Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 By the Numbers, part 2


Donald Trump, a businessman and not a politician, was elected President of the United States. Fidel Castro died, the Cubs won after a 108 year baseball championship drought. Brexit, snipers, Back the Blue, Aleppo, Putin, WikiLeaks, Harambe, Hillary, hot air balloon tragedy, school bus crash tragedy. Deaths of Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Prince, Bowie, Scalia, Alan Rickman, Glen Frey, Nancy Reagan, Gary Shandling, Patty Duke...OK enough. People died. Things happened.

Volcanos erupted-

Friday, December 30, 2016

Cai Guo-Qiang's sky ladder to heaven and the real ladder to heaven

You know where this is going.

I'm so happy that the Chinese artist spent all his time and money and creative energy constructing this amazing event. It truly is a feat for any fireworks artist! I'm glad his deep love for his grandmother propelled him. Love surely is motivating. I have not seen the documentary but I've seen his work in stills and it is amazing.

"This is where I want to make a ladder to connect the Earth to the universe," said Cai in 1994, ... Ultimately too ill to attend in person, she had to watch via cell phone, and died just a month later. Sky Ladder, Cai's attempt to commune with the unseen world, was the perfect parting gift. (Source)

That job has been permanently filled, by Jesus. Video Screen grab source

The great and majestic thing about the connection between heaven and earth is firstly, Heaven came down. (John 6:38). Jesus condescended to st aside His glory and humbled himself unto death, even death on a cross.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8).

Secondly, to attain heaven, we need not construct anything, work for anything, perform anything, do anything. We can't. The sky ladder for his grandmother was an act of devotion and love by an artist, a man. Jesus' devotion to the Father who is GOD to do His will meant that Jesus' work in life and on the cross is all that is necessary for mere humans to ascend the ladder to heaven forever- if we believe. God was satisfied with Jesus and raised Him to life on the third day, and now all that is necessary to climb the very real sky ladder is to repent and believe. (Mark 1:15).

The documentary about the life of gunpowder artist Cai Guo-Qiang is on Netflix. He sought to do this fireworks display for over 21 years, pondering how to make earth and heaven meet in fire. It was his quest...his white whale.

Man has sought to build towers to the heavens before. (Genesis 11:4).

But earth and heaven have met.

And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! (Genesis 28:12).

God is personally involved in the affairs of men, sending His messengers to and fro to execute His will. On one day 2000 years ago, He sent His messenger to tell Mary that the day had arrived whereupon heaven and earth met, in her womb, and she would birth the babe who would be THE ladder between heaven and earth. He is the door, the way, the entry.

No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven (John 3:13).

Praise the Lord there is a way to reach heaven. Jesus.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Bible reading plans, choices, personal reading, books!

It's time once again for the annual Bible Reading Plans blog essay! I'm notorious for starting and utterly failing to stick to a Bible Reading Plan. But I keep trying! Alexander Pope wrote hope springs eternal

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 By the Numbers, part 1. Top blog essays this year

It was a good year, fast coming and fast leaving. It seems like it was just 2008, and now it's nearly a decade later. Time hurries. Where does it go?

I haven't done as much as I'd hoped for the Lord and yet I'm sure there are things I've done that I'm not aware of that pleased Him more than things I purposely did for Him which didn't. I worked, laughed, studied, rested, helped, worshiped...all the things. I hope it was not striving after wind!

The Preacher wrote,

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

The end of the matter, the end of the year. All has been done...

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Before we get too maudlin, we do rejoice in His cyclical march of time and seasons. We even rejoice that there is nothing new under the sun. Our God is ever stable, never changing, the same yesterday, today and forever!

As for me, the march of time includes another blogging year. This year I started another, mirror blog to this one, over at Wordpress. It's a back-up in case the blogger blog gets suspended for "hate speech", something that seemed to happen a lot after last June's Supreme Court decision legitimizing (to the secular world.) homosexual marriage.

