Monday, November 23, 2020

What are the Prophecies about Jesus that were Fulfilled?

So today we’re talking about a very important to question about the great Jesus Christ our King.  The question is, “What are the prophecies that were fulfilled about Jesus?”

So many of you might be scratching your heads and saying, what prophecies? Well, something that is really astonishing about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, is that in the Old Testament, there were all these books that were written before Jesus was even born. Some of these books, a thousand years before Jesus was even born.  And these various books, inspired by God, made these predictions that this suffering servant figure would appear in the future.  And that he would do various things, and change the world forever.

And what’s amazing, is if you look at these prophecies, one by one, each of them happened at some point during the life of Jesus.  Now I’ve personally read that there are over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled from the old testament, written before he was born. 

So I started searching various resources, and found a list of 40 of them, then a list of 100 of them, that’s pretty good I thought.  But I thought there were over 300?  So at last I found this list, and it lists off three hundred fifty one examples of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus.

So, if I studied one of these a day, from today, Nov 22nd 2020, I could read one a day, and not be done until Nov 8th of next year. Obviously we don’t have time to go through all 351 of them tonight. But I’ll show you some of them.

We can go right to the first book of the bible, Genesis, written about 1500 years before Jesus was born.  After the fall of Adam and Eve, you see God giving these prophecy to them.  He says, that the seed of the woman, so one of her ancestors would defeat the serpent.  And of course we know, that Jesus was born in the line of Adam and Eve, and he defeated Satan the evil one on the cross by dying to remove our sins. 

Also in the book of Job, one of the oldest books of the Old Testament, Job declares that “I know my redeemer lives, and he will one day stand on the Earth.”  As we know Jesus is God, so he was alive before he was even born into a human body.  Job knew even back then, that Jesus was alive, and that one day Jesus would be born into the world. 

Job was written around the same time as Genesis, about 3,520 years ago.

But if you’re looking for a book of the Bible that depicts tons and tons of prophecies about Jesus, we of course have to look at the book of Isaiah, which was read for you today in the scripture reading.  This book is incredible, it’s chock full of scriptures about the coming messiah.

Just look here at Isaiah chapter 52:13-15 It says, “13 Behold, My Servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and [h]greatly exalted.
14 Just as many were appalled at you, My people,
So His appearance was marred beyond that of a man,
And His form beyond the sons of mankind.
15 So [i]He will sprinkle many nations,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
For what they had not been told, they will see,
And what they had not heard, they will understand.”

First of all, “My Servant” is capitalized which indicates we’re talking about God.  Jesus came as our servant.  This was written before Jesus was born. It says he will be high and lifted up. What happened to Jesus when he was crucified? He was nailed ot the cross on the ground, and lifted up. And on the cross verse 14, it says his appearance was appalling, his appearance was marred. This happened to Jesus, he had the crown of thorns forced on his head, he was beaten and whipped and was so bloody on the cross he was so mangled they turned away from him in shame. 

Verse 15 says he’ll sprinkle many nations.  And we know that this is true, when we’re born again, we’re sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, that washes away our sin.  Kings will shut their mouth on his account, if you recall Pontius Pilate became wordless once he spoke to Jesus.  Just incredible, this was all written before Jesus was even born. 

God inspired prophets like Isaiah to write these things down.  To point his people toward the coming of Jesus.

Let’s look through Isaiah 53, which we heard earlier.  This is just one chapter.  And there are over 300 prophecies, according to the list I found, 351. Amazing.  Let’s take a look.

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender [a]shoot,
And like a root out of dry ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we would look at Him,
Nor an appearance that we would take pleasure in Him.
He was despised and abandoned by men,
A man of [b]great pain and familiar with sickness;
And like one from whom people hide their faces,
He was despised, and we had no regard for Him.

