Immorality, Judgment and Mercy

“…As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 7 (NKJV).

Since verse five Jude has written of the perils of apostasy, and named things of the commission of apostasy. Unbelief – the unbelief of those who were delivered from Egypt, but would not believe God’s provision, power, mercy and grace. The rebellion of the angels who left their God appointed estate for their own reward. Then, Jude writes of the cities of the plain who were destroyed with fire and brimstone because of their immorality, their gross immorality.

The sin of each of these groups are similar in that they departed from God. Their judgments will also be similar.

One of the clearest signs of a society which has departed from God is the approval of that society for immoral conduct. Not many in leadership positions within politics wants to expose immorality for what it is. It is a sign of that societies departure from God. Sexual immorality within a society is God’s judgment on that society for turning from Him. We are in grave danger of not seeing the hand of God’s judgment in the USA. It is judgment when society gives approval to greed, lust, and stealing from the poor. When God’s people turn a deaf ear to God, His prophets/preachers, and His Word; then, God will allow our own sins to judge us (Jeremiah 2:19).

As Christians in a society where sexual immorality is running rampant, approval of homosexuality is abounding, we must stand on the power of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus our Lord and Savior, and the Word of God. Let’s not back away from the truth of God’s Word. Trusting the Lord during debaucherous times, relying on His Spirit within us, and the authority of His Word to instruct us, correct us, and rebuke us; we stand as examples of Jesus Christ, His love and grace. Adultery, premarital sex relationships, and homosexual activities are all under the category of unbelief, rebellion, and immorality equaling apostasy. As Christians, followers of Jesus Christ; we are to have no part in it.

 

God does not desire that any perish (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9), and the God of the New Testament is as loving in the Old Testament. Hear the prophet Ezekiel,

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” Ezekiel 18:23 (KJV); and

“For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Ezekiel 18:32 (KJV).

Jesus Christ took the wrath and judgment of God that belonged to you and me. He died on the cross, was buried taking our sin, guilt and shame away, then He bodily arose from the grave, and through Him we have fellowship with our Father/God. Let us love with the love of Jesus Christ. The love of Jesus means revealing sin where it stands opposed to all that is unholy, and unrighteous, and giving our lives for the purpose of seeing the lost and condemned in sin come to a saving faith of Him who died and rose again. Also, giving hope through the power of Jesus Christ. Power to deliver. Power to change. Power to become the sons of God.

Turn from immorality to Jesus Christ today, and live.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Just A Thought 12/30/08

There are many questions, and at times many accusations, and arguments over the issue of marriage.  Biblically, marriage is between one man, and one woman “until death do we part”.  The issue of same sex or homosexual marriage is playing a large part in that definition today.

As a Christian I take the Biblical view of marriage, and will until the Lord returns to take me home with Him.  A question comes to my mind, however, “Why has marriage been so cheapened, so degraded?”, and I must answer that with this.

The divorce rate is around 50 percent.  That sounds awful to me.  Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce.  Is that what is meant by that statistic?  If so, that is truly terrible, and a shame to be attached to something that God has ordained. 

There is something that makes the matter even worse to me, and that is the divorce rate among those who profess to be “Christian”.  It is at the same rate, and maybe even higher.  It seems that many Christians have bought into the “Me” lie.  They may not admit it, but live as though their living life is all about “Me”, and there is no surrender, no commitment, no loyalty to the spouse (husband or wife).

Let me ask this question, “Who has really cheapened marriage; those who have no commitment, or the issue of same sex marriage?”  I dare say that had we Christians stood firm on faithful marriages, and committed ourselves to our own wife or husband, then there would not be the issue and debate of same sex marriage.

Here is the Biblical idea for marriage.  “Wives, submit to your husbands as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22); and “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her…” (Ephesians 5:25).  When these are followed there will be happiness in the marriage, along with joy and peace.

Just my thoughts for today.

-Tim A. Blankenship

For Whom Has The Lord Come???

Within the Gospel of Matthew is a story of a Canaanite woman who came to Jesus (Matthew 15:21-28) requesting healing for her sick daughter.  It is a somewhat compelling story, and a story of faith.  The words of our Lord almost seem cruel, but instead are words for bringing out the faith of this Gentile woman.

Thus, in the eyes of the Jews of that day she had at least two strikes against her.  First of all, she was a woman, and it was quite something for Jesus to even be speaking to her; secondly she was a Gentile.  There are many people today who feel as though everything is against them; they could never be saved; they could never be forgiven their sins by God.  There is, however, no one who is outside the forgiveness of our God and Lord.

I once spoke to a man who came up near me, setting on a park bench, in Springfield, MO.,  Nature Center.  The man looked as though he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.  An elderly man, and after speaking with him I found out that he was living alone, his wife had left him, he had fought in the Vietnam war, and felt as though, “God could never forgive me for what I have done”.  I tried to assure him that God could forgive through Jesus Christ, and cleanse him of all his sin.

I told the man of David’s act of murder, of Saul of Tarsus and his rampage against Christians, and that these two men received the forgiveness that can be found only in Jesus Christ.  He went away without Christ.  Oh, how sad.

Matthew tells of this event in Jesus’s ministry, and shows us for whom the Lord has come.  Jesus has said, “Know you not that I have come to do My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49).  Jesus said, “I have come to seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10).  This Gentile woman needed Jesus, and needed His healing touch.

This Canaanite woman’s faith would not relent.  She would not give up.  Then, Jesus testing her faith, told her, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.”  Her response was one of faith, and this reference is to the dogs  which were house pets, not the mean and vicious ones which roamed the streets, and valleys.  Jesus was not being mean, but showing much grace as He will to all who will come to Him believing.

The Lord witnessed her faith, and answered her request.  “And her daughter was healed from that very hour”. 

Will your request be from the Lord, “Heal me today”?  We all are sick, and in much need of the healing, and deliverance from the sickness of sin and death.  The only healing available for sin is the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross of Calvary.  Call on Him today.  He will not turn you away.

 “Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” Matthew 15:21-28 (KJV)

Wouldn’t it be great to enter the New Year of 2009 with a new outlook on life, forgiven and cleansed of all your sin?  Call on the name of Jesus Christ and be saved.

-Tim A. Blankenship

People, And The Incarnation Of Christ

Luke 2:25-38; Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18

PURPOSE –  In looking at the six people/personalities we see in this message the  question should arise, “Which personality do I fit?”, and lead us to a close walk with our personal Lord, Savior, and God.