The Lord in His grace allowed me to blog each and every day, or more. I published over 365 essays that had the intent of glorifying Him and/or edifying the sisters in faith. Of the most popular essays, that is to say number of views, because one particular essay was certainly not popular, are the essays in the discernment spheres.

I write essays in three spheres: discernment, prophecy, and encouragement. Of the three kinds, the discernment essays garner the most views. Of the top ten viewed essays this year, 9 were discernment essays. Most of those discernment essays that received the most views were about Beth Moore. Apparently people still need warning about her. I would hope that the interest in discernment is because these essays help sisters grow in faith. There is nothing worse than false doctrine deceiving many, with the sole exception of dying in sins.

I know part of it is that people like a good fight, and the discernment essays to some are just that. Juicy fights they can wrap their fleshly mind around. But I write them because they are necessary. What someone does with them in their mind is up to them and the Holy Spirit. Discernment is so important to me, just as much as it was 12 months ago at the last year-end blog review and 8 years ago when I started this blog. I'll relate an example of how important discernment is that I'd I shared on the blog last month.
I’ll follow that up with a real example that happened to me in the discernment realms two weeks ago. I write about the dangers of Beth Moore a lot. I’ve written about her numerous times. I was getting tired of writing about Beth Moore. Surely everyone knows she’s false. Surely everyone is up to speed, I’d begun to think. 
Well, someone, somewhere posted a link to an old essay I’d written about Beth Moore. It suddenly was getting a lot of traction. I mean, like thousands of views per day. I received an email from a younger woman. She said thank you for the essay, and she said “this is the first time I’ve ever heard anything bad about Beth Moore.” I wept in gratitude that the Spirit is so faithful. So yes, I point fingers, and I always will.
I was speaking with a young lady the other day about this and she said she didn't know until recently there were problems with Beth Moore. So, discernment will continue.

Overall, I hope that every encouraging article, every discernment lesson, every prophecy explained, glorifies Jesus and helps someone out there. With that, here are the top ten viewed essays in 2016 on The End Time. After those, my own personal top favorite essays :)

10. "Anyone can find the dirt in someone"... How Facebook helps twist God's Word
Facebook memes using God's careful. Facebook is wonderful for perpetuating false teaching and ridiculous memes. I'd written,
No matter what translation you look at the verse in, the sentiment expressed on the photo is not the same as the one stated in the Word. Every translation mentions evil, but the scripture photo mentions only good. ... That's the trouble with Twitter, Facebook, etc. Only half the verse is shown. Or it's ripped from its context (Jeremiah 29:11 comes immediately to mind).

9. Here is the one non-discernment essay that made the top ten. Kay Cude is a Texas poet, an elder woman with wisdom in her mind and love for Jesus in her heart. He gave her a talent for combining the two in poetic language, and I've been blessed to be the recipient of it and allowed to publish her work here.

Here is an excerpt

8. Most of the discernment essays had to do with the ubiquitous and ever false Beth Moore. I cannot wait until the Lord stops her mouth. (Titus 1:11). This essay looks at the story she often tells, The Hairbrush. I have a personal connection to this story via her LPM lesson and a ladies retreat.

Discernment Lesson: Deconstructing Beth Moore's most popular story
A third way to look at this popular story of course is to compare it directly to scripture. It's hard to know exactly where to start because Moore doesn't teach scripture. She teaches feelings, events, and stories. Joel Osteen waves his Bible at the beginning of every broadcast. The crawl along the bottom of the TV flashes scripture addresses, but Osteen never really says what the scripture is about. Thus he and Moore and others look like they are teaching the Bible, but they really aren't.

7. Unbiblical divorce is an issue in Christendom. Two high-profile ministry parents, James R. White and Beth Moore, had daughters who divorced. One did so biblically nad publicly in 2016 and one did so secretly and quietly in 2013. This essay looked at both dovorces from women who say they are in the faith.

