Grant, O Lord, that I may face all that this new day is to bring with peace of mind. Grant that I may dedicate myself completely to Thy holy will. Every hour of the day, instruct and For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things. Whatsoever I may receive during the day, teach me to accept them tranquilly, with the firm conviction that everything cometh by Thy holy will. Govern my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When unforeseen things occur, do not let me forget that everything cometh from Thee. Teach me to behave sincerely and wisely toward every member of my family, not embittering or embarrassing others. Grant me strength, my Lord, to bear the fatigue of the coming day and all that it shall bring. Guide my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love, and pray Thyself in me.
So the king has come to Bethlehem as Micah said. He has gone to Egypt as Hosea said. And he has caused weeping in Ramah by Rachel, just as Jeremiah said. Finally, in Matthew’s various presentations of pictures of the coming king from the prophets, he includes one more – Nazareth.
19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
Josephus in his Antiquities –says he died of this: “Ulcerated entrails, putrefied and maggot-filled organs, constant convulsions, foul breath, and neither physicians nor warm baths led to recovery.”
I would say a rather fitting end for that kind of a man.
How long was the holy family in Egypt? 6 mo – 3 ½ yrs.?
Joseph was told to go to Egypt and wait … he did.
20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
Back to v.13 – when the angel had said “until I tell you…” – now he is telling them.
Apparently, Herod wasn’t the only one. There were some others involved, and the Lord had set them aside also. We don’t have any word about that, but its plural here. “You can go back now. They are all dead.”
21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
Think about this – if Jesus came to die, why wasn’t he allowed to die with the massacred children? Could he have died as ‘the child/God’ vs man/God?
Note that there is no specific place. They just came back to Israel, undoubtedly coming from the direction of Egypt, they probably came up through the south and they would have come to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Perhaps in their thinking, that would have been the place to stay.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.
Son of Herod – obviously not the threat his father was.
I wonder how Archelaus was spared execution?
23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
We don’t seem to have a direct passage saying this.
However, all of the geo political activity was used by God to put the pieces in place … as the prophets spoke.
Now here’s another element in the prophecies surrounding his birth to show he was born a king. He was to go back to Nazareth. By the way, this was Joseph and Mary’s original home, wasn’t it? According to Luke 2:4, they were from Nazareth. They were to return to live out the prediction of the prophets who said he would be a Nazarene.
The term “Nazarene” – this statement “He shall be called a Nazarene” appears nowhere in the Old Testament.
Let’s read it again – “so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, – plural – ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’ ” – Where is that found?
If you are looking in the Old Testament for the prophets who said it, you won’t find them.
Some will go far and wide to try and make a connection to Isaiah 11:1 where it talks about Christ being a branch netser, which is Hebrew, and they say netser and Nazareth – it’s a bad connection.
Besides, you still need to deal with the prophets, plural, not just Isaiah 11:1. It is very remote that anyone would make the connection.
Matthew says “the prophets.” – How would you explain this?” It is simple to explain – the prophets said this. It just never got written in the Old Testament until now and it finally got written by Matthew. “- But he means the Old Testament prophets said it.
So the question is presented – Did the prophets say some things that didn’t get written down?” Yes, there are plenty of things that were said that weren’t written down in the Old Testament.
Jude v14 = “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Enoch did not say this in the Old Testament. It isn’t there. How do we know he said it? Because Jude said that Enoch said it. How did Jude know? Because Jude was what? … Inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.
So guess who said that Jesus would be a Nazarene? The prophets said it.
This is beautiful – Matthew doesn’t even give a bit explanation. He just says “the prophet said, He shall be called a Nazarene,”
This tells me that it was common knowledge among the people – that the prophets said this about the Messiah.
Is the Reformation teaching of salvation by “grace alone” an overreaction to the works-based excesses of the 16th Century Papacy?
Is there, instead, something left of the image of God in man, even if the tiniest spark or smoldering ember, which is willing and able to either call on God’s grace or to respond to God’s grace? Could God blow his Spirit over our sparks and embers and awaken us from a spiritual coma to His offer of salvation? Some pastors and parishioners would love the possibilities that such a salvation plan would offer – imagine the sermon series, books, spiritual disciplines, etc.
I’m afraid there’s only one problem: From end to end, the Bible is adamant that as it pertains to our relationship with God, there is no spark or smoldering ember in any of us. The intentions of our hearts are evil from our youth (Gen 8:2); our human natures are enslaved to sin (John 8:34); and our human natures are hostile to God (Rom 8:7). If asked whether we want Jesus or Barabbas, our human natures corrupted by sin will always choose Barabbas.
What about free will?
Here we can make a distinction. In matters of civil righteousness, coerced by the law and restrained by societal norms, people have the liberty to a certain extent to render civil righteousness. So virtually all people, whether Christian or not, perform outward works of civil righteousness some of the time, while going in the opposite direction at other times. Some people go in one direction more of the time than other people.