OUTLINE –

I.  HEROD – AN EXAMPLE OF “ROYALTY” WHO HATED KING JESUS (v. Matthew 2:16-18).

II.  THE WISE MEN [MAGI] – AN EXAMPLE OF THOSE WHO SEEK HIM FROM FAR AWAY (Matthew 2:1-12).

III.  SHEPHERDS – AN EXAMPLE OF THE LOWLY WHO ARE CALLED TO WORSHIP HIM (Luke 2:8-9).

IV.  PRIESTS AND SCRIBES – AN EXAMPLE OF THE RELIGIOUS, INDIFFFERENT CROWD (Matthew 2:4).

V.  ANNA – THOSE FAITHFUL IN PRAYER DESPITE THE TIMES AND TRIBULATIONS THEY EXPERIENCE (Luke 2:36-38).

VI.  SIMEON – THOSE WHO ARE FAITHFUL IN EXPECTATION OF THE LORD’S COMING (Luke 2:25-35).

In looking at this list there are more we could include probably, but some, such as the “Inn keeper” who had no room, we have no details of him.  Joseph and Mary we have already looked at in the last message.  We could also think about the soldiers who murdered all the infant males in Bethlehem at the orders of king Herod.  You can tell by those I have mentioned here that there are more than we often think about.  The six listed above are the ones I want us to consider in this message.

HEROD – AN EXAMPLE OF “ROYALTY” WHO HATED KING JESUS (v. Matthew 2:16-18).  Herod was a jealous king.  One of whom has recorded history of being jealous of his sons and having them slaughtered so he could keep his “throne”.

When he hears from the “Magi” that there is a “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2) he calls for an urgent and diligent search where this King would be born.  He calls for the Priests and scribes.  They inform Herod that it is in Bethlehem, quoting Micah 5:2.

Herod asks the “wise men” to let him know when this child is found so that “I may worship Him to” (Matthew 2:8).  In his heart he was still that jealous envious “king” who wanted no one to take his throne.  Herod was actually a puppet king of Rome, and he wanted nothing to do with the worship of a “King of the Jews”  he was the king of the Jews.  His intent was to destroy Him, and it mattered not what the cost.

THE WISE MEN [MAGI] – AN EXAMPLE OF THOSE WHO SEEK HIM FROM FAR AWAY (Matthew 2:1-12).  These men who came, with no number mentioned as to how many there were, were Gentiles from some land away from Israel.  We are not told where they are from.  This is, however, evidence that God is sending His Son to and for the salvation of the whole world.

The following is from the MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE;

“wise men from the East.  The number of wise men is not given.  The traditional notion that there were 3 stems from the number of gifts they brought.  These were not kings, but Magi, magicians or astrologers–possibly Zoroastrian wise men from Persia whose knowledge of Hebrew Scriptures could be traced back to the time of Daniel (cf. Dan. 5:11).”

From THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE, note on Matthew 2:1, p. 1394, NKJV.

It almost appears in reading these verses that the “wise men” were the only ones interested in the star.  Not everyone is an star gazer, but God used this “Star” or whatever it was to capture the attention of three Gentile men, and they came and worshipped the King (Matthew 2:11).

Some one has said, “Wise men still seek Him”, and of that it is sure.  Though God may not in our day be using a star to guide men to Himself; He still uses circumstances, at times, and in some cultures He uses dreams that will cause the recipient of the dream to search out a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God uses other people that may cause someone in another culture and another religion to search for the Jesus of the Bible.

Some may wonder well, “What do you do with that verse that says, ‘no one seeks for God’? and my answer to that is, They would not had God not been drawing them to Himself.

The “wise men” followed the direction of the Hebrew Scripture and they have been forever remembered by our Lord and God.  Those same Hebrew Scriptures are  in the Christian Bible.

SHEPHERDS – AN EXAMPLE OF THE LOWLY WHO ARE CALLED TO WORSHIP HIM (Luke 2:8-9).  The shepherds of Israel, the lowliest of society were the first to be notified of the birth of Jesus; and they were notified by the angels of heaven.  Oh, what glory, joy and rejoicing they brought to the lowly that night.

Shepherds were told where to find the “Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).   He was to be found in the manger where He lay.  Is there any better place to find a new born Lamb than in a manger?

In the world when a king is going to make an appearance the papers, the news stations make it clear and plain that the king is going to come, but invitations to see the king, visit with the king, dine with the king only go to the elite, and politically, and financially powerful ones.  This Kings appearace was revealed to the lowly of society.

In this we see that God cares for the people of all social levels; and I would add that if God tilts the scales in any favor it would probably be toward the lowly.

Are you hurting from financial troubles, loss of your job, illness, major health problems, disease, troubled marriage, divorce, death of a loved one? Then, this message is for you.  More importantly; Jesus is calling you to Himself.

PRIESTS AND SCRIBES – AN EXAMPLE OF THE RELIGIOUS, INDIFFFERENT CROWD (Matthew 2:4).  Here were the people, the men, who would have been the most familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures.  They were the religious ones.  They would have known the Scriptures which foretold the coming of their long awaited Messiah/King.  It just seems that they were unmoved by this request from the Magi.  They seem as though they don’t even care.

There are  many religious leaders who are engulfed in their business of ministry.  They are “Professional” at what they do.  They are always dressed in the proper attire (Please note this is not a slam against dressing decently and proper), speak professionally in their words, have their religion wrapped up in liturgy, lithargic learning that usually has nothing to do with Biblical understanding, but cultural, societal, and ecumenical unity.  While all they time paying no attention to the signs of the times in which we live that loudly proclaim that the Savior is near.

ANNA – THOSE FAITHFUL IN PRAYER DESPITE THE TIMES AND TRIBULATIONS THEY EXPERIENCE (Luke 2:36-38).  Anna was a young woman when she became a widow after being married for only 7 years.  She spent her time in the temple praying.  She had been a widow for 84 years, and had spent day and night in the temple praying.

We are not told why her young husband had died, and it is not necessary for us to know.  What we know is about Anna and her faithfulness to the Lord.  Her prayers must have been somewhat similar to that of Zachariah, which was partly for the coming of a deliverer for the nation of Israel, and they may have been seeking for the whole world as well.

After spending all those years praying for the appearing of this child, this Son of God, she recognizes Him, and gives thanks to God; and “spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”  (v. 38).

These things surrounding the birth of our Lord shout loudly to all who will hear, and to those who refuse to hear, that Jesus is God’s Christ, God’s Son, and is the only means of salvation in the world.

SIMEON – THOSE WHO ARE FAITHFUL IN EXPECTATION OF THE LORD’S COMING (Luke 2:25-35).  Simeon is an interesting character, and is often overlooked, even more is said of him than Anna.

We need to remember that this prophecy, along with the words of and about Anna took place on the eighth day after our Lord’s birth.  There was ceremony, circumcision, and worship conducted at the temple on this wonderful day.

Simeon was a man to whom the Lord had revealed that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ (v. 26).  He was a man getting up into years.  We are told that he was a just and devout man.  He was a man who feared God, and had been declared by God to be just, ie. made right with God.  Just as Anna is faithful in prayer, so is Simeon faithful in expectations of the Lord’s coming to deliver His people.