However, it was our sicknesses that He Himself bore,
And our pains that He carried;
Yet we ourselves assumed that He had been afflicted,
Struck down by God, and humiliated.
But He was [c]pierced for our offenses,
He was crushed for our wrongdoings;
The punishment for our [d]well-being was laid upon Him,
And by His wounds we are healed.
All of us, like sheep, have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the wrongdoing of us all
To [e]fall on Him.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off from the land of the [f]living
For the wrongdoing of my people, to whom the blow was due?
And His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10 But the Lord desired
To crush Him, [g]causing Him grief;
If He renders [h]Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His [i]offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the [j]good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the [k]anguish of His soul,
He will [l]see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
For He will bear their wrongdoings.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the plunder with the strong,
Because He poured out His [m]life unto death,
And was counted with wrongdoers;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the wrongdoers.

So in conclusion, those are some of the prophecies about the Jesus who would come, the God-man, who would be born of the virgin Mary.  But you may be wondering, why, why would God inspire people thousands of years before Jesus came to write about him? Well, perhaps so that today you would look at all these prophecies and be so amazed, what are the chances that one man could fulfill all these prophecies, including where he would be born and how he would die? There’s no way. This is what we call evidence for the fact that Jesus Christ is really real.  So if Jesus isn’t really real, then how were all of these prophecies fulfilled a thousand years later when Jesus of Nazareth was born?  Explain it to me, I’ll wait.  The only way it could be true, is if Jesus Christ is really real, and God really inspired people to write about what Jesus would do many years later. So believe in Jesus. Trust in Jesus. Give your life to Him. 

The 7 Mountains of Influence in Society: Government & Family

 

I love talking about these seven mountains of influence in society. It’s really interesting to dig into this stuff. But unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and today we talk about the last two hills, government and family. 

First, the hill of government. What a pertinent topic, we recently had a presidential election, along with senate elections, house of representative elections, state elections, local elections and so on. So what is the hill of government? Essentially government for us, either allows us to freely share the gospel, and upholds righteousness and justice, or government is also able to block our ability to spread the gospel, and can also become something that propagates injustice, corruption, and spreads and encourages evil instead of good.

In countries like China, or North Korea, or nations in the middle east, you can be arrested or even killed for teaching the good news about Jesus Christ. Those would be examples of governments that hinder the spread of the gospel.

So in the United States thankfully we do still have religious liberty, where we are free to talk about Jesus and spread the gospel. But that could always change. Sometimes we think it could never happen here, but it could. All you would have to have are certain laws that say it’s hate speech to talk about Jesus, or laws that proclaim Christianity is evil and can’t be allowed to hurt people anymore. It’s really not as unlikely as it might seem. Some have tried to create laws that mandate ministers would have to perform certain ceremonies or services that would violate their conscience. That is a form of disrupting the spread of the gospel. So I hope you’re praying for our nation. There are those in our country who don’t want Christians to be able to speak. They’d rather we be silenced.

But in the United States we have these wonderful protections, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and the freedom to preach the gospel. And it’s great. Let’s never take that for granted. It’s a huge blessing that many do not enjoy in other nations.

But another important truth about government is that government can either encourage and uphold righteousness or distort and destroy righteousness and impose evil.

When government creates a law that stealing is a crime, this is a good thing, it encourages right living. When government creates laws the benefit couples for being married and staying married, once again, you have laws that are encouraging godliness. If you have a law that makes bribery wrong, and punishable by fines or jail time, once again you have a law that discourages evil, and encourages good things. That’s why we have laws against rape, or child abuse, laws against speeding, laws against disorderly conduct, and laws against drunk driving. All these laws, if they are functioning correctly should discourage evil and encourage good. It’s all based on basic morality in one way or another.

But the opposite can also occur as well. What do we do when government laws encourage evil and discourage good? That’s when things get really messy. Think of ancient Rome where it was illegal to be a Christian for a long time. Christians were required to worship the emperor of Rome, and if they didn’t they would go to jail. What happens when a society encourages drug use or alcoholism, or when a government encourages bribery or corruption or forces a set of values on us that we don’t agree with?

Government can become something that encourages evil, instead of good.

