The Prophetic Purpose of Bethlehem

birth-of-jesus.jpg“Bethlehem’s selection by God as the birthplace of the Messiah was no happenstance. Nor was it chosen only because Joseph’s lineage happened to originate there. No, Bethlehem was strategically picked to be part of God’s redemption plan from the beginning—that Jesus would come to earth as the final, once-for-all, sacrificial lamb of God (see 1 Pet. 1:19–20).”

Read the full article from Kyle Winkler here

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The Fullness of Time, Part 2

“What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:1-5).”

 

You notice how Paul uses the phrase, “when the set time had fully come?” That’s what I want to emphasize today. God’s perfect timing. God has a way of doing things, orchestrating things, with precision. Just look at God’s creation. From the human body to the stars in the universe, everything is set in a specific and detailed order. And I want you to know, that God has set a time for you, your miracle, your prayer to be answered.

As we look at scripture, we know that the need and promise of a savior arose long before His birth. In fact, from the time of Adam’s fall to the time of Jesus was 4,000 years. And if we look carefully at scripture, the first prophetic hint of the coming Messiah was doled out not to man, but to Satan at the time of the fall.

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike[
b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

So what does this mean? Bible.org goes into a lengthy discussion about this, but to sum it up, it states these two important things: First, her seed would bruise, crush the serpent’s head. This clearly portrays a mortal wound which means her seed would be victorious. A deliverance is anticipated. Second, the serpent would bruise her seed on the heel. Her seed would suffer, but it would not be a mortal wound or one that would lead to defeat. A deliverer who suffers, but is ultimately victorious is promised. We anticipate, then, a struggle but also a deliverance by one who will suffer.

The Old Testament gives us more than 300 glimpses as to the coming Messiah over the period of those 4,000 years. In fact, many of these prophecies only hint at a Messiah, and like the one I just read, can be easy to read without knowing there was anything specifically prophetic about it, while others are more direct.

But the point is, that God wanted to encourage his people in the coming of the promised one, and that when His son finally arrived on earth, there would be no doubt from that time until the end of the world, that Jesus was certainly the one foretold in scripture.

But what about the timing? Why did God wait 4,000 years?

1. There was a religious preparation for His coming – The fact that the many false idols had failed to give them victory over the Roman conquerors caused many to abandon the worship of those idols. At the same time, in the more “cultured” cities, the Greek philosophy and science of the time left others spiritually empty in the same way that the atheism of communist governments leaves a spiritual void today.

The mystery religions of the time emphasized a savior-god and required worshipers to offer bloody sacrifices, thus making the gospel of Christ which involved one ultimate sacrifice believable to them. The Greeks also believed in the immortality of the soul (but not of the body).
Another religious preparation was that the body of Old Testament literature was pulled together in a single volume; thus paving the way for the preaching of the coming Messiah.

The Babylonian captivity that happened in the interim of the Old Testament and the New Testament created the Jewish synagogue. Until the time that the Jews were displaced from their homeland, they had worshiped exclusively at the Temple in Jerusalem. Now, there was no longer a temple, and so the Jews developed a method of assembly we now know as the synagogue. The synagogue is the pattern on which the Christian church is fashioned. So we can see from all of these things, the religious preparation for the coming of Christ.

2. There was also a cultural preparation for His coming In 350 B.C., about 100 years before Christ, there arose a man whom you might have heard about – Alexander the Great. He conquered the entire known world in twelve years. And because of Alexander’s influence, the world became Greek in culture. This, of course, is very important because in 280 B.C. the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek. A “common” form of the Greek language (different from classical Greek) was the trade language and was spoken throughout the empire, making it possible for the first time to communicate to many different people groups through one common language.

3. Finally, there was a political preparation for His coming – After the Greek Empire came the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had unified much of the world under its government, giving a sense of unity to the various lands. Also, because the empire was relatively peaceful, travel was possible, allowing the spread of the gospel to become. Such freedom to travel would have been impossible in other eras. In fact, Rome had a postal system, which allowed for what? The letters which became the New Testament.