Simeon speaks to Joseph and Mary and all those present.  Let’s see what things he spoke:

1. “let me depart in peace”;
2. Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation;
3. Prepared before the face of all  people;
4. A light to the Gentiles;
5. The glory of the people of Israel.

The things he spoke to Mary and Joseph:

1. The child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel;
2. A sign which shall be spoken against, as a sword shall pierce your soul
3. That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

This “sign” that is spoken against is evidently the cross on which he would die.  That was the piercing of her soul, and at this cross the hearts of many are revealed.  It was the wicked and vileness of men’s hearts that nailed Him on that cross.  Yet, on that cross the atonement for sins was given through the precious, sinless, blood of the Lamb of God.

As Simeon was faithful to carry on the work of the Lord in his life we too are called to be faithful unto the coming of our Lord for His Bride and later in His glory.

Simeon loved the appearing of our Lord.  The professing Christian who has a larger desire to make more money, acquire more things, see more family, etc, than desiring the return of the Lord should be looking at their hearts true condition.  One evidence of the true Christian experience is expectation of our Lord’s return.

Have a heart like the “Wise men” who seek Him, and worship Him; like the shepherds who saw and heard the call and worshipped Him; and a heart like that of Anna who continued in fasting and prayer night and day until that day she could bless Jesus, and be a blessing; and finally have a heart like Simeon who long awaited the coming of the King of the Jews, their Messiah, Deliverer, and Savior.  Our Lord Jesus is coming returning soon for the Church; and later in all His glory, and the whole world will see Him.

Call on His name for salvation, before it is forever too late.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Just A Thought 12/23/08

Here we are again at the time of year when the birth of Jesus Christ is remembered, and many either don’t want to remember Jesus, His birth [first coming], or they only want to remember a baby in a manger without remembering why He came.

He came as the Savior of all mankind. Yes! He was born as a baby, wrapped in “swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn”.

At this time of year let’s make sure there is room in our hearts and lives for the man who lived among us, was in fact God among us, or God with us (Emmanuel), and He still desires to be with us.

Remember that same baby, who was laid in a feed trough, grew to be the man who went to the cross, took all the sins of the world on Himself (your sins and mine), received the judgment, the wrath of His Father toward sin, offering redemption to all who would turn from their sins and believe Him.
This is the marvellous, wondrous and wonderful gift of Christmas.

Jesus was born to die for our sins.

Remember Jesus this Christmas.

-Tim A. Blankenship

A Wonderful, Joyous Birth

Luke 2:1-20

Purpose:  To see and understand the impact of personal salvation come down to mankind and the world through the birth of Jesus Christ.

OUTLINE FOR LUKE 2:1-20 –

I.  THESE EVENTS WERE IN THE HANDS OF OUR SOVEREIGN GOD (vv. 1-5; Micah 5:2).

II.  THE BIRTH OF JESUS WAS IN THE RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PLACE AND INVOLVED THE RIGHT PEOPLE (vv. 6-7;  Galations 4:4).

III.  THROUGH THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST THE LOWLY ARE EXALTED, AND THE HAUGHTY MADE LOW (vv. 8-16; 1:52).

IV.  THE BIRTH OF JESUS IS SPREAD AROUND BROADLY, AND BY THE LOWLY (vv. 17-18),

V.  THE JOY OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST (vv. 19-20).

There are many times we do not understand why things happen or are happening as they do.  One of those times could be the present day events in the United States and the world; economically, politically, religiously, medically, or in our families.  Though things seem to be messed up, and wickedness seems out of control we, as Christians, can rest assured that God has it all in His hands, and is working it all out for our good and His glory.  There is no better example of that than the times before the birth of Jesus, the birth of Jesus, and up until now.

God has the good of the world in His hands and heart.  We can trust Him.  The world should trust Him.  He has provided salvation for all who will believe Him, and trust their eternal lives to His care and love.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but would have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Let us never think that the people previous to the birth of Jesus believed they had it all figured out; they didn’t.  They did however trust that the Lord was working, and accomplishing His purposes and will.  We have seen men like Zachariah hearing the message of God from the angel Gabriel concerning the birth of  John, and his reception of that message, along with Elisabeth his wife.  Then, we have seen the virgin Mary hearing the message of the birth of her Son, and without a human father; yet she believed.  Even during that 430 years of darkness God was working, moving in the hearts of men, but in silence; waiting for that right time, place, and for the right people to fulfill His Word.

WE CAN TRUST THAT THE EVENTS ARE IN THE HANDS OF OUR SOVEREIGN GOD (vv. 1-5).  None of us like taxes or to take part in census taking.  Both of these may have been the purpose of Caesar’s decree; but the real decree came from God Himself, to fulfill His Word that His Son would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David’s heritage (1 Samuel 16:1-4ff).  The Old Testament passage for that is,

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2 (KJV)

We must understand that while God created us with what has been called “Free will”, that this does not thwart the will of God, nor hinder His will in any way, but works with His sovereignty fulfilling His will.

If the god the Open Theists believe in is what we have, then we are all without hope.  The god of the Open Theists does not know the future any better than you or I; does not direct the affairs of mankind; has no control over what happens tomorrow.

Look at these events with Joseph and Mary.  They receive a decree from the ruler of Rome to go to the place of their heritage, which is Bethlehem, and the child that is within the womb of Mary is that Son of Promise who is to be born in Bethlehem, fulfilling the Scriptures.  Only God who reigns on high could accomplish such a thing.  As Mary was told by Gabriel,  “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” 1:37 (KJV)

ONLY A SOVEREIGN GOD COULD HAVE HIS SON BORN IN THE RIGHT PLACE, AT THE RIGHT TIME, AND TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE (vv. 6-7).  Paul the apostle wrote,

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law…” Galations 4:4 (KJV)

The right place, of course, was the city of David’s heritage and birth; the right time was when there was darkness in the earth, so that the Light might be more clearly seen, heard and received; the right people was a young couple who were awaiting the coming of their Messiah (Though we are not told this specifically, it does seem quite likely, and they received this gift by grace.)  And they were faithful to serving the Lord.

I have no idea what the likelihood is of these things all just happening without divine direction, but I am sure the numbers would be astronomical.  I do not understand why some people find it so hard to believe that it takes the hands of the Devine to direct the affairs of the Devine, and the birth of His Son is certainly a Devine work.

You can try and explain some things only so many ways, but the obvious, until it becomes so very foolish to make circles around the obvious.  In doing so you miss the obvious.

It was the right time and place for the time of our Lord’s life and death.  His crucifixion some 33 years later, and in His own country, by the words of His own people, and by the hands of Gentiles, could not have happened any other time.