So how are we doing in the battle on this hill of government? Well, I think in many ways we are doing well. We still have religious liberty. We still have the Constitution, and basic human rights enshrined in the bill of rights. But we certainly do see an increasing wickedness in our country. Of course what can government do about something like that? Ultimately it’s up to churches and Christians to uphold good morals in society. But do see our government spending and spending, there are trillions and trillions of dollars of debt, and it just keeps getting worse. You see the sanctity of human life is not respected in our country in many ways. You see increasing corruption in the business and banking world, you see ever increasing taxes. You see poverty, and welfare and jobs and credit cards and gambling and casinos and drug addiction, the opioid crisis, human trafficking, and on and on the list goes. It’s quite a struggle, and a lot of these things can be either discouraged or encouraged by this battle on the hill of government.

So which is you is God calling to be active on this hill of government? I love politics myself, I find it all quite interesting and I’m always watching, and praying, and speaking with others about it. Is God calling you to advocate for justice in government? Maybe God is calling you to run for office someday. Maybe God is calling you to be a poll watcher, or a city council member, or a trustee, or to work in some form on the government level. Pray about it. And be sure to stay informed, as a Christian, you should be always praying for those who are in positions of authority in government, scripture makes that clear.

So now we talk about the hill of family. And how often have we heard how “the family is under attack in the united states?” Yes I’ve heard that many times. And I think it is quite true. For children to be raised well, to be cared for, and find safety and love and encouragement and discipline, it’s so important for children to have a mother and a father who are of one accord, who are followers of Jesus, who are married together, not just by a piece of paper, but who have become one flesh, as God describes it in the Bible, who are network of love and protection for their children.

This is the most basic unit of our society, the family, mother, father, sons, and daughters. And it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a godly thing. God designed it this way. And it works quite well, when it runs properly. You have the authoritative presence of the father, stern, yet kind, loving, yet disciplining. And you have the mother you authoritative loving presence, kind, gentle, wise, able to teach, strong yet sweet, and so on.

So we find that the family is a hill in itself. And there is a battle going on on this hill, for either God’s design for family, or the evil one’s design for family.

I recall visiting grandma and grandpa, on my moms side or my dads side. And it was just normal to always see grandma and grandpa together. That sort of beautiful strong, unmovable family reality was a great thing to witness for me. They didn’t dare get divorced, it was unthinkable. I’ve heard the stories of this mindset, where it was so incredibly rare, it just never happened. Now you can argue if that was a bad thing or a good thing, or if it hid abuse, but they dealt with those issues and divorce was unthinkable. I want that to be my mindset as well, once I get married. And no I’m not there yet. Not even close really.

So how are we doing on this hill of family? Well, it seems like it’s not very good. There is a lot of divorce and remarriage in our society. That is not a good thing. My parents actually got divorced. I know many of you here who are children of divorced families. It’s a very painful thing. You never quite heal from it. So I don’t think that we’re doing very well on this hill. But also did you know that the divorce rate has dropped over the last 10 to 20 years? Right now we’re actually at the same divorce rate of the 1970s, which isn’t that great, but it’s a lot better than it used to be. So more and more people are actually getting married and staying married. Sometimes we can have a lot of doom and gloom about this topic, but it’s not quite as bad as we think. There are signs of hope.

Maybe we’re just adjusting as a society to new norms. Do you remember when it was fairly normal in the United States for families and extended families to all live in the same area? That’s actually how I grew up, employers back then wouldn’t constantly hire and fire people. If you got hired, it was pretty normal in many professions to spend the rest of your life at that same job and retire from that job in the same city where you were born. Growing up my whole extended family for the most part lived in my hometown of Wausau. We could drive to grandmas, or the other grandmas, or the uncles or aunts, to visit my cousin, and it was never more than fifteen minutes to get there. Many of them still live there.

But think about today. For me, I live in Michigan, my dad lives in Wisconsin, and my mom and sister live in South Carolina. Not quite as easy to stop over for a visit. Maybe that’s at least part of why family has broken down. But there are of course other concerns as well, like changing marriage laws, and changing norms about gender roles, and changing norms about morality, and love, and sex, and children, and just about everything else. It really is a turbulent time to try to get married and have a family.

We see a lot of single mothers and single fathers in our society. A lot of absent fathers, and absent mothers. Whenever we see a younger couple married and caring for their children, it’s a beautiful thing though. It’s great.