Two divorce cases: Summer White and Melissa Moore

6. Beth Moore again. People must need constant teaching as to why this dangerous woman must be avoided. This essay received over 4000 views. It's a biblical look at the verse in Matthew 18:18–20 about what we bind on earth is bound in heaven, and how Moore's increasing Charismaticism is destructive to solid exposition-

Beth Moore binding prayers

5. I looked at a sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Beth Moore teaching the exact same verse, and showed through a point-by-point discernment lesson how Moore's varied from scripture, and why. Though it is helpful and biblical to point fingers at false teachers and warn, it is more helpful to show why and how. I seek to do that. However, be it known that I have no problem with pointing fingers, naming names, or warning incessantly in discernment for the protection and help of the weaker sisters. I am unapologetic and unhesitating about that, because the Bible tells us to do it, and because it is a spiritual gift the Holy Spirit delivered to me.

Discernment Lesson: Comparing a Beth Moore & Martyn Lloyd Jones teaching on on the same verse

4. Ravi Zacharias. What a sad essay I had to write with that one. No one is above being looked at for their teaching, if they claim to speak God's words and do any evangelizing, witnessing, or missionary work etc., on His behalf. Ambassadors must be examined to see if they are:

A. Teaching rightly according to the word (not twisting or introducing false doctrine as per 2 Timothy 2:15),
B. Delivering the King's FULL message (Acts 20:27).

Was there any part of God's word Paul shrank from delivering? Was there any message Paul felt was too delicate, too incendiary, too strong for the people to hear? Was there any message Paul felt was not a  part of contending for the faith? No. However, there is much from the Word that Zacharias will not speak. My essay shared that, plus looked as his lack of discernment in partnering with heretics and also endeavoring in rhetoric and fine sounding arguments from philosophy. This essay resonated. It received almost 10,000 views.

On Discerning Ravi Zacharias: It's time to say what needs to be said

3. My little blog gets help from some other bloggers when they link to mine. Thanks, fellow bloggers! Someone linked to this one, and it received over 12,000 views. Thank you so much!

The problem with tolerating false teachers is...
A friend and I were talking about the younger church generation. A kind of "Kids these days" conversation, lol. She said, "They've been swimming in Beth Moore stuff for so long they don't know if they are even in troubled water." She and I, and others I've spoken with, notice the younger generation of 16-25 year olds simply do not have a solid theological grounding. They do not approach Bible study credibly. They infuse it with feelings, mysticism, romanticism, and subjective experience. They think this is the norm.
This is wrong.
And it is our fault.

Home and Garden TV (HGTV) presently has on its schedule a very popular show called "Fixer Upper." Its hosts are Chip and Joanna Gaines, a married couple from Waco Texas. The show gained popularity because of its wholesomeness and the design of the home-stager Joanna. It gained more popularity when local Baylor University and Gaines Alum Joanna partnered to produce a testimony video which allegedly shared her Christian faith. I was troubled by what I'd heard and seen in the video and more troubled when I'd watched three seasons of Fixer Upper straight through. The Gaines lifestyle didn't seem to match up with what they were saying in interviews and videos and articles and on their show. So...I did two articles which looked first at Joanna's testimony, and secondly at their life compared to the Bible and to what they say. To this day, these essays are the most popularly viewed on the blog. Number two received 18,410 views.

2. Looking at HGTV's Fixer Upper Joanna Gaines' testimony: Christianity, or Prosperity Gospel?
Several years ago a Waco business developer/realty/design/construction company generally named Magnolia run by Chip and Joanna Gaines were contacted to star in a HGTV fixer upper show. The first episode aired in April 2014 and has become an instant hit for the network. Ratings in the first season were through the roof. This phenomenon was largely attributed to the couple's likability and charisma, good looks, and business savvy.

1. Below is part 2, the top blog essay of the year, 91,365 views. Unbelievers HATE lifestyle discernment essays. But we look at both the doctrine and the behavior of a person who claims Christ as their savior. When Paul was outlining the credentials of potential leaders and elders to Timothy, only one attribute related to skill. ("able to teach" 1 Timothy 3:2). The rest were behavior and lifestyle attributes.