It is fascinating to think that the Ark of the covenant had been taken away at least 430 years before the birth of Jesus.  The Ark represented the presence of God, and His glory; now the presence and glory of God came into their midst in Person.  It was the right time, in the right place with the right woman, that the glory of God was revealed to fallen mankind, hated, despised, and laid on the cross by the people who so needed Him.

BY THE SOEREIGN HAND OF GOD, THROUGH THE BIRTH OF HIS SON THE LOWLY ARE EXALTED AND THE HAUGHTY MADE LOW(vv.  8-16; 1:52).  Shepherds were the most lowly and despised of Jewish people; yet these were the first to be notified of the birth of their King and Lord.

We are not told how many shepherds there were, but just know that there was more than one because of the plural usage of “shepherds”.  Whether there was two, or more makes little difference; the more the merrier I would say.  That they were despised by many people only shows that God has in His mind to demonstrate His love to the lonely, the outcasts, and the helpless and hurting.

However many there was we see shepherds “In the field watching their flocks at night”.  If it would have been Winter it does not seem likely that they would be in the field, but in their mangers, caves, keeping their sheep warm, and protected.  At night they needed to good shepherds guarding the sheep from wolves, and thieves.

As they were guarding their sheep an great, awe-inspiring event happened, unlike anything which they had ever experienced.  The angel of the Lord appeared to them, making an announcement of the birth of of the Savior, in the city of David.  Along with the announcement came instructions on where to find him.  There was also a “heavenly host” which joined with the angel, “praising God” and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The shepherds heard the angels and found the manger where our Lord lay following His birth.  They left the fields “with haste – in a hurry.  Probably even to the point of leaving their flocks behind.  The joy of seeing the new born King, Son of God was more weighty,  personal, costly than the sheep in their folds.  The long awaited King was born.

There is no mention of any king who was told.  We know the history of Herod and his hatred for even his own sons, and killing them out of jealousy, and fear of their taking the throne from him.  Herod was finally brought down.  Those who know Jesus and follow Him are exalted.

THE SOVEREIGN BIRTH OF JESUS HAS BEEN SPREAD ABROAD BY THOSE WHO WERE WITNESSES OF HIS BIRTH (vv. 17-18).  It does seem like an almost automatic response to tell of something you know that has happened which has excited you and others who were with you.   We are not told who they told or how long they spent in telling, just that they scattered the news abroad.

This was such wonderful news that others “wondered” about it.  The following is John Gill’s commentary on part of verse 18:

“…wondered at those things that were told them by the shepherds: for though they expected the Messiah, and that he would be born at Bethlehem, yet they did not imagine that he would be born of such mean parents, and appear in such mean circumstances, and in so contemptible a place; and that shepherds, and not the princes of Israel, should have the first notice of it; and yet the account which these shepherd, who were plain hearted men, and could never be thought to invent such a story, and spread it, and impose on men, without any interest in it, was very surprising; so that they knew not what to say to it, neither to deny, nor believe it; accordingly, the Persic version renders the whole thus, “and whoever heard, wondering, stuck at it”; hesitated about it, and yet astonished at the particulars of it; just as Christ’s hearers were in Luk 4:22 who wondered at his ministry, and the manner of it, and yet objected the meanness of his parentage and education.”

From the e-Sword Commentaries.

THE JOY OF THE SOVEREIGN BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST (vv. 19-20).  Mary was enamored by the things she heard and seen concerning the events of her Son’s birth.  Shepherds coming in from the fields, to see this new born child; a “star” shining over the stable where He lay (Matthew 2:1-2ff); and many other events which include the many fulfillments of the prophetic word of God.

The shepherds after going to see Jesus the new born King returned to their sheepfolds to shepherd their flocks, but with a whole new outlook on things.  They were singing, rejoicing in all the things they had seen and heard.  Though we are not told that they did; I kind believe the shepherds sat down and visited with Mary and Joseph, then Mary told her story, that of Zachariah and Elisabeth, her story of virgin conception, the virgin birth.  Joseph probably told them of how he had about divorced Mary (secretly), except that an angel revealed to Him the unique specialty of this birth and child that would be born (Matthew 1:18-21ff).

Joy, peace, love, gentleness, patience, kindness, self-control, meekness and faith are fruits which follow those who are witnesses, empowered by the presence of this King (Galations 5:22-24).  This King was born as Savior to take away our sins by paying the price that was ours to pay.

Without the birth of this King there would be no Savior, no salvation, no Peace or Joy.  That is why the shepherds returned praising and glorifying God.

Anyone putting their faith and trust in Jesus the King will live and reign with Him forever.  All sins forgiven; the price fully paid by the death of Jesus on the cross, carrying the guilt and shame of sin away in His burial, then His rising for our justification – being made right with God for all eternity, and living for Him, waiting for His return.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Just A Thought 12/17/08

I received this from an email group that I am on, and thought others might find it interesting.

With people going “politically correct” and “Pluralistically friendly” this tends to fit well with things.

Seasons greetings

To All My Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To My Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Paul Dudley

I don’t think I would associate all Democrats in the above category, or all Republicans in the other, but I do think it gets a clear message across.

T.A.

Pride, Liquor, and Injustice

Six ‘Woes’ have been announced against the wicked. And, that is the wicked of Judah. These are woes against the people who have proclaimed themselves to be the ‘People of God’.

The fifth and the sixth we will look at together in this commentary of woes. There has been one ‘woe’ already announced against them for their seeking after ‘Wine and strong drink’ (v. 11), that was the second one. These latter two seem to be dealing with men of influence; men who make judgments. These are people in the courts or some position of authority. The fifth one basically deals with “Pride” which leads to a fall. Whether it is the common man or woman, or a person of influence makes no difference when it comes to ‘Pride’; God hates it.

There is an arrogance which Isaiah is speaking to. Boasting of their drinking, as though it is some heroic thing. It seems to be that way in American society these days. There is an arrogance toward alcoholic drink. If you do not imbibe in the poison you cannot be up with things. It is as though a man is no man unless he downs a beer, or maybe a case or two a week, and maybe in some instances a case per day. I hope that would be rare, but fear that it is not.

“Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!” Isaiah 5:21-23 (KJV)

“Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!” Isaiah 5:21-23 (ESV).

Pride will not only be the fall of individuals who exalt themselves against the will and Word of God, but it will also be the fall of any nation who allows it to continue unabated. It is pride and arrogance which causes men and women to exalt their own opinions over that of God. It is also pride and arrogance which will allow men to accept bribes in order to give the one with the money power over those who have none.

These arrogant fools were taking material gain, and depriving the innocent of their right to justice. Do you ever wonder, “Are these things done in the great nation of the United States of America?” You and I both know that it is. The liquor industry pays big dollars in taxes into our government. They also have a lot of political power with the men and women of Congress, the Senate, and all the national powers. May God forgive our wickedness. There is more bribery than that though, where individual judges, and other rulers have taken and are taking bribes so the wealthy can have their way.

