The Salvation of the World

THE SALVATION OF THE WORLD

"In your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed." Genesis 12:3

"And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself." Luke 24:27

Scripture speaks of Christ before He appears on earth, if only we will look for Him!

When God speaks to Abram about one who will come to bless the whole earth, He is speaking of Christ (Galatians 3:16), yet Joseph, Abram’s great grandson, served as a type of the one who would come. Think about the life of Joseph and how he foreshadows Jesus.

First, he is hated by his brothers because of the dreams he shares in which they all bow down to him. When the Jewish leaders picked up stones in their hatred for Jesus, He asks them the cause. They reply: "We are not stoning You for any of your works…but because You, a mere man, claim to be God." (John 10:33) Jesus is the One the whole world will eventually bow down to. (Philippians 2:10)

Joseph is betrayed by his brothers and sold to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and given to the Jewish leaders for 30 pieces of silver.

Joseph is falsely accused in the house of Potiphar and sent to prison. Jesus is falsely accused in the court of Pilate and sent to the cross.

In the third year, after being forgotten by the cupbearer, Joseph is raised to the right hand of Pharaoh, and the government of Egypt is placed on his shoulders. On the third day, after dying on the cross, Jesus is raised to the right hand of the Father, and the government of the whole world is placed on His shoulders. (Isaiah 9:6)

In Joseph’s new position, he saved the whole world by giving them grain in the time of famine. "And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world." (Genesis 41:57) Today Jesus is the bread of life in a world that is dying spiritually. "I am the bread of life…the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die…If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever." (John 6:48-51)

The suffering of Joseph can only be understood in the light of God’s desire to save the world at that time. "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, for the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20) We can only understand the suffering of Jesus by realizing what was necessary from God’s perspective to save us spiritually. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Have a great week,

Tom

Foreshadows

Foreshadows

"Take your son, your only son, Isaac, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there on one of the mountains I will tell you about." Genesis 22:2

Genesis promises redemption both by what God speaks to Abraham, "in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed," (Genesis 12:3) and by events that foreshadow His bigger plan.

First, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham – "Father of many nations." Abraham foreshadows what the Father in heaven will do when He takes His Son, His only Son, and sacrifices Him for our salvation.

Isaac foreshadows Jesus. He goes up a mountain in the region of Moriah (Calvary is one of the mounts in this region which is why Christian tradition holds that Isaac actually climbed Calvary for this sacrifice) with wood on his back placed there by his father. (Genesis 22:6) When he asks, "Where is the lamb for sacrifice," Abraham responds, "God Himself will provide the lamb." (22:7-8) When Abraham lifts the knife to kill his son, an angel stops him, and Abraham then sees a male lamb in a thicket caught by its horns. As that lamb was sacrificed, I can almost see tears in the eyes of the heavenly Father who knows His Son will be the Lamb He provides for the sins of the world.

After this powerful foreshadowing of Calvary, Abraham sends his servant back to his relatives in Haran to get a bride for his son. This unnamed servant represents the Holy Spirit who will be sent back to earth to prepare a bride for the Son of God. The servant brings a small sampling of wealth in his invitation to Rebekah, explaining that his abundantly wealthy master has left everything to his son. (Genesis 25:36) Jesus says, "All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known to you." (John 16:15)

Rebekah foreshadows us. The servant asked Abraham, "What if the woman will not come back with me?" Abraham said, "if she refuses, you will be released from my oath." (25:41) The Holy Spirit has authority to invite but not to force. When the servant explains that the invitation is urgent and that he will leave the next morning with or without her, her family asks Rebekah, "Will you go with this man?" (25:58) Rebekah then leaves all security she has in her circumstances and goes with this servant on a journey that will end in her being the bride of the father’s only son. Amazingly, nothing less than this happens today when we genuinely answer the Spirit’s call.

Have a great week,

Tom

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

"Pursue love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts." 1Corinthians 14:1

The world needs more than what you’re good at; it needs what only God is good at. God has placed each of us in His body (1Corinthians 12:18) just as He pleased. We don’t choose our part; we can only, at best, discover and embrace it. This is called our ministry. Paul said there was a variety of ministries (1Cor. 12:5) and a variety of expressions of even similar ministries (1Cor. 12:6). God loves to reveal Himself through our differing, unique contributions to His body, so we must accept our part and learn to honor everyone else’s part.

But the supernatural gifts are different than our ministries. These work "as the Spirit wills" (1Cor. 12:11) and are dependent on His moving, not ours. Whereas your ministry has already been set, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are dynamic. Every believer has the potential of being used in any one of the nine supernatural gifts Paul lists. We are to pursue loving people so much that we want more for them than what we can do. While loving them, we are to "earnestly desire spiritual gifts," those things that require the supernatural.

