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Darkest Before the Dawn

“Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” Matthew 4:11

landscape outdoor ocean horizon silhouette person mountain sky sunrise sunset sunlight morning hill dawn dark dusk standing evening shadow human darkness publicdomain atmospheric phenomenon mountainous landformsHow many of us give in at the first temptation that appeals to our appetites? Or at least the second which appeals to our sense of righteousness and holiness? But certainly, many of us fall to the temptation to increase our current advantage, our current position and status, even if just by a little bit. It’s the American Dream. A comfort that we’ve earned.

Our temptations are always darkest before the dawn. Right before the sunlight breaks, we do.

But Jesus kept His eyes on the prize of our hearts for eternity. And everything in this world paled to the nothingness that it truly is in light of His one goal. Redemption.

Having stood the test, Satan left Jesus. Most of us would be thankful just to have made it that far and to finally find some peace. Incredibly though, the angels–the heavenly host–came to attend Jesus. Did they attend Him on earth as they did in heaven? Worshiping Him as the Son of God He is. Perhaps they came to lift Him up in His physical weakness, though not because of a foot-flop contrived by the father of lies. Maybe they even delivered daily bread or manna from heaven.

We don’t know exactly, just that the angels of heaven tended to Jesus in His time of need.

God may or may not send angels to attend us in our times of need and triumph. But He has promised us His Holy Spirit. He never leaves us or forsakes us no matter how appetizing the worldly offer, no matter how murky the temptation shadow that drowns our thoughts.

And if we keep our eyes fixed on the Eternal, through the Holy Spirit we can overcome the darkness before sunrise, the steepest, craggiest mountain and the wolf-infested valley. If we are faithful to the end, we will receive the victor’s rewards in heaven [Revelation 2:10 & 3:4-5].

Are you struggling through something right now? Hold fast to your faith. Fix your eyes on God Almighty. He can bring you through if you trust Him. Does all of life seem darker than it’s ever been before? Hold on just a little while longer. The dawn is near.

KCS

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Stepping in God’s Will

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”” Matthew 4:5-7

Image result for Herod's temple

Jerusalem, the holy city, was the focal point of all Israel’s worship. And the highest point of the temple was the place from which the priests sounded the trumpet to draw Jerusalem’s attention to important events.

Satan is goading Jesus to reveal himself as the Messiah. Like reverse psychology? Go ahead Jesus, you know you want to. We both know who you are anyway. Satan even cites scripture himself this time so that maybe Jesus won’t dismiss him so easily. Or maybe so that he will. Or whichever will trip him up.

But Jesus doesn’t want to reveal himself. Not in this place. And not at this time.

He wills to act in time with God’s good will. Jesus’ divine perfection is so rock solid that Satan can’t pester or bully him into doing anything to the contrary.

Instead, God’s Son responds with wisdom. He knows that Satan is misquoting scripture, twisting God’s words to entice him to flaunt his own godhood. In Jerusalem. On the pinnacle of the temple. For all the religious leaders and devout Jews to see the fulfillment of their long awaited Messiah. The angel guard was meant to protect Jesus whilstsoever he faces harm before his appointed time.

And this is not it.

Jesus applies God’s word properly. He understands that stepping out of God’s will has detrimental consequences and would possibly even revoke the promise. And he also understands that all scripture is to be taken together. God didn’t promise the angel guard so that Jesus could go around throwing his physical self into harm’s way to show off. Just as God doesn’t extend us grace so that we can squander our life in sin.

Do you apply God’s Word with wisdom and understanding? Or do you let the world goad you with misquoted or out of context passages?

KCS

Born of Water and Spirit

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” Matthew 3:16-17

Image result for flying doveOne of the amazing things about Jesus is that he never walked into a situation and announced, HeyI’m God’s Son, I’ll handle this; or, I’m in charge now, do what I say; or, Bow to me my servants or be crushed. Neither did he start spouting his resume, touting all of the messianic prophecies that he’d personally fulfilled.

On the contrary, God the Father announced the birth of His Son through the star, the angels and the kings, perfectly harmonizing every prophecy in its fulfillment. And, here again, God announces Jesus’ Sonship through a dove and a voice from the opening heavens [Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 17:5; John 12:28; 2 Peter 1:17-18].

John also attested to Jesus’ Godhood.

As for Jesus’ testimony about himself, he simply lived the life that perfectly accorded with the will of God the Father. He didn’t have to study the prophetic scriptures to know how to live, he just lived–everything about his humanity synced to God despite having complete freewill just as we all do.