May God forgive a nation that gives more rights to those who have and acquit the guilty because of wealth, but condemn the innocent who have no wealth.

There is a much better and a clear way, and that is with a sober mind and heart for God.  Leadership by liquor is devastation, and quickly brings homes, communities, and countries to the gutter.  The better way is the filling of the Spirit of God, and is accessible through faith in Jesus Christ, His death on the cross, His burial, and bodily resurrection.  Call on His name, believing, and you will be saved; then walk in His Spirit.

Earlier I wrote “…when it comes to ‘Pride’; God hates it”. I know that because He says He does. In Proverbs 6:16-19 there are seven things listed which God hates, and it seems that these seven things are a small example of all the things that God hates. The very first on the list is, “A proud look”. A proud look is basically being full of one’s self, needing no one (especially God), or nothing else. Pride will be our own undoing, unless we fall on our knees in full surrender to the God who made all things. Jesus Christ His Son is the only way to fully acknowledge Him.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Just A Thought 12/15/08

Here we are in the Christmas season of 2008, and my how things have changed from the past years.  It just seems that every religion or no religion wants to get their “hands in the pot”.

In the State of Washington, the State Capital has a Christmas exhibit, and would you know it even the Atheists want to put in their “two cents” or whatever it is worth.  The little plaque they want next to Christmas says something of reason, and evidently they have none, because they are standing on the popularity of Christmas to get out their unreasonable message.

Why can they not display their unreasonable message on the only holiday which they can be noticed.  Yes!  They have their holiday and it is on April 1 of each year.  Read Psalm 14:1.

That is my thought for the day.

-Tim A. Blankenship

A Magnificent Surrender

PURPOSE:  Since becoming a Christian is the most important thing to happen in one’s life there are many similarities to our lives with Mary, the mother of Jesus; We received a special call, and appearance from our God; We have been given a message to share with all people;  We must be obedient to God if we are to be counted faithful; We have a right worship of God and His Son Jesus; and we worship with expectation of His soon coming and with patience we wait for Him.

OUTLINE FOR Luke 1:26-56:

I.  A MAGNIFICENT APPEARANCE (vv. 26-28).

II.  A MAGNIFICENT MESSAGE OF HOPE FOR ALL PEOPLE (vv. 29-37).

III.  A MAGNIFICENT OBEDIENCE (v. 38).

IV.  A MAGNIFICENT WORSHIP (vv. 39-55).

V.  A MAGNIFICENT PATIENCE (v. 56).

There are probably many things in life which we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell that we could call “Magnificent”.  However, when it comes to the eternal things truly only one thing, and person can be called “Magnificent”, and that is the appearance, message, obedience, worship, and patience of our Lord Jesus.  He is truly MAGNIFICENT!

A MAGNIFICENT APPEARANCE (vv. 26-28). In the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy the angel Gabriel appears in Nazareth to a young virgin girl by the name of Mary.  When we have no reason to doubt the Word of God we must believe that when God says she was a virgin, then she was indeed a virgin.

Gabriel is the one who had appeared to Elisabeth some months before, and now appears to Mary with the news that she will have a child.  How must have Mary felt at the appearance of Gabriel?  Shocked, unbelieving?  Now remember this was a period of time when visions, spiritual experiences with angels was a rare thing.  God had not spoken through prophet or angel for 400 years.  How would Christians of today [2008] react if our Bibles were taken away, and there was no more revelation from God for so many years?  I dare say that that would be a test that would certainly separate the confessors from the possessors.  It seems to be the case in Jerusalem and Israel during the days of Zachariah, Elisabeth, and Mary as well.

With the appearance of the angel comes words of encouragement, words to be remembered by all.  “Thou art highly favored”, “Blessed art thou among women”, and “the Lord is with thee” are words we can trust and believe and rest in.

It is God who sent Gabriel to Mary.  He has a specific message for Mary, and that is that she will have a Son; not just any son of man; but He will be the Son of God, and Son of man.  We will get to Mary’s question in the next point.  Let me stress this at this point;  Mary was not an “Unwed mother”.  Note the instructions to Gabriel, “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph…”  Espousal was more than an engagement; at least as we know engagement here in the USA; it was a binding covenant made earlier, and could only be broken by a writing of divorce.  There had, however, been no consummation of the marriage by sexual intercourse.

Truly this appearace by Gabriel to Mary was a Magnificent Appearance.

A MAGNIFICENT MESSAGE OF HOPE FOR ALL PEOPLE (vv. 29-37).  Troubled as most of us would be the angel gives her words of comfort, and tells her she has been favored by God.  It has been decreed by God through Gabriel that Mary is “Full of grace”, which means she is a receiver of grace, not a dispensor of grace.  This same term is used in Ephesians 1:6 “he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (KJV); and is reference to all who are in Christ Jesus.  Anyone who would use this to give Mary co-redeemtrix rights is Biblically incorrect.

This is the first, and last miracle virgin conception of God.  Let me give you the MIRRIAM/WEBSTER DICTIONARY definition of the word “MIRACLE”:

“1. An extraordinary event manifesting a supernatural work of God; 2. An unusual event, thing or accomplishment: WONDER, MARVEL…“

Now, my definition of miracle is a little different than that:

A miracle is an act of God where He breaks through the laws of what is natural, to accomplish a greater purpose for His glory.

God transcends the laws of nature that He has made, and can at any time, any place, and with or without anyone or anything perform what we would call “Miracle”.  With Mary God would perform a first.  “The virgin will conceive, have a son…” Isaiah 7:14 (HCSB) were the words of God through the prophet Isaiah to king Ahaz.  Though the prophecy had a lesser fulfillment in Isaiah’s day, it was fully fulfilled in Mary’s conception of Jesus Christ.  Though Isaiah would not know of whom God was speaking , futuristically, the LORD had one specific young woman for this task, ie. the task of giving birth to the Messiah,  and her name was Mary.

With the medical technology we have today I really don’t understand why anyone would have a problem believing in a virgin’s conceiving a child.  Though today’s virgin conceiving would be by “arificial insemination” or “invitro fertilization” it is still possible, yet the seed implanted would still be a human father, and not God.  God also placed His seed in the womb of Mary without any means other than His Word.

The angel telling her she will have a Son, and also tells her His name.  In the prophecy of Isaiah he calls Him “Immanuel” meaning “God with us”, and here “Jesus” means “The Lord is salvation”.  Both names are for our Lord Jesus, and they fit Him.  He would be the means of grace and mercy and salvation to all nations.