William Lane Craig gave this answer as to the timing of the Messiah:

Human beings have existed for thousands of years on this planet before Christ’s coming. But what’s really crucial here is not the time involved; rather, it’s the population of the world. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever lived on this planet is about 105 billion people. Only two percent of them were born prior to the advent of Christ. Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research says, “God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Christ showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population.”

As we search the prophetic scriptures, we see that in order for everything to have had a maximum impact, they could only have been fulfilled at a certain place at a certain time. This is also how God works with us. He knows. Like the need for a savior 4,000 years before the Messiah came, He had a plan already in place before the foundation of the world, a day and a time set for it all to unfold. When it seems we go through life, day after day, going to work, raising a family, wondering when our moment will come; God has had a plan already set, a time already fixed. He is working behind the scenes and we don’t even see it. And like with Adam and Eve, he’s even probably already told Satan, the enemy, before telling us.

The Fullness of Time, Part 1

I had something really remarkable happen a few weeks ago. I drive a medical shuttle all over the place. Anywhere between Buffalo and Binghamton, and I never know where I’m going to be from one day to the next. One day in early November, I was scheduled to be in Rochester all day. Now, this was the first time they ever scheduled me like this. In fact, I was not expecting to be in Rochester at all, let alone all day. I was expecting to be in Livingston and Steuben counties because, that’s what I had requested for the winter months, and they said that was certainly reasonable. But, like I said, I never know where I’m going to be. Usually, if I have to be in Rochester, I take a passenger up, wait for them, and drive them back home. But that day was unusual.

I drove a passenger up, then they gave me a lot of buzzing around the city to do. Now, there’s one passenger, whom I had met not far from here in Dundee. I haven’t seen him in months. He’s a Christian, and it turns out he’s living in a halfway house in the middle of the city. To you, it may not seem like much, but while he was living in this area, I had the opportunity to minister to him quite a lot. He’s been in a lot of rough situations lately. He was released from prison, hasn’t been able to find work, has had a lot of rejection as you can imagine, has had to move from his home in the country to a crowded halfway house in the middle of a noisy city with no money and no transportation, has had to deal with all sorts of rigamarole with social services, has had to put his mother in a nursing home and has had a hard time clinging to his faith.

He always texts me, asking when I’m going to pick him up again. Well, it was few and far between when he lived in Dundee because that’s out of my normal area, but when he moved to Rochester, I thought I’d never see him again because, like I said, it wasn’t my area. He just received word that our company wouldn’t take him anymore, and wouldn’t you know just a few days after that, I was assigned out of nowhere to pick him up?

Now, earlier on the same day, something else happened. Mind you, if it weren’t for a GPS, I wouldn’t know where I was or how to get around anywhere in the city. All these addresses I had that day were completely foreign to me. And I was assigned another gentleman whom I’ve never met, on a street I’ve never been on and was completely unaware where he lived and where I was. When I received his booking, I didn’t know if he lived in the middle of the city, on the outskirts, on the east side, on the west side, in the slums…I didn’t know where he was.

I was completely reliant on the GPS and doing what it told me to do, and turned when it said turn and go when it said to go. And as I’m turning the corner onto his street, just a few blocks from where he lived and wouldn’t you know I just happen to see someone I know who used to live in Dansville jogging along the sidewalk on the very same street this other man lived?

His name is Tony. And to make it all the more amazing, I didn’t know where in the city Tony had moved to. Tony also got out of jail not too long ago, and through someone who does jail ministry at our church, I was informed that Tony was living in Dansville, and if I wanted to, it might be good to try and reach out to him. So, I had gotten his contact information and invited him to our home Bible study group. This was about a year and a half ago.

