stay faithful and loyal to God. Joshua had faithfully and wholeheartedly served God. He personally eye witnessed Israel’s escape from Egyptian slavery, God’s parting of the Red Sea, and God’s deliverance of Israel into the Promise Land.  Moreover, Joshua was a talented leader and a great general, but he always gave the glory to God for his success. 

Now, Joshua gave the people his final words and the wisdom behind his success (Joshua 1:5-9). First, Joshua instructed the people to obey God’s Word first in their lives (Joshua 23:6). God desires our obedience to Him and His Word (see e.g., 1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Mark 12:32-33). Joshua knew that God’s Word is faithful and God’s promises never fail (Joshua 23:14). Second, Joshua commanded the people to only worship the true and living God (Joshua 23:7-8). Third, Joshua directed the people not to worship, bow down, or love any other gods (Joshua 23:9-16) as this would compromise their complete loyalty and allegiance to the true and living God (Deuteronomy 5:26; Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

In essence, Joshua instructed the people to respect the Lord, to love Him wholeheartedly, and to willingly serve Him as God (see also Joshua 24:14-15). God is faithful and trustworthy.  Most important, God loves us and gave His Son, Jesus to save the world (Matthew 1:21-23; John 3:16; Romans 6:23). Joshua encouraged the people to keep trusting, obeying, and loving God. God would protect them against their enemies just as God had fought for the Israelites in the past (e.g., Joshua 10:11-14).  So, love God and trust in Him!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmas Story

1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah (Christ), a descendant of David and of Abraham: . . . 18 This is how Jesus the Messiah (Christ) was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good (righteous) man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through His prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a Child! She will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named Him Jesus. Matthew 1:1, 18-25 (NLT).

The Gospel writer Matthew begins his Gospel by proving that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah to bring salvation to all people, worldwide (Matthew 1:21).  The promise of God’s salvation began as early as Genesis 3:15 of the Old Testament with the Original Sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  This promise of salvation continued with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 22:18; Matthew 1:1); Jacob and Judah (Genesis 49:1-2, 8-11); Moses at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20), the Jesus’ star (Numbers 24:17); King David (2 Samuel 7:16; Matthew 1:1), and the prophets (e.g., see Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:8, 10; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-5; Jeremiah 31:5; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14; Hosea 11:1; Micah  5:2; Zechariah 9:10). The people continued to anticipate God’s salvation even after 400 years of silence with the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi (Malachi 4:15; Luke 3:15).

Over the years, many false figures came and went, who claimed to be the Messiah. Yet, these false figures never received a heavenly announcement. However, the arrival of salvation through the birth of the Baby in Bethlehem did not go unannounced.  The heavenly angels (Luke 2:8-14), shepherds (Luke 2:15-20), the wise kings (Matthew 2: 1-12), Simeon (Luke 2:25-35), and Anna (Luke 2:36-40) all came and worshiped God’s arrival to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Finally, the true Messiah had arrived!  Once again, God had faithfully kept His promises to the world (see also Joshua 23-24). God is a promise keeper!

Jesus the Messiah is a descendant of Adam (the father of all people), Abraham (the father of all Jews), and a direct royal descendent of King David (Matthew 1:1, 6; Luke 3:23-38). Most important, Jesus is the biological and natural Son of God (Matthew 1:18-23; Matthew 2:15; Mark 1:1) while Joseph is His stepfather or legal father of earth. Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit and not by human means (Matthew 1:18, 20). Thus, Jesus is both human and God – a human mother, Mary, and a Divine Father. Jesus had a righteous and just stepfather with Joseph. Joseph always did what was pleasing in the eyes of God and he faithfully obeyed God’s guidance (Matthew 1:16-25; Matthew 2:14-15). Even more, Joseph trained Jesus in the trade of carpentry and to follow His true Father, the living God of Israel (Deuteronomy 5:26; Luke 2:41). 

God sent Jesus to earth because He loves us (John 3:16), and He wants to save humanity from their sins. Jesus means "the LORD saves" (Matthew 1:21) and this salvation is available to all who simply believe and trust in God through Jesus. Moreover, Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua (Yeshua).  Christ (or Christos) is Greek for Messiah, which means “Anointed One.” Christ is Jesus’ title and His mission is the Savior of the world (Matthew 1:21). Also, Jesus is called Immanuel, meaning "God with us." Jesus was and continues to be present with those who trusts in Him as their Savior through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:23; see also Isaiah 7:14; John 1:14; Acts 1:1-8). Amazingly, the Gospel writer Matthew ends his Gospel by commissioning everyone to tell the Good News of Jesus’ salvation to all people, worldwide (see also Matthew 28:16-20).  So, go tell everyone that Jesus the Savior has been born!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Your Whole Heart For God!