Notice these great things that are given to Jesus:

1.  He will be called the Son of the Highest;
2.  He will receive the throne of David;
3.  He will reign over the house of Jacob;
4.  His kingdom will have no end.

Mary, knowing that she was a virgin; asked Gabriel, “How can this be since I have not been with a man?”  The answer to this came by the angel basically letting Mary know that this was a “God thing”.  It did not require a man, but God had chosen her to be the vessel to bear His Son, give birth to His Son, and to teach Him godly living, and faith.

One thing which we must note right now is that God chose godly, expectant, faithful people to bear two of the most influential people ever born to man.  We are told of Zachariah’s and Elisabeth’s “Righteousness”.  We are also told that Mary was “full of grace” before God (Ephesians 1:6).  The only righteousness that is worthwhile for us is God’s righteousness, and He gives that to us by GRACE.

News of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, and the approaching birth of her promised son was told to Mary.  This may have helped confirm the angel’s message to her.  It does confirm to Mary and all who will believe that there is nothing impossible with God.

A MAGNIFICENT OBEDIENCE (v. 38).  Too many people fight, kick, and murmur and complain about the will of God.  Then, when it is all over think, “Well!  Why didn’t He call me and use me?”  Is there any young lady, who is a virgin, be willing to do what Mary did?  There are too many young people and adults who are too self-centered; who are looking out for themselves, and care nothing for living for God, and faith.

After the angel Gabriel tells Mary of her “Highly favored” situation with God Mary’s response is one of obedience.  This is not evidence of her placement into a divine position as co-redeemtrix with Christ, or of her supposed immaculate conception.  It is simply her willingness to be a tool for God’s purpose and His glory.  It is nothing more than what any of us can do; and that is being a willing, obedient vessel for God’s glory.

We – Christians – are in fact doing just that when Christ becomes our Lord and Savior.  The Seed of God is given to us, resurrecting our dead spirit, and empowering us with the Spirit of God.  Consider John’s [the apostle] letter, writing;

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His Seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 1 John 3:9 (KJV)

The above verse, of course, addresses the practicing of sin in a habitual fashion, and as a way of life.  The part I am dealing with is the “His Seed…” portion.  It is God’s Seed that cannot sin.  It is God’s Seed that gives the Christian life, and the heart to hate evil, and all sin.

It is just as much A MAGNIFICENT OBEDIENCE when any child of God hears the voice of God, and is moved to obey in faith believing all that God has said to do.

A MAGNIFICENT WORSHIP (vv. 39-55).  Mary, now, having conceived in her womb the Son of God journeys to the home of Zachariah and Elisabeth and stays for three months.  Mary probably stayed until the birth of John Baptist; because we are told, taking verse 24 and 26, that it was six months that Elisabeth was with child, Mary stayed three months (v. 56), so surely she stayed until the baby John was born; and could very well have been there when Zachariah’s tongue was loosed (v. 64).

Upon Mary’s arrival to the house of Elisabeth John leaps in his mother’s womb, and Elisabeth is filled with the Spirit.  Songs of praise and adoration break out from both women.

“Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

The words are those of Elisabeth.  She recognized the one who was carrying the Son of God within her, by the voice of His mother’s greeting.  Elisabeth was giving blessing to Mary because she had been the willing, chosen vessel by God to carry the Son of God in her womb.  Elisabeth’s initial thought was of her unworthiness to be in the presence of the mother of her Lord.

How could Elisabeth even know that Mary was bearing a child, little lone, that she was bearing a son, and not just any son, but the very Son of God?  The work of the Spirit of God.  The “Fruit of thy womb” of course was Jesus, and He is blessed, and He blesses all who come to Him.  Elisabeth even recognizes that Mary has given the utmost of her life to our Lord, surrendered to Him, and is blessed because of who He is; and because of this God is about to fulfill His will in and through her.

Now take a look at Mary’s song:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior,
because He has looked with favor
on the humble condition of His slave.
Surely, from now on all generations
will call me blessed,
because the Mighty One
has done great things for me,
and His name is holy.
His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has done a mighty deed with His arm;
He has scattered the proud
because of the thoughts of their hearts;
He has toppled the mighty from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.
He has satisfied the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
mindful of His mercy,
just as He spoke to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his descendants forever.
Luke 1:46-55 (HCSB)

Note that Mary does not congratulate herself, but gives glory to our Lord; to the greatness of the Lord.  She rejoices in the fact that she has “found favor” with Him; and she refers to “God my Savior”, recognizing her need for God as Savior alone.  With Elisabeth’s and Mary’s praise we have much to practice in praise, worship and adoration.

A MAGNIFICENT PATIENCE (v. 56).  Wouldn’t it have been fascinating to be in that house those three months?  Both the mother of John the Baptist, and the mother of Jesus the Christ going about household duties, chores, and since Elisabeth is the elder one, and having a baby probably needing some assistance from Mary.

For three months Mary is learning from her cousin the things that only women can learn from one another; what an elderly woman can teach to a younger; and they probably spent much time in worship of the MIGHTY ONE of Israel.  For three months Elisabeth draws ever nearer to the day when she will give birth to John, Mary begins showing signs of pregnancy, and grows more and more expectant for her nearing day.

All mothers have, and show patience for that awaited day when the labor pains begin (though not looking forward to the pain, but the outcome), and they begin the birthing process.  Expectancy, excitement, rejoicing are great words to use to express the heart  of that mother when her child is born; but can you imagine the joy that was in the heart of Elisabeth as John is born, knowing that he will be the first prophet since Malachi, around 430 B.C.; and that he will be the herald for the Messiah who is to be born only six short months later.  They are seeing the evidence of God’s message returning to His people who have been in darkness for so long; and this is without the Ark of the covenant.

“Patience is a virtue”, someone has said.  Much is said of patience by the apostle Paul.  As Mary needed and displayed patience while with Elisabeth the Christian today needs to be patient in living for Jesus Christ.  The heart of the Christian is looking for the appearing, the coming of Jesus once again.  Have you ever heard someone who professed to being a Christian say, “I don’t want Jesus to come back today!”?  My question to that would be “Why not?”  What is more important than the coming of Jesus?  That is the heart of the truly born again believer.

I can almost guarantee that the most important thought in Mary’s life; when she received the announcement that she was going to carry and give birth to the Son of God; was not “What is Joseph, and my parents, and others going to say?”  Her thought was most likely, “In nine months the Messiah will be born, and for these nine months God has given grace, to me, to bear His Son.”  Nine months to display patience.  Nine months to plan, prepare, and proclaim the coming of the Lord.