The Hypocrisy of Chip and Joanna Gaines

With all the national attention given to folks who claim to be Christians, and have been given a platform to speak it or live it out for all to see, we should examine both their theology and their lifestyle to see if indeed what they are saying lines up with the Bible. In Ms Gaines' case, her testimony was not biblical. That's what we saw in yesterday's essay. Today we examine the Gaines's lifestyle.

Discernment still matters, sisters. Just because another year has passed and we have grown in faith, does not mean we have outgrown discernment. We haven't. Some might find it distasteful, but beware. Dispensing with contending for the faith brings with it its own problems. There are always those born into the faith who do not know. Our own discernment must be, as Sinclair Ferguson says below, "constantly nourished"

What is Discernment?

Most of us doubtless want to distance ourselves from what might be regarded as “the lunatic fringe” of contemporary Christianity. We are on our guard against being led astray by false teachers. But there is more to discernment than this. True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best.
Thus, discernment is like the physical senses; to some it is given in unusual measure as a special grace gift (1 Cor. 12:10), but some measure of it is essential for us all and must be constantly nourished. The Christian must take care to develop his “sixth sense” of spiritual discernment. This is why the psalmist prays, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge” (Ps. 119:66).

Ferguson continues with defining discernment, showing 4 impacts of how discernment affects the way we live, and teaching how such discernment it to be obtained.

John MacArthur writes What is Biblical Discernmentand Why is it Important?
In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.

So those are the top ten essays that the public viewed and consumed this year. My personal favorite essays, though, were

Wynter Awakeneth All My Care

Ex-Wham! singer George Michael dead

The Forgotten Victorian Craze for Collecting Seaweed, and other biblical thoughts on women's roles

Jachin and Boaz, two named Temple columns

The beauty of creation at the microscopic level

East is from the west: cardinal directions in the Bible

I live a small life in obscurity. Can I really make a difference for God?

It was an ordinary day, and the woman was thirsty (I love, love, love the woman at the well story. It's my favorite, along with Hagar in the desert)

God's word goes out and does not return void: Faroe Islands

Relief in Christ, a soul rejoices

The curse of thorns and the crown of thorns

I love the encouragement essays and the praise essays. I like writing them and I pray they encourage others as well. I also love researching the natural history essays, learning about linen-making or the onions of the Nile or the animals in the Bible.

Lord willing I'll still be blogging as much and in truth throughout 2017. Happy New Year all!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Winter awakeneth all my care

One of the oldest surviving poems in written form is the Middle English poem Wynter awakeneth all my care. It is thought the poem was written in about 1340, before even Chaucer wrote.

Click to enlarge
As A Clerk of Oxford wrote on their blog,
A translation is inadequate, though; a lot of the power of the poem is in the rhymes, and the untranslatable negatives, especially 'Nou hit is, and nou hit nys, / Also hit ner nere, ywys'. There are some clever touches, such as the phrase waxeth bare: 'waxen' can just mean 'to become', but it usually means specifically to 'grow' (like the moon, which waxes and wanes; do we use the word in any other context now?). But when leaves fall, waxing bare, it's the exact opposite of growth; it's death and depletion.

From the Library of the University of Rochester, we read,
Al that gren me graveth grene. "All that seed men bury unripe." ... "to put something under the ground, cover with earth; bury; plant." There is no MED gloss for gren, a much-discussed crux, sometimes emended to grein, "grain, seed" (suggestive of John 12:24–25: "Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling to the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit").

Regarding the world's joy...Spring is certainly a joyous time. Shoots and leaves burst forth. Time-lapse photography on the nature channels show flowers veritably bounding from the soil. Flora's vivid early spring colors bring smiles to all who see.

Summer simmers into a dreamy and languid time. One's cares still crowd the thoughts, but they are less potent, their robustness competing with sunny joys and relaxing pursuits.

Fall's surge of color and riotous leaf swarms in wild wind both delight and vex. Stooping to pick up a brightly colored leaf, craning to see the Vee-shape of birds scuttling south, glancing at rushing clouds and crystal skies, breathing the crisp air...

