Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Gift of Gifts


"The Gift of Gifts"
Valley of Vision
 

O source of all good, 
What shall I render to you for the gift of gifts,
your own dear Son?

Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart,
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
o work out a perfect righteousness for me!
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind!

Let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father!

Place me with ox, donkey, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin!
Let me with Simeon clasp the newborn child to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his!
In him you have given me so much that heaven can give no more.


  May your holiday celebrations be overflowing with joy and gladness!
   

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Was John the Baptist Elijah Reincarnated?

  Monday's post,  Silence, the Septuagint, and a Promise Fulfilled,  talked about  the 400 years of silence between the two Testaments. The Old Testament closed with Malachi’s prophecy   Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.  He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers  Malachi 4:5-6.    The silence ended in 6 BC when  the angel Gabriel announced  to Zechariah the priest that his  elderly wife  Elizabeth would give birth to a son who  was to be called John.
“and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.   And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,  and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah,  to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”  Luke 1:15-17  
    About six months later  Gabriel appeared to Mary  to announce  that she would  bear  a son who she would call Jesus and    "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." ( Luke 1:26-31).   The angel  also revealed to Mary that  her barren older relative  Elizabeth had  conceived a son and was in her sixth month of pregnancy.     So,   Mary “made haste”  to visit Elizabeth and when she  heard Mary’s voice,  “the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”   Luke 1:41      
  
  This remarkable  incident fulfilled the prophecy that  John would be  “filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb” and it also marked the first  recognition  by another human that the Savior was in  the world to which Elizabeth immediately cried in a loud voice:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”  Luke 1:39-44
  But who was this John who  later became known  as John the Baptist?  Was he a reincarnated Elijah as some  have entertained?
 
 John MacArthur:
  “In his role as forerunner, John would go before Jesus Christ in the spirit and power of Elijah.   That statement is significant because the Jews believed that God would send a messenger before the Day of the Lord  judgment and the Messiah’s coming  to set up His kingdom (Mal.3:1).   The closing promise of the Old Testament identified that messenger as Elijah [Malachi 4:5-6].
   Like Elijah (I Kings 18:17-18), John faithfully, powerfully, boldly, uncompromisingly proclaimed divine truth (Matt. 3:7-11).  That caused some to wonder if he might in fact be Elijah (John  1:21).  But John squashed such speculation, replying  to those who questioned him simply,  “No” (vs21).   However, in Matthew 11:13-14,  Jesus said “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.   And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.”   The obvious question that arises is,  Was John Elijah?   He was not literally Elijah, as his blunt denial in John 1:21 indicates.  But if the Jews had been willing to accept Jesus as their Messiah, the Day of the Lord and the kingdom would have come then, and John would have been the fulfillment   of Malachi’s prophecy.  Therefore, Gabriel’s words are to be understood in a figurative sense;  John was not actually Elijah or the final Elijah of Malachi’s prophecy (cf. Matt 17:10-13).   Instead he came in the spirit and power of Elijah;  like the great Old Testament prophet, he would fearlessly and faithfully proclaim divine truth in the face of ruthless opposition (Matt. 4:12; 14:1-10; cf. 1 Kings 17:1; 21:17-29)
  That the majority of the people of Israel rejected John the Baptist’s message about Jesus means there must also be a future fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy,  “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” (4:5).   Before Christ returns to establish His earthly kingdom (Rev. 19:10-20:6),  Elijah or another Elijah-like prophet will announce his arrival  (perhaps one of the two witnesses described in Revelation 11).” (1)
  Additionally,  the Bible teaches  that the dead will be  resurrected but  clearly teaches against  reincarnation.   "It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment."  Heb 9:27 and we know that John the Baptist died.   
  One might try to build  a case saying  Elijah did not die because he was taken up in the chariot (2 Kings 2:11).    And we're told  that  either Elijah  or someone like him will announce Christ's second coming.     However, if   John the Baptist had literally  been Elijah  then  why  would it be Elijah who  appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration and not  a resurrected John the Baptist?  
 As for John the Baptist?

“I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.
Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Luke 7:28

    Now THAT is mind boggling to contemplate!
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Also from this blog:

(1) The MacArthur New Testament Commentary;  Moody Publishers;  2009; pg. 38-39 
Painting:  John the Baptist by Alexander Ivanov - Russia 1806-1858
  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