We do not know the day or the time of our Lord’s coming for His Church.  We have been given an indefinite time to plan, prepare, and proclaim the coming of the Lord.  We too can display A MAGNIFICENT PATIENCE.  A Patience that is found only through the faith and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Eyes On The Truth

In a time of seeming prosperity they are attacked by a vicious force. A force that is meant to bring them down to their knees. They have spent many years without an attack. They have been at peace. Prosperity seems incapable of ceasing. They have clouded their thinking with the thoughts of bigger and better buildings; bigger and better government; bigger and better banks, churches, and organizations.

They have forgotten from where the blessings have come; even from Whom they have come; and when they begin losing that prosperity the question is, what went wrong, and then the blame game begins. Whose fault is it that there lingers outside our walls a threatening enemy? Whose fault is it that the gates must be kept shut longer, and opened for shorter periods of time?

One thing that we must remember as Christians in this last  month of 2008 is that God is still on His throne. He is still sovereign, and reigns in the affairs of men.

What does this have to do with Jeremiah the prophet? It fits with his time just as well as our own.

I will include the first two verses of chapter five which I have already written commentary on:

“Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it. And though they say, The LORD liveth; surely they swear falsely. O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.” Jeremiah 5:1-3 (KJV)

There were some in Jerusalem who sought the truth, but they were evidently few and far between, and who were not real concerned with the current spiritual climate. As verse two proclaims there were people who were saying, “The LORD lives”, but they were speaking falsely because of ulterior motives. Perhaps worship on the Sabbath, and worship of pagan gods such as Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech were some possibilties. To put them in the modern scene would be the ideal of pluralistic worship, immoral living while being “spiritual”, and the great “conveniences” of life.

Verse three begins with “O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth?” I believe Jeremiah knew the answer to that question. The LORD has asked for someone to “Run… through the streets of Jerusalem…”, and He has called and chosen Jeremiah, but is there no one else?

A hard stiffnecked people who have grown comfortable, conformed, contented, and confused without the knowledge of their sinfulness will not see the correcting hand of God. They will just flat out reject any correction from those who will try and correct them, then when the LORD strikes them they will not grieve; when He consumes them they will not receive correction; they become hard headed, more stiff necked, and refuse to return to God.

O, that the Christian of today would learn from Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.

-Tim A. Blankenship

 

Society Double Talk

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20

Isaiah has addressed three other “Woes”. The first woe in verse 8 tells us they were practicing a modern action of many – “Grab all you can, and can all you grab”, and it does not matter who gets hurt. The second woe was against those who lived their lives as just a party; living a life of debauchery and rebellion against the Holy One of Israel. The third woe is against all those who just parade their sin before all, and just beg God to show Himself in judgment; mockingly provoking the justice of the Holy God.

The above verse is one that also fits very well with our society in the good old USA today. “It depends on what the meaning of ‘Is’ is”; that is one phrase we have heard from so called leaders of our near past. It also use to be that when we heard the word “Gay” it meant someone who was happy and cheerful; but now it is a term for a sin of perversion.

God in His Word tells us to stand against immorality of all kinds. Today when we stand against the sin of sodomy we are called, and I should say very unkindly, “Homophobic”. “Homo” having to do with the sodomites, and “Phobic” meaning fearful. There is no fear toward the sodomites as far as I am concerned. I am fearful of what is happening to our Country, our State, the cities and the world, because of these acts. Marriage is cheapened when a man can marry a man or a woman marries a woman. If I speak out against such godless rebellion I am wrong. “Good is evil, and evil is good”.

It is good for a man to be so intolerant as to tell how bad the Christian’s are. It is bad for the Christian, even in the love of Jesus Christ, to say that Jesus is the only way to God and eternal life. There are new words for old sins. Take for example; Adultery is now an affair; Fornication is now just premarital sex, or cohabiting; Sodomy is an alternative lifestyle, as is bisexuality, transsexuality, etc.; Drunkenness is a disease, as is depression; you get the picture.

The word is “WOE”. That is destruction to those who practice these things. There is another word that has been forgotten, and that is REPENT. Turn from your life of sin and rebellion against God. Trust His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. He will change your vocabulary and give you a new dictionary.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Faithful Until The Light

References – Amos 3:7;  Revelation 22:6

OUTLINE OF LUKE 1:5-25

I.  THE FAITHFUL IN A TIME OF DARKNESS (v. 5).

II.  FAVORED BY GOD – DISFAVOR AMONG MENT (vv. 6-7).

III.  THROUGH DIVINE APPOINTMENT THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE FAITHFUL HEART AND LIFE (vv. 8-17).

IV.  FROM SILENCE TO JUBILATION (vv. 18-25 referencing vv.  57-80).

At the time of Zachariah and Elisabeth it had been about 400 years since God had spoken through a prophet.  There had been no prophet for God’s people.  It was a time of darkness; and there were praying and desparate souls longing/desiring for the presence of the glory of the LORD.

There was a Temple [Herod’s Temple- not yet finished], but no “Ark of the covenant”.  It had not been recovered, and returned to the place – the Most Holy Place.

There was a favored couple – favored by God; probably viewed by the people as being disfavored by God due to having not been blessed with a child.  Zachariah and Elisabeth had both been declared “Righteous” by God.  This was “Favor”.  When God declares one “Righteous” then, that one is “Righteous” indeed.

Zachariah had his once in a lifetime duty to fulfill.  The MacArthur Study Bible note states:

“Because of the large number of priests, most would never be chosen for such a duty, and no one was permitted to serve in this capacity twice.”

In this of course we would see a Divine appointment.  Does God not direct the fall of the “Lot”?  Thus God gives a message to Zachariah that a messenger – foretold in Malachi 4:5-6 – is about to be conceived and born to he and Elisabeth.

This “incense altar” was to be kept burning perpetually.  Morning and evening that one priest had privilege of tending the altar making sure the special fiery fragrance ascended to the throne of God.  The  The couple had been praying/longing/desiring a son, and as Zachariah goes about his duties he receives the answer.

It is interesting to note that the name Zachariah means “Jah has remembered” or “YHWH has remembered”.  Through 400 years of silence God was working, and never forgot His people.

FAITHFUL IN A TIME OF DARKNESS (v. 5).  As Zachariah and Elisabeth were faithful, they have been declared “Righteous” by God; so too are all who are in Christ Jesus.  When we see wickedness abounding we have a word from God that “grace much more abounds” (Romans 5:20).

We must understand that our works, words, deeds, are worthy of righteousness.  The righteousness of God is from God alone, declared by God alone.  Righteousness comes as a gift from God through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Even when God seems silent; be faithful; believing light is on the way.  For many years Zachariah and Elisabeth kept on believing.  Do we believe in God only for what He can give us?  Do we believe in God only because of the good things He does?  Do we believe in God only because of His power, His might, and awe-inspiring displays in creation?  If we only believe during these things and only when they are visible to us; we will not be likely to stand faithful like Zachariah and Elisabeth during those dark times of life.  Always trust the Lord, believing that there is a greater Light

FAVORED BY GOD – SEEN AS DISFAVORED BY GOD (vv. 6-7).  Despite the seeming rejection by God, Zachariah and Elisabeth continue faithfully.  Though others could not see it; most likely; they were counted by God as “Righteous”.  Many people probably viewed them as cursed by God, and because of their faithfulness some may have wanted them to be cursed by God.  Read Psalm 3:1-3.

