Saturday, December 30, 2017

eschatology, Jesus Finds Followers (John 1)

Jesus is the Lamb of God - the perfect sacrifice who paid for and takes away the sins of the world.  Because of what John the Baptist said, two disciples followed Jesus.  And after spending just one day with Jesus, they believed in Him, and recognized that He was the Messiah...

(John 1:35-50)  Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

Today's takeaway:  Nathanael seemed to have great faith in Jesus, and didn't need to see much proof.  But perhaps Nathanael was too easily impressed with the one little thing that Jesus said???  Of course, anything Jesus says is Truth.  People just need to beware of things sounding or looking like truth.  There are tricks used by mediums and cults to divert your attention away from God.  And I've heard and seen quite a few Christians get distracted with the intrigue of horoscopes and mediums, etc.  This is wrong!  And destructive!  (Lev.19:31, 20:6)  I believe Jesus wants us to look much deeper into His word - to KNOW Him and the scriptures so we will not be easily led astray...

(2 Corinthians 11:3)  But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

(1 John 4:1-3)  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 

(2 Corinthians 11:14-15)  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

(Matthew 24:4-5)  And Jesus answered and said to them, See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many..."

(Galatians 6:1-10)  Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.
The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Friday, December 29, 2017

eschatology, Prepare the Way (Luke 3, John 1)

John the Baptist is important to eschatology as he announced the beginning of Jesus' ministry, and introduced the nation of Israel to their Messiah - the Lamb of God (the one who will fulfill their covenants - in the Millennium).  John the Baptist also prophesied several things:  that Jesus was there to take away the sins of the world (because through the nation of Israel, all people would be blessed);  that the Holy Spirit was going to be made available through Jesus;  that the Tribulation would happen before all people would realize (but not necessarily believe) that salvation is only possible through Jesus; and that Jesus would one day judge the world.  John the Baptist's messages also emphasized (Old Testament) scripture which Jesus was going to use...

(Luke 3:1-17)  Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
The voice of one crying in the wildernessMake ready the way of the LordMake His paths straight.
Every ravine will be filledAnd every mountain and hill will be brought low;  the crooked will become straight, and the rough roads smooth;
And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’”
So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” 11 And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” 12 And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” 14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”
15 Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Not only John the Baptist, but God Himself lets people know that Jesus is the Son of God...

(Luke 3:21-22)  Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

(John 1:29-34)  The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water. 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

Today's takeaway:   Remember, (most of) the Israelites and their spiritual leaders had forgotten the critical part about being obedient (about being a believer), thinking that it was enough just to "be" an Israelite.  It was enough just to practice some of the laws that suited them.  This is exactly how some people think that they are Christians - just because they grew up in a Christian home, or because they go to church, or because they live in a "Christian country", or because they are not "so bad - but pretty good people" etc. All these things do not make anyone righteous or a child of God. 

John was preaching the gospel and emphasized the message that the evidence of faith is works (service).  The church that I'm a member at has a "two-cross vision":  the first (upright) cross represents Jesus, what He did on the cross for us, and salvation;  the second cross (on a slant) represents the cross that believers need to pick up and carry.  Serving God and people does not save us.  Rather it is an outpouring of God's love, and is a testimony of our faith.  Denying myself means I realize I am nothing without God and need His salvation, and desire to do things according to His will - NOT doing things my way or the world's way (which only gets me into trouble in the long run)...

(Matthew 16:24-27)  Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

eschatology, Jesus of Nazareth (Matt.2)

To protect His plans and purposes, and His promises to Israel, God protected the infant Jesus from all dangers by sending messages to Joseph of where to go to next.  From Bethlehem, they had escaped to Egypt...

(Matthew 2:19-23)  But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Today's takeaway:  I was really struggling to think why this detail was important to eschatology.  First of all, God has His ordained plans - and He will make sure that nothing and no one will prevent the plans from happening.  Second, God wants people to see that Jesus is not just some ordinary man - but is the Son of God - so God has sprinkled the old testament scriptures with so many various prophecies.  As these prophecies actually happened, there should have been and there should be no question that Jesus is the Messiah!  And then, because all prophecies that should have happened already - have happened - - - we can be more confident that the prophecies that are still to happen - will happen!

And, I had struggled to think about the "So what?  What can I personally learn from this?"  So the third point for the above is also my main takeaway, God can use any willing and obedient believer - from anywhere.  Of course, Jesus is God.  Notice that Jesus was NOT born in Jerusalem with a silver spoon in His mouth, surrounded by soldiers to protect Him, and then presented to the High Priest and Pharisees.  Perhaps the point can be - it doesn't matter where you come from or what your status in life is - God can use you.  In that same thinking, for mankind, no matter which highfalutin area you are from or what high status you have - you still need saving...

(James 2:1-8)  My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

eschatology, Magi Visit the Messiah (Matt.2)

Soon after Jesus' birth, Joseph would have found some sort of work in Bethlehem (probably as a carpenter), and they would have been living in other accommodations (humble but much better than a stable);  because it took about two years for the magi from the east to finally reach them.  Curious if the magi had read any (Old Testament) scriptures.  But somehow how they knew exactly what the star signified.  And they prepared a large caravan with very precious and valuable gifts to make the very long journey.  We typically assume that there were only three magi, because the Bible names three gifts.  However many there were, these people from other nations set out to find the King of the Jews - the Messiah! - the King of kings - who would provide hope for all people...

(Matthew 2:1-18)  Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;  for out of you shall come forth a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
18 voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourningRachel weeping for her children;  and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.”

Today's takeaway:  interesting that the foreign dignitaries recognized Jesus, but the spiritual leaders did not - or did not want to.  Jesus came to be the Israelite's High Priest.  This would have threatened the Pharisees' power and position.  And king Herod definitely didn't want to recognize Jesus as the king of the Jews, because it threatened his power and position.  Just wondering how people are threatened by Jesus today?  It is our pride and self-sufficiency at stake.  People tend to make themselves the object of their worship.  People typically desire to be the greatest among everyone else, and desire the things that we think we want - and not the things that we need.  In order to really recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior, we have to admit that we are sinners in need of saving, and that we are nothing without God...

(James 4:1-10)  What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.