The Spirit of the Lord was on him and reigned in him [Isaiah 11:2]. And this pleased God.

Here Jesus models to the world what it is to be born again of God. Not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual one.

We too can be born of God–born again of water, aka baptism, and the Holy Spirit [John 3:3-6]. Then we are adopted as His children [Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7; Ephesians 1:8] and, living by the Spirit, please God.

Are you born again? Have you found new life–passing through the water of baptism and the fire of the Holy Spirit? Is your will syncing to God’s?

KCS

Called

“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'” Matthew 3:1-3

Cuban, River, BaptismAs we’ve already mentioned, family trees are incredibly important in understanding scripture. Not just the genealogies, but also knowing who is related to whom and how. The prophets foretold a forerunner that would do as John did [Isaiah 40:3 & Malachi 3:1]. But the gospel of Luke explains the miraculous details surrounding John’s cousinhood to Christ [Luke 1:5-25, 39-45 & 57-80].

Yes, John’s birth was also announced by an angel visiting his father, Zechariah, in the temple. As a sign for the unbelieving Zechariah, he was struck mute until the baby was born, and he obeyed by naming him John.

Surely John was raised on bedtime stories of God’s hand in his very own life from infancy. How he leapt with excitement in his mother, Elizabeth’s womb, in the presence of his savior Jesus who was in his mother Mary’s womb at the same time.

But we don’t know much else about John’s early years. Just that we he grew up began to baptize people in the Jordan river. He proclaimed the need for repentance. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is near.

Some debate surrounds the phrase, the kingdom of heaven is near. What did John mean by this? Obviously, he lived and preached nearly two thousand years ago and the human race is still here. Not only that, but God did not come down and restore theocracy as the world government system. So why did John proclaim this message? Was he wrong?

Absolutely not. It wasn’t an end time message. He was called.

Called to let people know that heaven was walking among them at that time. That heaven had bent low and touched the earth in the form of his half-cousin Jesus Christ. People then, just as now, needed to get their hearts prepared to receive their savior. In so doing, we become the kingdom of heaven even while we still live here on earth.

The kingdom of heaven is still at hand. It comes to us in God’s Word, through the Holy Spirit and the accepting of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. When we prepare our hearts to receive Him, He can come and restore them. He reinstates our heavenly citizenship so that we can live eternally with Him.

Just like John, you and I have also been called to carry this message. Are you? Do you live and speak like the kingdom of God is at your fingertips and in your heart?

KCS

Divine Intervention (Not What You Might Expect)

“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.” Matthew 2:19-22a

Image result for dreamAgain, God faithfully protects His Son Jesus and Mary and Joseph. But it is not a physical intervention.

He didn’t give Jesus super human strength like Samson or the fabled Hercules. He didn’t give Him magical powers as pagan cultures purported their gods would do. He didn’t even physically send angels to fight off Herod and his troops so that Mary and Joseph could take Jesus to live in their homeland of Israel.

Though He could of done all of these things, God protected Jesus by His divine wisdom. He intervenes by warning through angels and dreams of angels. And, incredibly, Joseph not only believed the dreamed warnings. He acted. He obeyed.

Joepsh stayed in tune with the Holy Spirit and kept thinking. He didn’t park his brain or spiritual sensibilities, returning to Israel blindly. But he also didn’t need God to dictate every step. Joesph stayed true to the directive to protect Jesus’ physical life.

Herod was a mean old king by the time Jesus was born, not too many years later, he died. But his sons sniveled after the Romans with the same fervor. Archelaus ascended to his father’s throne. He was so ruthlessly cruel, that Archelaus only ruled for ten years before being deposed. And he was the last king in Israel. After him, Rome only appointed governors to the province.

But again, God knew from the Creation of the world what Herod’s son would be like. He knew that sending Joseph and Mary home at this time would lead them, in their earnest obedience to protect the Christ child, to live in a part of the land that was not their hometown. Nazareth in Galilee.

God knows everything about you and me as well. He hasn’t decided for us, but He knows exactly what we will face, the motives that will shape our decisions and how we will respond. Even still, He entrusts us to keep the gospel, the good news of His Son Jesus, safe. To study and show ourselves approved. To keep the doctrines sound. To pass on the truth of His Word to each subsequent generation.

And He intervenes in our life with wisdom, first and foremost.

In what specific way is God calling you to minister the gospel? Are you living true to your God-given directive? Are you living in tune with the Holy Spirit as your guide?