They continued throught he many years looking/praying/desiring/waiting for a child.  We must see, and remember that there is nothing that tells us that God had ever promised them a child.

The believer in Christ must continue looking/praying/desiring/waiting for the the promised return of our Savior.  We live for our God who has pronounced us “Righteous”.

THROUGH DIVINE APPOINTMENT THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE FAITHFUL HEART AND LIFE (vv. 8-17).  Have you ever started thinking, “It will never happen”?  Maybe it was a desire, longing, or prayer you had prayed; you have kept asking, but deep in the recesses of your mind your thoughts were “It’s not going to happen.”

You may at this moment be praying for help with your income situation; your housing situation; matters of education; a health problem that is causing real worries or fear.  Do you believe in God appointments?  “God appointments” or “Divine appointments” are those things that to some will seem like ‘conincidences’, but to the child of God we know who ordains them.  RIGHT?  RIGHT.

God has a way of teaching us faith; growing, abiding faith, and that training never stops; until we see Jesus face to face.  Then, I could not tell you for sure, but what we may also learn throughout all eternity.

Zachariah having waited many years to serve in the Temple, had also waited for a child with Elisabeth.  It is sad to see so many people who are impatient, and cannot wait for anything.  Far too many times I have grown impatient in matters of waiting.  Who enjoys waiting at a traffic light, or even for a train to pass when you need to get over the tracks to the other side?

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “Is God delaying me for a purpose?”  We may never know on this side of glory, but that delayed traffic may just be a Divine appointment for our safety somewhere down the road, beginning at the light we are sitting at.

Christians must learn the godliness of waiting.  The Bible speaks much about waiting, and very little on “Hurry”.

The priest hears God speak through the angel Gabriel, and the message is good news of a son to the couple who had waited for many years.  Now, this is God’s timing.  It could not have been at a better time.  The conception and birth of this son was going to bring such joy into their home, their lives, and their neighbor’s lives as well.  Everyone was going to rejoice with Zachariah and Elisabeth.

The conception and birth of this son was going to be a fulfillment of prophecy (Malachi 4:-5-6).  They would probably not be alive at the time of this prophet’s ministry.  Zachariah is told to name his son “John”.  A very specific message, with a very specific name.

This prophet would be a preparer of the way of the LORD, and the Lord’s name is Jesus.

FROM SILENCE TO JUBILATION (vv. 18-25 referencing vv. 57-80).  While Zachariah is in the Temple fulfilling his duties, receiving the message, but not believing it he is stricken with dumbness (both mute and deaf – see v. 62).  He comes out of the Temple, and cannot speak, and the people having seen him being so long in the Temple perceive that he must have received a vision from God (v. 22).  Yet he could not speak.

Can you imagine being in your place of worship, conducting your duties in the church, and Gabriel comes to you with the message, “You will receive what you have been asking for.”  You don’t believe this messenger, so he tells you that you are not going to be able to speak, because you have not believed.  You cannot tell others of the blessing that is on the way.  You must contain yourself, and only write on a piece of paper.  You may now want to shout, but because of not believing in the first place you can’t.

Oh, how difficult we make things for ourselves at times because of our unbelief, or doubts.

John the prophet of God was born to Zachariah and Elisabeth in their old age.  There was much joy and rejoicing.  There was, in fact, much jubilation.  When Zachariah admitted to the name John his mouth was open, his hearing returned and there was jubilation.  When the Word of God is believed, and practiced in our lives others will hear and believe.

John would be the herald; the messenger of God proclaiming the coming of the Holy One of God, calling for repentance, and for the people to get right with God.

There is a day coming when Jesus will come again.  We are the heralds of His coming today.  We can be the means of others finding peace with God through Jesus Christ.  We look forward to that day when we will stand with Jesus, worshipping Him, giving Him glory; and there will be great jubilation.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Unclean Hands, Lips – From The Heart

We have in these verses further explanation of the “washing with unclean hands” issue which the scribes and Pharisees had attacked Jesus and His disciples. It seems that the men were thoroughly offended by Jesus’s remarks, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man”, and His disciples noticed. Does anyone ever give thought to what might “offend” Jesus? Just a thought.

“Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” Matthew 15:12-20 (KJV)

Jesus is the Son of God, the Prophet of God foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18); and not a bit concerned about offending the disgusting arguments of manmade doctrines. He even goes on and tells His disciples that “Every plant not planted by My Father will be uprooted”. He is probably speaking of these foolish doctrines, and He could be speaking of the Pharisees themselves, or maybe both. Doctrines that are false will one day be revealed as being false. The doctrines of men are usually false doctrines which bind men, rather than setting them free, as the doctrines of God do.

This part of the verse which speaks of the “blind leading the blind” somewhat reminds me of the Financial chaos of our nation [USA] and that of the world. One bankrupt nation, asking loan from other nations who are nearing bankruptcy, sounds as though the blind are leading the blind, at least to me. Enough of that. The doctrines of men will fall, and those who follow the doctrines of men; unless they are drawn by the Spirit of God to Jesus; will also fall into the ditch, because; in essence they are blind.

Jeremiah the prophet said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” 17:9 (KJV). We often think that we know what is in our “heart”, and then when we get too assured about it something will happen, and bring us down from our perch. Understand, that when we speak of the “heart” here we are not talking about that blood pump in our chest. The “heart” could also be rendered as our “Innermost being”. It is the seat of our being, our soul and our spirit. It is that within us that is eternal, and that will never die. God/Jesus Christ is the only one who can know our hearts.

Some of the men and women who are in prison for murder, negligent homocide, manslaughter, and some other things, never thought they would be there. They had better plans than spend a good portion of their lives in prison. They were full of themselves, and not God. When you get to thinking, “I know what’s in my heart” you may find yourself in trouble. The only way to know your heart is to know the One who knows your heart, and that is Jesus Christ. Look what Jesus says comes from our hearts – “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…”; these He says, “Defile the man”, and “man” here is generic for all of us; male and female.

We can so easily become carried away by teachings of men which empower us over others, and that is what the Pharisees were trying to do with Jesus. By showing themselves more knowledgeable than Him; by showing themselves more holy than Jesus they thought to prove Him a blasphemer. Since Jesus was who He claims to be, then their words were empty and powerless. They were the words of men and not of God. They were defiled in their hearts, and thus could only give “lip service” to God.

 

How is your heart today?

 

-Tim A. Blankenship