8 "So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever. 9 "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve (worship) Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. . . . 20 David also said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you . . . " 1 Chronicles 28:8-9, 20 (NIV).

As King David prepared to transfer the kingship of Israel to his son, Solomon, he gave final instructions to Solomon and to all the people listening (1 Chronicles 28:1). God promised to King David an eternal kingdom and to bless his family line with kings (1 Chronicles 17). This promise is often called the Davidic covenant (see also 2 Samuel 7:1-29). Also, this promise was one of a series of promises between God and His people – with Abraham (Genesis 12; Genesis 17:1), with Moses at Sinai (Exodus 20), and now with King David. This promise of God was fulfilled in the New Testament with the arrival of Jesus the Messiah of King David’s royal family line (Luke 1:32-33).

King David told Solomon in the hearing of all Israel to be careful to obey God's commands and to wholeheartedly follow and seek God, and to serve God first. The Holy Scriptures are God’s Words and are essential for life, peace and justice. King David knew of the importance of following God’s will and His teaching.  He had courageously, humbly, and wholeheartedly served God. King David instructed the people listening to also have a wholehearted loyalty, dedication, and devotion to God and God’s will. 

God searches every heart and nothing is hidden from God (1 Chronicles 28:9). He sees our inner heart, thoughts, and motives.  King David encouraged the people to be completely open, honest, and loyal to God. God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving.  No one can hide any thought, action, pain, sadness, or fear from God.  As we walk with God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus works within our hearts to "to will and to act according to His good purpose'' (Philippians 2:13).  Besides, “he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). So, let everyone “be strong and courageous” in trusting God (1 Chronicles 28:20-21). God is with us (Matthew 1:23) and let us all be with God by following His will and ways!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Birth Announcement

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them (the shepherds), and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a Baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the Baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. Luke 2:8-17 (NLT).

Jesus the Messiah arrived to a small Jewish town in Bethlehem, a town five miles south of Jerusalem. However, Jesus’ small town arrival to earth received a grand announcement from heaven. God the Father sent His heavenly angels (also called "the armies of heaven" or "heavenly hosts") to announce the arrival of His Son, Jesus the Messiah (meaning Christ). The angels announced to the world the good news of Jesus. Jesus would be the Lamb of God (John 1:36) that would take away the sins of the whole world and bring peace. 

For years, the Jews had been waiting for the Messiah. Now the Messiah had arrived not only for the Jews but for all people, worldwide. Jesus the Messiah brought God’s lasting peace, salvation, and Kingdom to earth.  Even more, Jesus brought everyone a chance to receive a new heart that will last for eternity to all who believe and accept Him (see Romans 5:1).

All the more amazing are the people that received this heavenly announcement, shepherds.  Shepherds were common, ordinary people and often portrayed in first century Judaism as drifters, homeless, poor, and troublemakers.  The shepherds were some of the first people to hear God’s angelic announcement that salvation and peace had arrived for all nations, worldwide.   At first, the shepherds who heard Jesus’ angelic announcement were frightened, but their fear turned to joy and excitement.

That night in Bethlehem, the angels sang a short hymn. This hymn is called Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Latin for “Glory to God in the Highest”) and sometimes this hymn is called Gloria.  The angels gave praise to the majesty and loving God. This heavenly hymn has inspired musical composers for years and is the basis of many choral works, Christmas carols, and liturgical chants.  Christmas songs inspired by this passage include:

Angels We Have Heard on High
O Holy Night!
Silent Night! Holy Night!
The First Noel
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.

God, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to the world!  Jesus Christ is the best Gift the world will ever know.  Thank you God!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Immanuel—God With Us!

3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “. . . . 4 Tell him (King Ahaz) to stop worrying. Tell him he doesn’t need to fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers, King Rezin of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah. . . . 9  Unless your faith is firm, I (God) cannot make you stand firm.” . . . 13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? 14 All right then, the Lord Himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a Child! She will give birth to a Son and will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
Isaiah 7:3-4, 9, 13-14 (NLT)
Around 734 B.C., King Ahaz of Judah in Jerusalem feared the coming attack of two invading armies (2 Kings 16). King Ahaz was one of Judah's worst kings and he had turned away from God. He refused to trust in God's help against those invading armies.  Instead, King Ahaz tried to form an alliance with the Assyrians rather than obeying and trusting in God for deliverance (2 Kings 16:7-8).
In His mercy, God sent the Prophet Isaiah to tell King Ahaz to stop worrying and have faith in Him to deliver Judah from their enemies.  God was in control and He wanted King Ahaz to place his faith in Him and not in political alliances with Assyrian. Isaiah predicted that Judah would not come to an end as Immanuel would be a miraculous sign of their deliverance.
God is a God of mercy, grace, and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6-7).  He always keeps His promises. God promised a Child of hope would be born from Judah to secure God’s messianic promises to King David (2 Samuel 7:12-17). This Child would save not only Judah but the entire world of their sins. Matthew 1:23 of the New Testament quotes Isaiah 7:14 to prove fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy to King Ahaz (see also Luke 1:27).  Mary, a young virgin girl, conceived a Son by the Holy Spirit, named Immanuel, meaning “God with us” or “God is with us.” This Child is the Christ from the line of King David of Judah and He is God incarnate (or in the flesh).
So as the Prophet Isaiah told King Ahaz, stop worrying and trust in God!  God has now sent Immanuel and "God is with us."