But in matters pertaining to God, the human will is incapable of deciding for the Gospel; it will only reject God and the Gospel. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14) It is critical that we understand that as it pertains to God, whether as to love, obedience or even seeking Him, nothing good dwells in the natural person. (Rom 7:18) The only freedom the natural person has is to sin, and we sin voluntarily and gladly.
Why does the teaching of “grace alone” rub us the wrong way?
Grace alone is hard to swallow because it requires us to face our most sacred sins – pride, and self-righteousness. Grace alone means we’re as helpless and undeserving as the dregs of society (we are all dregs apart from Christ). There can be no comparisons with others, because we merit nothing. Grace alone means that God’s love isn’t for sale. In fact, working for God’s grace or our salvation is to reject both of them.
But salvation by grace alone is also the most freeing gift of all – it’s our true freedom in Christ, who for our salvation died and rose again, destroying the power of the accuser and removing the sting of death. The Gospel, of which “grace alone” is an integral part, is more than sufficient to overcome our natural depravity and bound wills. In the Gospel, and by baptism, Jesus unites us to himself in a death and resurrection by water and the Spirit, which creates a new being who is able to discern the things of God and learns to walk by the Holy Spirit. We will continue to sin and struggle against the evil inclinations of our natural person, but we no longer are powerless to call upon the name of our Lord for help, who has promised to hear our prayers, forgive our sins, sanctify our works, grant us eternal life, and always be with us.
So Michael stole my thunder last week when he wrote about the absurdity that is currently going on in our culture in relation to restrooms and the transgender issue. He hit on several points that I had been thinking about as did some of the ensuing discussion:
– The intimidating presence of political correctness in our society that currently allows one to get away with many insults, but dare not cross into LGBT territory.
– The ridiculousness of allowing biological men into women’s bathrooms.
– That opposition to such has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with sanity and common sense.
– That even just 10 years ago, who on earth thought it was a good idea to allow men free reign to enter women’s restrooms or changing rooms or lockers or showers?
Our politically correct culture has become obsessed with placing the needs, wants, and desires of LGBT individuals and the attending agenda above seemingly all else and demonizing those that won’t do so. You are now a bigot if you’re against anything LGBT related, with the restroom issue being the latest hot topic. This restroom one is complete insanity.
Can any woman say with any measure of honesty that they’re completely fine with men entering into these areas? That they would feel just as safe as when men weren’t allowed in? That they have no concerns about voyeurism, or worse yet, sexual assault? Can any man honestly say they have no concern for their wives, daughters, mothers, or any female in such situations?
The answer, of course, is that nobody can candidly say they have no qualms about such things unless they have altogether abandoned sane thought in the name of some agenda. I am a man. I know my own nature, one which I share with many other men. It is not good. And I know without a shadow of a doubt that if laws and policies allow men into these previously restricted areas, that there will be more than enough men who will do so. And many of them not with good intentions.
The emotional, mental, physical, and psychological trauma and damage suffered by victims of sexual assault are horrific. We are only opening the door for more to occur.
Now, all of this is not to disparage those who legitimately struggle with gender dysphoria. There are people who genuinely feel that they are the opposite gender than what is their biological make-up. I am not a psychologist or anything of the like. I am not able to speak on the subject in a knowledgeable fashion.
But being human and a Christian I can say at least this much….. That transgendered people need to be treated with respect and sensitivity. Their feelings need to be considered and not disregarded. They should be treated with compassion and not as lesser human beings or outcasts of society. They likely aren’t even the ones who would commit wrongdoing in restrooms.
I have never had any conflicted feelings about my gender identity, and so it is hard for me to grasp what it is like for those who do. But at the very least, I imagine it must be a very difficult thing to carry through life. This is all the more reason why as Christians we should be reaching out with love and care in whatever ways we can to those who do have such feelings.
I firmly believe that part of the disdain and pressure being placed on theologically conservative Christians by our society is a backlash against too many years and too many instances where churches, leaders, and laypeople mistreated those of LGBT persuasion and placed too great of an emphasis on LGBT sins.
Now certainly not nearly all conservative Christians have been guilty of such, but nonetheless, too many. Mistreatment happens still even today. So, I think the church is partially culpable for our current environment.
So as Christians where do we go from here? I struggle to find good answers. It’s already been stated that this most recent affair is not even a religious one, but rather a societal one of sanity and common sense. We need to consider the needs and feelings of those who are LGBT, and specifically the transgendered on this one. But at the same time, a society that is willing to prioritize the feelings of a very small percentage over the safety of half the population has lost its anchor of sensibleness.
Do we oppose legislation that will allow men into women’s restrooms? I suppose so, but the way things are going, I sadly think this will be a losing battle as time goes on.
Do we boycott Target?
I personally don’t want my wife and daughters shopping there for purposes of their safety. For me, it’s not a hate thing or even necessarily a desire to boycott, but rather a concern for the welfare of my family.
The history of organized Christian boycotts against corporations in this country I believe have usually proven to be ineffective. Plus, I have a feeling the list is only going to quickly grow of those we will then need to boycott for such reasons.
Additionally, if boycotts would prove to effective to any degree, those who would be most affected would not be the corporate bigwigs but all the “little” people who work at Target or other places in efforts to just make a living. That is something that always need to be considered in such situations, too.