Sadly, these momentary flares of color and movement are soon doused in the harsh embrownment of the darkling season. Winter. No better description of the ground and sky at late fall exists, in my opinion, than Thomas Hardy's opening scene of The Return of the Native-
A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment. Overhead the hollow stretch of whitish cloud shutting out the sky was as a tent which had the whole heath for its floor.
The heaven being spread with this pallid screen and the earth with the darkest vegetation, their meeting-line at the horizon was clearly marked. In such contrast the heath wore the appearance of an instalment of night which had taken up its place before its astronomical hour was come: darkness had to a great extent arrived hereon, while day stood distinct in the sky.
Winter's dark death, dearth of color and lack of life...

Nou hit is, and nou hit nys, Also hit ner nere, ywys; (Now it is and not it isn't, as if it never had been, indeed!). And yet, what a time, the bleak midwinter, to praise the Lord for all life! He has stripped away the distracting color and movement and delights of flora, and shown us His manifest care. In the bleak midwinter, one that awakeneth all my sorrow, He sustains all life, precious but hidden in His hand. "All passes but God's will".

How kind of Him to allow this fallow time so as to see new life resurrecting in spring, just as He came to life from the dead. The frigid season is one that entombs itself but then again bursts with life and joy and color soon enough. "It all goes to nought", for only a season. The grace of this cyclical and everlasting flourishing is bounteous and beauteous. God is in control!

For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17).

The supremacy of Christ, spring, summer, fall, and winter, everlasting supremacy and everlasting life. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

Jesus, help that this be known,
   And shield us from hell,
      For I know not whither I’ll go,
         Nor how long here dwell.

No matter. The dormant seed entombed in ice, fleeting on scudding wind, or falling unnoticed on harsh road, I am that unripe seed, not knowing how long here I dwell. But secure am I that as wynter comes, even a death, I will spring forth in joy and color and movement from the very grave that seeks to grip me fast, but never can. The springtime of the eternity in Jesus awaits.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Ex-Wham! singer George Michael dead

At age 53, on Christmas day afternoon, it appears that George Michael has died "peacefully at his home". Fox News, BBC, UK Mirror, Business Insider confirm. Here is TMZ-

George Michael passed away at his home in England at the age of 53 … his rep confirms.
A rep for the pop star says, "It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period."
Details surrounding Michael's death have not been released.
Police say there's nothing suspicious about the death, according to the BBC.
George was a music legend -- and sold more than 100 MILLION albums during his career.
Michael launched his career with WHAM! in the '80s -- churning out hits like "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Careless Whisper.
The immediate thought whenever a celebrity or local person dies, is always, 'I wonder if they are surprised at their eternity'. Either way, whether the person died in their sin or they died in Jesus, the fact of their eternity becomes real one second after breath expires, and is a billion times worse, or a billion times better, than he could ever conceive while on earth.

I have a connection to George Michael. I'm 56 years old, three years older than he was, and grew up on his songs. I wasn't saved until I was in my forties, so I enjoyed pop songs with all the range of lyrics from sweet to profane, for half my adult life. I liked Wham! and I liked George Michael's songs.

But even more than that, music is so forceful especially when you're a teen and young adult. The lyrics feel almost alive, embedding themselves into one's brain and heart to settle intimately with the very sinews and tendons of the body, becoming part of us in ways that other leisure activities do not. You hear a certain song, it immediately takes you back, you're swallowed in a memory with all its smells, feelings, and sensations as if it occurred a moment ago. At Psychology Today the question is asked,

Why Do the Songs from Your Past Evoke Such Vivid Memories?
We all know the power of an old song to trigger vivid memories that seem to transport us back in time and space. What songs bring back emotional memories from your past? The songs we love become woven into a neural tapestry entwined with the people, seasons, and locations throughout our lifespan. What is the neuroscience behind the ability of music to evoke such strong memories of the people and places from our past?
The discovery may help to explain why music can elicit strong responses from people with Alzheimer's disease, said the study's author, Petr Janata, associate professor of psychology at UC Davis' Center for Mind and Brain. The hub that music activated is located in the medial prefrontal cortex region—right behind the forehead—and one of the last areas of the brain to atrophy over the course of Alzheimer's disease.
The article goes on to describe findings from three different studies about the therapeutic potential the research can yield.