So we see this battle playing out in many different ways, from how children are raised, to how marriage should be defined, and how men and women relate to each other, and how society and media view morality.

I think one of the best ways you can fight this battle on the hill of family is to love your family, pray for your family, protect your family, and teach your family about Jesus. I know many of us come from broken homes, and broken situations. But we serve a God who heals, saves, and strengthens families. Maybe you’ve given up hope on your family. Well, I would encourage you to keep praying anyway. I know for me I really want to get married, and stay married my whole life. I don’t know if that will happen. Who knows? I may never get married at all. And I’m not judging you if you’ve done it differently. Sometimes things happen that we can’t control. But I hope you’ll be praying for and helping to strengthen families in our world.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Proper Relationship between Church and State

What is the proper relationship between church and state? Should they be united? Completely separated? How should religious liberty express itself in a free society?

This isn't as simple as it might seem. If church and state are united, one has religious oppression. If church and state are separated, it can develop into hostility between church and state, or the state pushing faith our of society all together. It's a dangerous balance to maintain. As Christians, how should we view this issue?

A close relationship between church and state can certainly be a strength. Think of the positives: Christianity could be taught actively in every school, college, and cultural institution. And for the Roman empire situation, think of the alternative, which was persecution and death for the early church.  Christianity was effectively hated and attacked and minimized.  When Christianity became the official religion of the empire, well, it's spread was effectively completed in many ways.  A close relationship between religion and the state could certainly help encourage a culture of reverence for God and holiness as well.  And it would avoid the danger of our present situation in the United States, which is, in many cases, state mandated hostility toward religion. And not to mention, a culture and academia and scientific establishment increasingly openly hostile to Christianity. With a close relationship between church and state such evils could possibly be avoided.

Then again, a close relationship between church and state can also be a weakness. We saw the example of how power can completely corrupt even the church when the papacy became focused on control, power, and of course the practices that led up to the protestant reformation, like the sale of indulgences. Additionally, the first colonists to north America were fleeing religious persecution in Europe.  The state ordered religions became oppressive. If the King was protestant, you had to be protestant. If the King was catholic, then you had to be catholic. Separation of church and state can be a positive good, that allows for various denominations and groups to freely live out their religious freedom.

My own perspective on this discussion of the relationship between church and state, would be that there is no need for a separation between church and state in the modern way it's thought of.  It's often become a tool for activists to push Christianity out of the public square of modern society.  This is not good. Of course also, there must never be an established religion. But government must always protect religious freedom, and allow for religious freedom to exist within public education, within universities, and within the public square. That seems to be about the best we can do in this world, if we go too far in the direction of closeness between church and state, we end up with the tyranny of religious oppression. If we go too far in the other direction of division between church and state, we find state sanctioned oppression, or state mandated hostility toward religion. But ultimately, the permanent government of the universe will be a theocracy, with one King, Jesus Christ, ruling, and in that time, there will be no separation between church and state. They will be one in the same.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Why doesn't God Love the Devil?

 

Why doesn’t God love the devil?

There is a saying and it goes like this, “No sympathy for the devil.” Have you ever heard that one?  Satan the evil one was cast out of heaven. Some might think we should have some sympathy for him and his great loss. But we know there is no hope for the devil. But the devil doesn’t really care if we feel sorry for him or not. Satan wants to destroy us. Satan’s goal in life, as our enemy, is to deceive all of us into hell with him.  He hates us. 

So this question today was submitted by someone here, for the series we’re going through, God Questions, Real Answers.  So today we’re attempting to answer this question: Why doesn’t God love the devil?

So doesn’t God love everyone? Sure. God wants everyone to be saved.  But what about Satan?  Doesn’t God love Satan as well?  Why does God condemn Satan?  It’s a very interesting question.  And we’re really talking about God’s character when we talk about this question.  Is it wrong for God to not love the devil?

Well, let’s talk about this.  And for this we have to go back to the very beginning of the universe and time and space.  Before God made the Earth, the solar system, and the galaxies, and so on, God lived in this heavenly realm, this alternative reality, in a timeless state, with creatures he’d created called messengers, or as we refer ot them, angels.