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Benedictus, A Hymn of Praise!

67 Then Zechariah, John’s father, was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:  68 "Let us praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come (visited) to help His people and has given them freedom (redemption).  69 He has given us a powerful Savior from the family of God’s servant David. 70 He said that He would do this through His holy prophets who lived long ago: 71 He promised He would save(deliver) us from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us.  72 He said He would give mercy to our fathers and that He would remember His holy promise. 73 God promised Abraham, our father, 74 that He would save us from the power of our enemies so we could serve Him without fear, 75 being holy and good before God as long as we live. 76 “Now you, child (John), will be called a prophet of the Most High God. You will go before the Lord to prepare His way. 77 You will make His people know that they will be saved by having their sins forgiven. 78 With the loving mercy of our God, a new day from heaven will dawn upon us. 79 It will shine on those who live in darkness, in the shadow of death. It will guide us into the path of peace." Luke 1:67-79 (NCV). 

Luke 1:67-79 records Zechariah’s praise to God after months of silence. Zechariah’s praise is often called the Benedictus, and this is the second praise hymn of the birth narrative (the first hymn is Mary’s song found at Luke 1:46–55).  In this praise hymn, Zechariah celebrates God coming and visiting His people through the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ!  In the Benedictus, Zechariah prophesied that the coming Savior would redeem His people and his son, John, would prepare the Savior’s way. Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist and John had been chosen to pave the way for the Savior.  Moreover, Zechariah gave praise to God because God had kept all His promises announced through the Old Testament prophets of a coming Savior. 

In as early as Genesis, God promised Abraham to bless all peoples through him, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1–3; Zechariah 2:11–12). As the father of the nation of Israel, God promised Abraham that his descendants would bless the whole world. Jesus Christ, a descendent of Abraham, fulfilled this promise completely (Luke 1:72–73). Thus, people from all nations are blessed through faith in Abraham’s descendent, Jesus Christ, also called the “seed of Abraham.”  Moreover, Jesus Christ is the Horn of Salvation from the royal line of King David (Luke 1:32-33; Luke 1:69).  God promised King David an eternal Kingdom (2 Samuel  7:11-16; see also Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-5; Jeremiah 23:5-6).

Christmas celebrates God visiting His people through the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ at Bethlehem.  God previously visited His people to redeem them from the oppressive Egyptian slavery with the Exodus (Exodus 3; Exodus 12).  Now, Zechariah is celebrating God visiting His people again to deliver every one of their sin and evil through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is why Christmas is so special because God has come and visited His people! God, through Jesus Christ, visited His people to bring a new redemption, deliverance, and a new covenant to save all people from their sin (Jeremiah 31:31–34). Now you can understand Zechariah’s excitement and praise!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Obey God Today!

"So be very careful to love the Lord your God" (Joshua 23:11), and "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve....But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).
Joshua was a great leader. As a leader, Joshua was faithful, ethical, and courageous.  He and Caleb gave the good report to Israel in the wilderness to trust God (Numbers 13 -- 14) and he was chosen by God as Moses' successor (Numbers 27:15-23; Deuteronomy 34:9). Moreover, Joshua was an excellent military leader. When God spoke, Joshua obeyed. Joshua's obedience to God serves as a model.  Joshua obeyed God, led the people across the Jordan River (Joshua 1:1-18; Joshua 3:1–4:24) and conquered Canaan, the Promised Land. But the key to Joshua’s success was his commitment, allegiance, and obedience to God. Joshua was confident in God and in God’s strength. As a result of Joshua’s leadership and obedience, Israel served God faithfully and the nation of Israel prospered. 
Joshua remained completely faithful to God throughout his life.  In Joshua’s farewell address to the people, Joshua encouraged the people to wholeheartedly obey, love, and trust the true and living God of Israel (Joshua 23-24). In the New Testament, Stephen mentions Joshua in his final sermon to the people (Acts 7:45), and the Book of Hebrews use Joshua’s victory of Jericho as an illustration of faith in God (Hebrews 11:30). Amazingly, Joshua and Jesus are the same name in Hebrew. Both Joshua and Jesus obeyed God the Father faithfully and brought salvation to the people: Joshua led Israel into physical salvation of Canaan and Jesus leads everyone into eternal salvation through faith in Him.