About a year ago, he had moved up to the city and has had to deal with many similar issues of trying to get his feet back on the ground after being released from jail. He’s had issues getting permission to see his children, find a home, find a job, deal with social services, all of those things, and all the while, struggling to keep his faith alive. He and I have also texted and talked on the phone. But I had no idea where he lived. I didn’t know what street he lived on—I still don’t know. But what are the chances of the timing to be just so that after I turn the corner, Tony just happens to be jogging in that spot—not a mile down the road—and in a city of 200,000 people?

I don’t think that either of those incidences was random. I think that for some reason, The Holy Spirit was working. What was The Holy Spirit trying to say? I think what He was trying to say was this: that if He can make those things happen, those somewhat smaller things happen, then He can make anything happen. He can make the bigger things happen for me. On the right day, in the right place, in the right time. Even when I don’t think it will ever happen, even when I don’t see it coming, He can orchestrate all the pieces to make the timing happen just right.

 

Sin Is More Than the Things We Do

Sobering thoughts on sin by Martin Lloyd-Jones on the blog, Poikilos.

poikilos

Nothing is quite so fallacious as to think of sin only in terms of actions; and as long as we think of sin only in terms of things actually done, we fail to understand it. The essence of biblical teaching on sin is that ti is essentially a disposition. It is a state of heart. I suppose we can sum it up by saying that sin is ultimately self-worship and self-adulation; and our Lord shows (what to me is an alarming and terrifying thing) that this tendency on our part to self-adulation is something that follows us even into the very presence of God. It sometimes produces this result; that even when we try to persuade ourselves that we are worshipping God, we are actually worshipping ourselves and doing nothing more.

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 301.

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Would you read on?

It’s been quite a while since I shared some fiction on this page. I got out a novel that I had started writing a while back, a sequel to one I had finished. I only have one and a half chapters finished, but am ready to conquer more. Here’s a sample. As you can tell, it’s a letter written by a lord to a king (Hopefully, you can read the font). Based on this sample, does it interest you to read further on?

 

Your dearest majesty, my Lord and my King,

I, your humble servant, Lord Kristofer Lemulae of the shores of Graelorn, Kingdom of Whiterock, wish to inform you of an incident which happened upon our coast this evening. Four men from a ship called The Morning Star, which launched out of a western kingdom called Malovaeus, were found barely alive beating upon the doors of our beacon in the dead of night during a dreadful storm.

A while later, their captain arrived. They told the keeper of the lighthouse a horrific story about how the storm and two fearsome serrantalius had overtaken their ship. The rest of their crew had either drowned or fell victim to the serrantalius. These brave men traveled four months from their coast in the west to ours in their east.

It seems their kingdom is in grave danger from a fierce foe who is bent on conquering their land. They have not enough armaments and warriors to defend themselves. Their king is readying the troops for battle now. He would like to form an alliance with kingdoms in the east. I wonder, your majesty, if you would be so kind and willing as to allow these men to address you, in an effort to restore peace to their land?

Some are in grave condition and I fear that only half, at best, will make it past the week. I ask, my Lord, that your kindheartedness shall not allow their sacrifice to be in vain.

Your truly devoted servant,

Lord Kristofer Tristan Lemulae IV

New discovery: ancient Old Testament fragment is identical to copy 2,000 years later

From winteryknight.com

WINTERY KNIGHT

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

A new discovery of an ancient text fragment was reported in the Associated Press, of all places.

Excerpt:

The charred lump of a 2,000-year-old scroll sat in an Israeli archaeologist’s storeroom for decades, too brittle to open. Now, new imaging technology has revealed what was written inside: the earliest evidence of a biblical text in its standardized form.

The passages from the Book of Leviticus, scholars say, offer the first physical evidence of what has long been believed: that the version of the Hebrew Bible used today goes back 2,000 years.

The discovery, announced in a Science Advances journal article by researchers in Kentucky and Jerusalem on Wednesday, was made using “virtual unwrapping,” a 3D digital analysis of an X-ray scan. Researchers say it is the first time they have been able to read the…

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