One of George Michael's biggest hits was the song Careless Whisper. It is about a man expressing regret over the pain that his now-discovered adultery caused. It was a good song, but it was too real for me. It was on the radio when my ex-husband was engaged in adultery and leaving our marriage. This life-altering event occurred over thirty years ago, and the pain of one flesh being ripped back into two has simmered to long healed scar tissue, only occasionally flaring up...such as if I hear Careless Whisper again in an in the wake of George Michael's death. The Careless Whisper is a whisper with teeth, ready to bite.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4)

It's strange how life takes you and your loved ones on different paths. Neither my husband nor I were saved while we were married, but eventually I became saved by grace afterward. To my knowledge, he never was. He died unexpectedly 6 months ago as a young man of 58, and I wonder, did his eternity surprise him? Is he regretting his own careless whisper? There but for the grace of God go any point prior to being saved if I had died my own eternity would have surprised me as I'd be punished for all my own many careless and careful sins.

Adultery is horrible, and it inflicts a particularly painful pain that which takes many decades to soften. The grace of God lifted mine and gave me the strength to overcome anger and bitterness and to forgive. The careless whisper of adultery brings pain and spiritual death. The careful whisper of Jesus on the cross is the guiding whisper of my life, 'It is finished.'Even as His own breath expired, He brought life to His elect who are now forgiven in sins. The sin of adultery forgiven as all other sins are forgiven. What a difference in life and death Jesus makes.

Men, women, husbands, wives, I can tell you that adultery is terrible, whether it's the person committing it or the person being committed against. I've experienced it, I've helped wives through it. It is a dastardly sin. Don't do it.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18).

I can never hear that song by George Michael, his Careless Whisper, and not be immediately transported to my old sunny dining room, me with a Walkman sitting at the table doing the bills, and hearing the first notes of the mellow and sultry saxophone, turned up full blast on my ears, my heart breaking, my hands shaking.

My ex-husband died recently, and this brings its own sad weight to the grace-filled heart. The man who wrote and sang the song is now dead, too. One wonders, (hopes), they are enjoying bliss and not torment. My own sins are forgiven and I know the eternity that awaits me. We three, our own unholy trinity inside a song, inside the lyrics, blowing wind borne notes now at long last released, lifting into different destinies.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Repost- From Swaddling cloths to grave cloths to...

First posted December 25, 2015.


From swaddling cloths to grave

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

The Anunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. (John 20:6-7)

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:11)

and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:13-16)

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Repost- The First Blood and the Last Blood

Posted last Christmas Eve 2015


The first human blood shed in the Bible was a shepherd's blood, shed by one who rejected God in jealousy and anger.

Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. (Genesis 4:2b)
And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. (Genesis 4:10)

The Death of Abel - Gustave Doré (1832-83)
The last blood needed for sin's atonement was the blood of Jesus.

and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:12-14)

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)

Chris Powers,

The Last Blood. Listen to it entirely. It builds to a devastating climax.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Saddest Christmas Carol Ever

I've been focusing on Jesus these past weeks. I've written a series on the names He has been given from the Isaiah 9:6 verse, and also a two part series on Christmas traditions. We looked at the Nativity in art. I wrote about the Peanuts Christmas moment when Linus speaks the Luke verse during the Christmas play rehearsal, after Charlie Brown had asked in frustration what is the true meaning of Christmas. I've been making scripture photos with snow and mangers and peaceful flocks by night.

We all have been. Mostt bloggers enjoy this time of year to promote the truth and beauty of the Christmas story. However, there is a part of the Christmas story that is dark, evil, and often overlooked. But it is part of the truth just as much as the pondering Mary and the babe in the feeding trough. It is the Massacre of the Innocents.

Peter Paul Rubens
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more."
(Matthew 2:16-18).