I will try to protect my family. I will try to speak to the restroom issue as rationally and caringly as I can. In our current culture, who knows how well that will go over. And I will pray. For the church and for our society. That God will bring a renewal where we have forsaken Him and forsaken what is right and true. That the church would seek after Him and society would work to rightly consider and balance the needs, wants, and protections of all.
It’s entirely possible that historians looking back at our time will find the story of Saeed Abedini to be one of the strangest they try to tell.
For over three years Christians worked fervently to get him released from an Iranian prison.
His wife spearheaded this movement until she stopped, alleging spousal abuse.
She revealed huge discrepancies in his prison narrative, leaving us all wondering about Iranian prisoners owning cell phones and watching Netflix while claiming horrible torture at the same time.
He was eventually released from prison into the waiting arms of Franklin Graham and and new handlers.
American evangelicals, who spent thousands of man hours and untold thousands of dollars advocating for his release waited for explanations and answers to all of these questions and more.
We’re still waiting.
Now there are new allegations of blatant plagiarism.
Abedini denies all allegations, always with a hint of wrong doing on the part of others and possible conspiracy afoot.
Iran is trying to hack his Facebook page, you know…evidently they don’t want anyone to know their prisons feature free wi-fi…
This morning his sister posted this on Facebook:
“Please pray for my brother Saeed Abedini. Two days ago he heard that my niece Rebekka is dealing with severe anxiety because of her Dady situation, and her doctor said she has to take medication for her anxiety. During these two days Saeed was dealing with an extreme pain in his chest till tonight its leads us to the Emergency Room. Saeed in his last interview mentioned that his life in the U.S. after his imprisonment in Iran is harder than when he was in prison in Iran. That is so true!”
There was, of course, a picture of Saeed suffering in the hospital accompanying the story.
Think for a moment about all the reports of his suffering while in captivity…and the statement that life here is harder.
I’m sure his children are suffering…and that’s why he should disappear until his family issues are resolved and some answers given to the public that supported them.
Why do evangelicals continue to support someone who has been accused of spousal abuse, lying, and plagiarism without providing any real response to those allegations?
Because it is celebrity driven…and Jesus simply isn’t enough.
I have noticed that a monster, who’s name is Monstrum Incertitudinis (Monster of Uncertainty) has awakened from its hibernation and is back in its favorite haunting grounds – our churches.
Monstrum Incertitudinis attacks believers by sowing doubt in their hearts and minds that their salvation is secure.
Monstrum Incertitudinis works by persuading believers that their faith is not attributable to the Gospel alone, but instead that justifying faith has to do with either the Gospel plus the Law or the Gospel plus good works. How does it work?
The Law can enter the picture when the Gospel is presented as God’s grace made available to an individual, to which must be added a decision by the individual to repent of his sins and in some manner to surrender or commit to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. God does His part; now you must do your part. This presents the believer with a problem: Was his decision sincere? How sincere must he be? Does God judge his decision on a pass-fail basis or on the curve? This sort of Gospel plus the Law, sows seeds of doubt in the mind of the believer as to whether he is in fact saved, particularly in times of trouble or suffering. Can he know for sure? Does God want him to be secure in his salvation? This problem inevitably draws the believer into himself, looking internally for his authentic faith and Christianity.
But, Monstrum Incertitudinis also works by convincing believers that justifying faith involves the Gospel plus good works.
Good works enter the picture when the Gospel is presented such that God’s wrath is appeased when an individual comes to faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, the offer of the forgiveness of sins is conditional on the virtuous act of faith produced in the believer’s heart. God says “I will forgive you, if you believe in me.” This too presents the Christian with the same uncertainty: Was his confession of faith good enough to appease God’s wrath? Is God convinced? How can the individual be sure? If the believer suffers a serious personal or professional setback, is that God’s wrath or something else? This uncertainty also draws the believer into himself again, looking internally for his authentic faith and Christianity.
If you find people asking you questions, such as: “can I be sure of my salvation?” or “how can I know for sure if I’m saved?”, then you might just have Monstrum Incertitudinis lurking in your church. If you find yourself getting these types of questions, a refresher in the pure Gospel might be the best remedy to banish the monster. Tell the flock that there is only one thing, and one thing only, that we can give to God: our sins. But when we do that, Jesus says there is rejoicing in heaven. Wait, it gets better: Jesus takes our sins and gives us back His righteousness and salvation as a gift. It turns out that no decision is necessary (or even possible). The Bible teaches that justifying faith actually comes by hearing the proclamation of the Gospel (Romans 10:17). Even our faith is a gift from God. Then, only after one is justified by faith can one confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3).
In Christ, God has provided us with everything needed for reconciliation with Him, our righteousness and our salvation.
Therefore, we can place our trust entirely in Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. Conversely, we should place no trust or justifying faith in our own works, commitment to God, love of God or any other thought, which would divert our singular trust in Christ. As John the Baptist said of our relationship with Jesus: “He must become greater; I must become less.”