One of these angelic beings was named Lucifer. Lucifer means “the morning star.” And we get this picture of Lucifer from places like Isaiah and Ezekiel, where the fall of Satan is referenced when talking about kings who are beautiful and proud.  So Lucifer was a beautiful angel of God, I believe a leader in the angelic armies. But Lucifer was so beautiful that Lucifer turned inward and saw his own beauty, and eventually this led to corruption in his heart. Lucifer became so prideful at his beauty and power that he started to think he should be in charge instead of God. And apparently Lucifer hated the fact that God created humanity, and gave humanity unique authority over the Earth and assigned angels to be the helpers of humanity.  Because we as humans have authority over angels.  The Bible says we will judge angels. 

So Lucifer became prideful, and began to turn other angels to his side.  And apparently God sort of let this play out.  And eventually Lucifer had deceived and gotten one third of the angels to join him.  And it says in Revelation 12:7-9:

 

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world - he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (NRSV, Revelation 12:7-9)

And Jesus himself said,  “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” (NRSV, Luke 10:18)

So Lucifer rebelled against God, started a general insurrection against God, fought against God, and was defeated, and thrown down to the Earth.  Lucifer then became Satan, which means in Greek or Hebrew “the adversary.”  So we have Satan and his demons, which were those that followed his rebellion, and we battle against them as the church of Christ on Earth.  And they are constantly attacking us, but all we have to do is speak the name of Jesus and they flee in Jesus name.

Additionally, and again we don’t know the exact order of events, but Satan came as the serpent in the garden, to tempt Adam and Eve to sin against God.  And of course we know that Adam and Eve listened to the lies of Satan and ate the forbidden fruit.  And all of humanity fell into sin as a result.

Now, here’s the question.  Despite the fact that Adam and Eve lived with God in the garden of Eden, they sinned against God, and were cast out of the garden. And the earth became an evil fallen place.  But, despite this, we today still have the chance to repent, turn away from our sins, and put our faith in Jesus Christ, and follow Him.

That door is open right now.  It’s open from the moment we are born, to the moment right before we die.  Anytime in there, we can receive Jesus Christ.  But, after we die, the time period is up. The window is closed, the door is closed, and final judgment is rendered. 

But if Adam and Eve, and the rest of humanity could still be forgiven for their sins and turn to faith in God, then why couldn’t Satan or his demons do the same thing?  Couldn’t Satan put his faith in Christ, repent of his sins, and then be saved?  The answer to that is no, actually. 

For some reason, demons cannot be redeemed.  Perhaps it’s because they lived in the direct presence of God.  They were with God.  None of us have seen God.  But these angels lived with God in heaven.  Maybe it’s because they are angels, they are not humans, so the rules are different for them.  I don’t really know.  But God doesn’t love the demons or the Satan.  They are only evil. There is no good in them.  And they will play on our sympathies to deceive us. Believe it.

There are many thousands and thousands of people out there who worship Satan, and think that Satan is going to share his kingdom with them when they get to hell. But guess what? When they get to hell, Satan is going to tell them, “You think I’m going to share my power with you?  I hate you as much as I hate Christians.”

The Bible tells us something very important: It says, hate what is evil, cling to what is good.  And it says woe to those who call good evil and evil good. Sometimes we take this concept of “love” a little too far.  Sometimes we take our sympathies just a little too far.  We have an enemy, with an army, Satan and his demons.  They are doing everything they can to make sure we don’t get to heaven. Don’t pity them.  Don’t fear them. Fight against them in the name of Jesus Christ.  Because they will be fighting against you.  There is no hope for the devil. And God doesn’t love the devil.  Our adversary is dangerous, and we need to fight him, not pity him.  He doesn’t pity us. 

Did God once love Lucifer? I’m sure God loved Lucifer dearly.  And I’m sure it’s heartbreaking to God to see Lucifer become Satan and try to destroy the humanity he loves and made. But there window is closed for Satan. But it’s open for you and me.

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