The Book of Joshua found in the Old Testament records the story of Joshua’s obedience to God reminds everyone to love and obey God!  Only with God’s help and our obedience to Him can we succeed and prosper (see also Deuteronomy 8:1-20). Victory comes as we trust in Him and not our own human strength, muscle, or mental abilities. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Light of the World

2 "But for you who fear (honor, revere) My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.  Malachi 4:2 (The Living Bible).

Many Old Testament passages promised the people that God would send a Savior to help them.  God told these promises to the Old Testament prophets and the prophets announced God’s promises to the people.  For hundreds of years before the Savior came, God’s people read God’s promises through the prophets and hoped God’s promised Savior would come soon. 

One Old Testament passage speaking of God’s promises is Malachi 4:2. The church lectionary assigns Malachi 4:2 along with Psalm 19:1 and John 1:14 to be read on Christmas Day. Many biblical scholars refer to Malachi 4:2 as foretelling of the coming Savior as the "Sun of Righteousness" (see also Isaiah 60:19-20).  John the Baptist foretold that the coming Savior would dawn and be the Light to the world (John 1:9; see also Luke 1:76-79; Revelation 21:23-24).

Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophesy because Jesus Christ is our Light, Savior, and Sun of Righteousness predicted by the Old Testament (John 1:1-5).  He glows with healing and comfort to those who love and seek Him as God (Psalm 84:11; see also John 8:12). Even more, Jesus Christ reveals heaven and God’s glory to the world (Psalm 19:1).

Now, the world has a Savior in Jesus and Jesus can be called upon at any we need His help.  Thank you God for sending Your Light into the world as our Savior!

Jesus: The God-Man

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." 15 He (Jesus) said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:13-16 (NASB).

Born between 6 BC and 4 BC, the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke both tell of the birth of Jesus. Matthew and Luke both state clearly that Jesus had a divine Father and a virgin mother named Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:27). Without a human father and without any sexual relationship involved, Jesus was conceived through a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit (Genesis 3:15; Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:34–35; Galatians 4:4–5). Jesus’ virgin birth was a supernatural work of God inside the human womb of Mary. Thus, in both His birth and conception in the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ birth was holy and pure (Luke 1:35). The virgin birth of Jesus means He did not inherit human sin (Romans 5). Therefore, Jesus is not just a man. Jesus was a God–Man, God’s Christ (Matthew 26:63–64; Mark 14:61–62), and the Son of God (Matthew 16:15–16; Mark 1:1; Luke 22:70-71; John 8:24).

Mary was the virgin mother of Jesus; a young girl from Nazareth, she was betrothed (engaged) to Joseph, a local carpenter. Jewish custom in that day recognized a state called “betrothal,” which fell somewhere between our modern day engagement and marriage. A betrothal was more binding than an engagement, since betrothals could only be broken with an act of divorce. If a betrothed woman became pregnant, she was regarded as an adulteress (Matthew 1:18–20).

Before the marriage took place, an angel announced to both Joseph and Mary that Mary would become pregnant by the power of God’s Spirit and that she would give birth to the Son of God, also called the Messiah (Matthew 1:20–21; Luke 1:26–33). God chose Mary to bring his Son, the Savior, into the world. Humbly submitting herself to God’s will, Mary responded to this extraordinary message in simple faith. For all Christians, Mary is a model of humble and obedient submission to God’s will (Luke 1:38, 46–55).

The virgin birth of Jesus is important because, as God’s Son, Jesus had to be free from the sinful nature passed on to humankind by Adam in Genesis 3. The birth of Jesus to woman proves He was a human; but as the Son of God, Jesus was born without human sin. Thus, Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Jesus was a sinless human. In Jesus, God and man became one unique person—fully God and fully man.

Furthermore, the virgin birth of Jesus fulfills Isaiah 7:14. Jesus was to be called Immanuel as predicted by the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14). The name Immanuel means “God is with us,” and Jesus indeed symbolized God’s presence and protection. Therefore, Jesus is God in the flesh; thus, God was literally “with us” in Jesus. Jesus is the incarnate (in the flesh) Son of God (Matthew 1:23; see also Revelation 12:5).