10 Things to Consider Before Logging Into Social Media

  A friend I’ve known  in “real life” since she was a  child married a Christian  man she met online several years ago.     Last  Christmas this couple  traveled to the Ukraine during the Kiev riots  and  brought home a   frail  special needs  baby girl whom  the doctors predicted  would  die.    Their family and friends  prayed for  them throughout their  white knuckle ordeal  as the couple navigated  political upheavals,  frustrating legal procedures,  and  most of all  serious medical   challenges.     Through the avenue of  social media hundreds of people were praying around the clock and around  world for them.    Today they are  blessed with a  thriving and happy child in their home. 
  Social media may be a contemporary phenomenon but as Christians I don’t think it’s necessary  for us to have as much angst over it as we do.     After all,  there really is nothing new under the sun right?       While there’s no question that using social media can put  our Christian character to the test,   is it not  really just  a matter of  applying the Scriptures the same way  we do in in every area of life?
   I admit that  I  haven’t  always made the wisest choices  online and have had to delete and even apologize for things I’ve posted.    So here’s a few questions I try to keep in mind  when communicating online. 
1.  Do I check Facebook or other social media before I seek the Lord?
 In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch."  Psalm 5:3
2.  Is my speech gracious?  
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”  Col. 4:6 
3.  Do I consider how my words as a Christian might affect my wide variety of friends which includes unbelievers? 
 Perhaps those intramural debates among Christians might be better left for other places such as pages devoted to those subjects.   Think about this—would  we go to our non Christian neighbor’s house and start  sharing the church's dirty laundry?
 “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Mat. 10:16   “we are ambassadors of Christ” 2 Cor. 5:20
4.  Do I really need to add my 2 cents to  the  myriad of  other  types of  truly ridiculous arguments?
 “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.   Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”  Proverbs 24:4-5 
5.   Am I being a busy-body by spending an inordinate amount of time “visiting” online?
 “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” Proverbs 25:17 
6.   Is it wise to  vent my anger about things  publicly even if the cause seems worthwhile?  
For the Gospel's sake is it really worth alienating our non Christian friends over our opinions about things like Obamacare or other contemporary debates?   ( I am not referring to subjects like human injustice; ie:  abortion, abuse, terrorism, etc. - but I am talking about having hateful speech regardless of  what the subject is.)
 “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11 
7.  Am I bragging about my accomplishments?
 “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2 
8.   Am I neglecting my work to play online?
 “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.”  Proverbs 18:9 
9.  Do I ever stop to pray before engaging online? 
 It’s crazy to consider how much prayer and thought  I  give  before speaking to a group of women in person and  none when I post something that hundreds of people will be viewing.   Have you ever considered praying  for each of your Facebook friends? 
  “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”  Psalm 141:3
10.  Why am I even online?
Is  it merely for my own enjoyment or is it to glorify God  with the hope that  my Christians friends might  be encouraged and my non believing friends will come to the Savior?  
 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,  just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”   I Cor. 10:31-33

In short, social media like any other form of communication,  can be used for good when it's used judiciously.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Silence, the Septuagint, and a Promise Fulfilled

By Diane Bucknell
  The time period between Malachi and Luke is known  as the Intertestamental period and “The  400 Silent Years”.  God didn’t  communicate to the Jewish people directly during that time and the Old Testament canon closed around 430 BC  with the prophetic words of Malachi:
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.  He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6)
 The silence was broken in 6 BC when the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah the priest  announcing:
"Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for  your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and  you shall call his name John.    And you will have joy and gladness, and many will  rejoice at his birth,  for he will be  great before the Lord…and  he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and  the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”   Luke 1:13
   During those 400 silent years many changes took  place in the nation of Israel and numerous prophecies foretold  by Daniel were fulfilled.    Detailed  predictions that   the  Medo-Persia,  Greek and  Roman empires  would rule over  Israel  were so  accurate that many liberal scholars  don’t  believe they were written by Daniel, which of course, would have made Christ a liar!  (Matthew 24:15).
  The Jews had been dispersed and were living in exile outside of Palestine  most of that time.   When the land had passed into the control of the Greeks under the reign of Alexander the Great  in   332 BC,  Hellenism  (Greek culture)  continued  to influence Palestinian culture until the Roman Empire took control  in 63  BC.     Synagogues sprang up where Greek speaking Jews went to learn and worship.    Legend has it that around 250  BC  Ptolemy Philadelphia gathered 72 scholars to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek  in 72 days.   This became known as the Septuagint (Latin for 70) or LXX,  the Roman numeral.
  By the time Christ arrived on the scene there is strong evidence that first century Israel was tri-lingual and that Christ spoke Greek as well as Hebrew and Aramaic  even though it was commonly accepted until recently that He spoke  primarily  Aramaic:
The evidence available today indicates that Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek were commonly spoken in Israel in the first century A.D. It seems reasonable to conclude that Jesus could speak Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  …It is reasonable to conclude that the Gospel authors chose to record things which were originally spoken in Greek since they were writing in Greek”  (1)
  God may have appeared to be  “silent” during those  400 years in terms of any direct new revelation but clearly, He was not on vacation.    He was busy at work fulfilling his promises and paving the way for  both the Jew and Gentile to hear the Good News of redemption through His Son.   Hebrews 1:1-2.    

  F.F. Bruce explains the importance of the Septuagint in spreading the Gospel during the time of Christ.
“As soon as the gospel was carried into the Greek-speaking world, the Septuagint came into its own as the sacred text to which the preachers appealed.  It was used in the Greek-speaking synagogues throughout the Roman Empire.  When Paul at Thessalonica visited the synagogue on three successive Sabbaths and ‘argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead’ (Acts 17:2f.), it was on the Septuagint that he based his arguments.  We see him doing this earlier in greater detail in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch.   There, after the reading of the two regular Sabbath lessons from ‘the law and the prophets’, he outlined the history of Israel from the Exodus in Mose’s day to the beginning of David’s reign, and showed how this course of events led inevitably and ultimately to the coming of Jesus, ‘great David’s greater Son’, in whose death and resurrection the promises made by God to David found their fulfillment (Acts 13:17-37).  For Christians, the Old Testament pointed forward to Jesus; it was, in fact, meaningless without him.

  The Septuagint played its part even when the gospel was presented to complete pagans, like the unsophisticated Lycaonians at Lystra, who mistook Paul and Barnabas for divine beings (Acts 14:8-18)..”  (2)
 “For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek;for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 
Romans 10:11-13
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References and resources:
  1. The Languages Spoken by Jesus by Aaron Tresham   (The Master’s Seminary)
  2. The Canon of Scripture;  F.F. Bruce,  Intervarsity Press; 1988; pg 49
  • The Date and Authorship of the Book of Daniel © 2008 By Charles Ray    
  • MacArthur Study Bible: Crossway;  2010;  Introduction to the Intertestamental Period
  • Graphic design by Theology for Girls using image of  an ancient fragment of the Septuagint  SOURCE