Paul gives nine gifts and each are powerful when meeting the need of the person we’re ministering to. The gifts can be divided into three general categories:

The revelation gifts: Word of knowledge; word of wisdom; and discerning of spirits. (1Cor. 12:8, 10)

The power gifts: the gift of faith; gifts of healings; and the working of miracles. (1Cor. 12:9-10)

The oral gifts: prophecy, diversity of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. (1Cor. 12:10)

When we cease to love people, we grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), and when we don’t make a place for the manifestation of God’s power, we quench the Holy Spirit (1Thes. 5:19). God wants both His beauty and His power revealed through the church.

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12) Jesus is so great that He can use flawed, normal people to do His amazing works through. This was His plan! We can’t do His works without Him, and He won’t do them without us. He’s calling us into an adventure of walking with Him. Let’s say "yes" to the beauty of His character and to His desire to use us in power.

Have a great week,

Tom

Fasting and Prayer

Fasting and Prayer

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." Titus 2:11-12

To say "yes" to godliness (living close to God), we must say "no" to ungodliness and this takes self-control. More than any other fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22), God points to our part by calling this fruit, "self" control.

But the Lord wants to help us do our part! It’s His grace that teaches us how to say "no" to everything that displeases Him. Many in the body of Christ today live defeated lives because of a lack of self-control. They say "yes" with sincerity to God and His salvation but also say "yes" to their worldly desires, so their Christianity is like a roller coaster.

Fasting is when we intentionally say "no" to temporal things for a season; prayer is when we say "yes" to eternal things. Next week (January 9-13) we are setting aside five days for fasting and prayer at City Church. I am inviting all of us to participate as God leads.

Many of us will go without food for week (I continue on juice so my metabolism doesn’t shut down), but there are other ways to let go of the temporal. What is it that occupies your free time?

Why not fast TV and movies for five days and come to the prayer meetings instead? (Each meeting begins at 6:30 and ends at 8 p.m.) Why not fast from all social media for a week and come to the prayer meetings? Why not fast from your cell phone for a week, only turning it on once a day to return calls and messages. How about computer games? Parents, why not have the whole family choose to fast from something and come each night to the prayer meeting instead?

If the thought has come while I’ve listed possibilities, "I could never do that because I’m too attached," it is evidence that you must do it. "Nothing will control me except God in 2017." Declare it to yourself, to demons, and to Jesus.

Fasting strengthens our "no" to the temporal, while prayer strengthens our "yes" to God. Do you want to make 2017 your best year yet? Set the rudder of this year in the direction of God by joining us in fasting and prayer. Below are the scheduled themes for each night.

Happy New Year,

Tom

What did the Magi See? Part Two

What did the Magi See? Part Two

"Where is the One who has been born king of the Jews…Herod called the Magi secretly and found out the exact time the star appeared…and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was." Matthew 2:2; 7; 9

The magi weren’t at the nativity, in fact, we know from the time they gave Herod that their visit was over a year after the birth. (See Matt. 2:16) They didn’t come right after the conjunctions of Jupiter (king) and Venus (mother) in Leo (Judah’s constellation) combined with the conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus (king) or they would have arrived much earlier in Judah.

To understand what they observed next we have to define an astronomical term: retrograde motion. Even though the planets (wandering stars) continue their orbit around the sun, sometimes they appear to stop, and turnaround from earth’s perspective. This allusion is called: "retrograde motion."

After Jupiter’s conjunction with Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, on September 14, 3 BC, it continued its orbit. But then it stopped, turned around, and came back for a second conjunction with Regulus on February 17, 2 BC. It passed Regulus again and then turned around again and made a third conjunction on May 8, 2 BC. Here’s what one scholar has written about these events:

"In 3/2 BC, Jupiter’s retrograde wandering would have called for our magi’s full attention. After Jupiter and Regulus had their kingly encounter, Jupiter continued on its path through the star field. But then it entered retrograde. It ‘changed its mind’ and headed back to Regulus for a second conjunction. After this second pass it reversed course again for yet a third rendezvous with Regulus. A triple conjunction. A triple pass like this is very rare. Over a period of months, our watching magi would have seen the Planet of Kings dance out a halo above the Star of Kings. A coronation. The association of Messiah with the tribe of Judah and with the lion clarifies the connection between Jupiter’s behavior and the Jewish nation, because the starry coronation–the triple conjunction–occurred within the constellation of Leo, the Lion."