KCS

Jesus’ Humanity and Ours

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet. ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'” Matthew 2:13-15

hand person black and white white photography sweet leg young finger foot small child human black monochrome arm close baby holding hands mouth close up human body infant skin organ ten emotion thumb small child interaction sense monochrome photographyJesus’ humanity is so clear in these early years of life. God sends angels to protect the fully-God, yet fully-man child.

As an infant, the angel appeared to Joseph so that he wouldn’t divorce Mary which could get her and the baby killed. As a toddler, God warned the Magi in a dream not to divulge Jesus’ whereabouts so that King Herod can’t kill him. And then the angel appears once again to Joseph in a dream to warn him to flee with the family to Egypt–which in turn fulfills one of the many Messianic prophecies about Jesus [Hosea 11:1].

And we know from his adult life that, even though Jesus was fully-God–omnipotent and immortal–that his body was fully human–fragile and mortal. He could, in fact, be killed.

But God commanded His angels concerning Jesus, to guard his physical being from before his birth and even to keeping him from striking his foot against a stone as he grew [Psalm 91:11-12; Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10].

In the first Messianic prophecy [Genesis 3:15], God tells us that Satan will strike Jesus’ heel. But God doesn’t allow him to strike before the time is right. He hedges the angels around His Son Jesus.

God cared for the nation of Israel the same way. Through Moses, God tells Pharaoh that Israel is His firstborn son [Exodus 4:22-23]. Throughout the nation’s history, God sent angels to warn and protect on their behalf.

But, unlike Jesus who prayed for God’s will to be done [Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 6:38], the people of Israel were sinful. In their freewill, they rebelled against the God who called them, rescued them from slavery, prepared the Promised Land for them, performed miracles in their midst, provided for, guided and protected them.

They chose to harden their hearts against the One True God despite His goodness and love. They chose to rebel, refusing to acknowledge Him.

But when we refuse God with our whole heart–intellect, will and emotion–He gives our mind over to the things we insist on embracing in His stead [Romans 1:28], honoring our freedom to choose, and we suffer the natural spiritual, emotional and physical consequences of these choices.

And God always honors our freewill to choose. He never forces anyone to do anything. It’s completely contrary to His love to do so.

In His love for us, God continually wills for our good too. Do you live a life that acknowledges Him? Or are you refusing Him with your choices?

KCS

Divine Baby Shower

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” Matthew 2: 9-12

File:Benczúr Adoration of the three Kings 1911.jpgThe Magi were glad to be back about their business of finding the one true king of Israel. How had this group of Gentile sorcerers developed so great an intent to find the king of another nation? Surely they recognized that this astrological sign was no coincidence. It was a divine signal of the most important life in recorded history!

And to corroborate this fact, the star does not behave like an ordinary one. At first it seems like the Magi are simply navigating by a fixed point like the North Star, much like sailors of their day. However, you have to wonder if the star was visible by day, since that’s when most people travel, and we can see that the star literally led them. It went ahead of them until it stopped. And it stopped over the house where now toddler Jesus was living with his mother, Mary, and his earthly father, Joseph. So the star had actually led them for several years.

The interesting thing is that, even though we often think of the star and the wise men in conjunction with the nativity, Luke’s account of the shepherds doesn’t mention that the shepherds saw a star. Instead, the shepherds saw the angels and the star was specially sent for the Magi to discover.

God knows exactly where everyone is in life and what they will respond to. There were thousands of people living in the country where the Magi originated, but no one else was seeking the heavens for signs of God.

After years of pursuing the newborn king, the Magi arrive at Jesus’ first boyhood home. And they were absolutely elated! They bowed before him. They worshiped him as the true king that he was. Even though they weren’t from Israel, they recognized that Jesus’ kingdom was much greater than one nation. They finally gave him the presents that they had carried with them all those years.

And here is where many people come to the notion that there were three kings, because there were three gifts. However, the Bible doesn’t actually tell us how many kings there were. It also doesn’t indicate that the Magi caravan only gave him a single bottle of frankincense, or a single box of myrrh, or even a trinket chest of gold. It just says that these were the gifts, but not in what quantity.

These items had the most trade value and were the easiest to transport in this time period. And God knew that Mary and Joseph were going to need these gifts with international market appeal in a very short while. And just as he appeared to Joseph in a dream to tell him about Mary’s pregnancy, so God also spoke to the Magi to warm them about Herod’s true intent.

Look at how they loved Jesus. They weren’t interested in hording their wealth or turning Jesus in for political gain or even asylum.

How much do you love Jesus? What gifts have you made of your life to honor him with?

KCS