After the three conjunctions, Jupiter one more time comes back to Regulus, but this time meets Venus there in one of the closest conjunctions in recorded history (.01 degrees was the distance between them). On June 17, 2 BC, Jupiter and Venus would have appeared like a single star right next to Regulus. Planetariums all over the world show this as the Christmas Star. (Go to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3077385/ to watch a presentation.) Here’s what one astronomer said about this event:

"Exact conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter when they fuse into one body to the naked eye in the evening or night sky are very rare. And having such a conjunction happen on both sides of Regulus with Jupiter passing over Regulus three times in the interim is unique, and an impressive thing to view. It never happened 2000 years before nor 2000 years after 3/2 BC."

Our text says the star went before them and then stopped over the place where the child was. Jupiter was the Christmas star. Do we know when it stopped over Bethlehem when viewed from Jerusalem? Interestingly, it was on December 25, 2 BC. In the word of another scholar:

"After the conjunction with Venus and Regulus, Jupiter then moved westwards. By mid-November it had passed the zenith and was shining in the western sky, and still moving west. Six weeks later, Jupiter had reached its furthest point west, came to a halt and stood still against the background stars in the sky 65 degrees above Bethlehem. It is called ‘retrograde motion.’ An astronomer tracking the movement of planets through the star field watches not so much on the scale of minutes, but on the longer scale of days, weeks and months. On this scale of time, Jupiter did stop. On December 25 of 2 BC as it entered retrograde, Jupiter reached full stop in its travel through the fixed stars. Magi viewing from Jerusalem would have seen it stopped in the sky above the little town of Bethlehem in the abdomen of the constellation Virgo."

Merry Christmas,

Tom

What Did the Magi See? Part One

What Did the Magi See? Part One

"We saw His star in the east…The star went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was." Matthew 2:2; 10

The Magi were from the same region as Daniel, the most famous of their kind, and most likely had access to all his prophecies. Daniel had prophesied extensively about the kingdoms that would follow Babylon and every word so far had been fulfilled in actual history; he was batting one hundred percent. Daniel had also given the approximate time the Messiah would appear (Daniel 9:24-27) and the mystery of His Divine identity that would invite worship (Daniel 7:13-14). Without that access, why would the Magi come so far and be so sure? Listen to their confidence: "Where is He who was born king of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." (Matthew 2:2)

From Daniel’s time, the Magi were known for all kinds of wisdom including astrology (Daniel 2:4,5,10) which involved looking for signs in the heavens. What did they see that convinced them they were witnessing Messiah’s star?

The Greek word for planet means "wandering star," so there were two kinds of stars for the Magi – those which moved (planets) and those which were stationary (stars). Astronomy is an exact science so we can know today what they saw then. Historians have located the worldwide census and have dated it through three different extra Biblical sources to 3 BC. (See my CD on "The Puzzle of Christmas History" available online or at City Church.) What was happening in the stars at that time? A study on what happened in the 3/2 BC skies has been given by Doctor of Astronomy, John Moseley.

On August 12, 3 BC there was a conjunction (a close approach of celestial bodies is called a conjunction) of Jupiter (the king) and Venus (the mother) in Leo the lion, the ancient constellation associated with Judah (Genesis 49:9). On September 14th, 3 BC there was another conjunction, this time it was between Jupiter (the king of the wandering stars) and Regulus. Regulus is the brightest star in Leo and its name is translated king. So the king of the wandering stars came into conjunction with the king of the fixed stars in the constellation associated with Judah.

Was this enough to convince the Magi that the prophesied King had been born? Conjunctions aren’t that rare so even though the timing was right, I don’t know if it was enough for them to head toward Judah. Next week we will look at what happened in 2 BC that confirmed Messiah’s star and led to the journey the Magi made to Bethlehem.

Have a great week,

Tom

Taking Time to Give Thanks

Taking Time to Give Thanks

"Were not ten healed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Luke 17:17-18

God is glorified when we take time to give Him thanks for the blessings He has lavished upon us. Why do only one in ten return and give thanks to God?

One reason may be entitlement. The more we feel we deserve God’s blessings the less grateful we are when we enjoy them. The one who returned was a Samaritan in a day when Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. As the ten cried out for healing, he probably felt he was the least likely to be healed. When he was included, his heart was amazed at the generosity of God.

What about you? Do you feel like you deserve God’s forgiveness and the thousands of blessings that surround you each day? Or are you amazed that God’s grace has included someone like you?

I never want to lose the wonder of God’s love and grace poured out for us in Christ. Jesus, You have cleansed us of our sins, so we can now approach you with confidence. Thank You!

Have we become too busy, or too important to take time to remember that the God who owed us nothing has freely given us everything? Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, oh God, and make me like the one who returned to give thanks, every day.

Have a great week,

Tom