The Magi from the East had come to Jerusalem, inquiring of Herod as to the location of the child born, King of the Jews. King Herod was extremely troubled at this news and assembled all his own wise men to search the scriptures and confirm to him the facts of the matter. (Matthew 2:3-4).

Herod set up a wily plot to trap the babe and the Wise Men, but the Magi were warned in a dream not to return near Herod so they left the area by another way. When Herod realized this, he became enraged. Some translations say furious. Even those two strong words do not cover the depth of his violent frenzy. Herod was enraged to the point he was not even thinking straight. He was totally consumed with violent, uncontrollable anger.

Herod set a command to kill all the boys under the age of two in and around Bethlehem. Jesus was probably a few months old by this time, perhaps one year old. Can you imagine the evil depravity in a man so thoroughly deep that he would kill innocent babies just to protect his position? Can you imagine being a Roman soldier, waking up one day and being told by your legion commander to go kill babies? And you do?! Can you imagine a mother in her home, cooking the flatbread for the day and a soldier bursts in and spears your baby in front of you? For no reason?

The cries of the mothers must have been piercing and loud, rising to heaven as an unendurable shroud of grief.

When Jesus entered the world, there was joy! There was also sorrow. His incarnation was the beginning of sorrows.

Jesus is THE dividing line between good and bad, holiness and evil, humility and pride, grace and disfavor. He has always sparked joy, worship, gratitude in those who love Him. He has always sparked hatred, evil, and disgust in those who hate Him. He came to bring life (John 14:6, John 14:19). Jesus divides. Because He is life, the opposite is death. This is the first point.

Herod's evil was no surprise to Jesus. He knew what was in man. (John 2:25). We are all sinners. Though we may not all be murderous tyrants like Herod, the capability is in us due to our sin nature. Here is the second point. Jesus lived the perfectly holy life to become the sacrifice for sin, absorbing for His elect the wrath which would punish those sins. Though Herod was not forgiven, many other murderers have been. Tyrants, evil kings, killers, prideful holders of lofty positions...forgiven. Jesus came to forgive sins like Herod's. This is the second point.

The scene above by Peter Paul Rubens is hard to look at. He captured the fear and horror and frenzy of the most evil of situations, killing babies. Jesus knew what was in a man. Yet He came, incarnated as a Man(God) and lived among our evil for over 30 years. He prayed for sinners, He loved sinners, even Judas. He saves sinners. This kind of sin does not surprise Jesus. His mercy abounds.

We sing Christmas Carols such as O Come All Ye Faithful, or We Three Kings. We sing Joy to the World, Away in a Manger. Those are joyous and uplifting. But did you know there was a Carol commemorating the Massacre of the Innocents? It is the Coventry Carol.

Below is the US Army Band Chorus singing it in the traditional form, which dates back at least to 1534, the earliest date it was written down. Here is the song, and the lyrics in modern spelling. I like their version because it is sung properly, like the dirge it is.

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
"Bye bye, lully, lullay"?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
"Bye bye, lully, lullay."

The mystery and wonder of Christmas... in all its aspects, both joy and grief. Thank You Jesus for Your life, death, and resurrection.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"When are they coming in?"

I work in an elementary school. We are on vacation for two weeks during Christmas until after New Year's. As the excitement among the children builds through the month of December, so does the anticipation of the staff. This is because many folks are hosting their family for the holidays.

The teacher's lounge talk, the chat in the hallways, the conversation in classrooms among staff usually revolve around the question "When are they coming?" Older staff look forward to the arrival of their adult children for an extended visit during the holidays. Of those staff whose children who have grandchildren, the visit is all the more anticipated. "When are they coming in?" is the question of the hour, and travel plans, family plans, and Christmas plans are eagerly and happily shared. The person's eyes light up, the tiredness suddenly seems to leave their slumped shoulders, and their walk becomes downright sprightly.

I remember as a kid the extreme excitement at the thought of extended family arriving later on during Christmas day. For the most part, they lived close by and we got to see them a lot throughout the year. But it was something special on Christmas when we traveled to the grandparents' house, or they came to our house, and we got to visit on the most special day of all. We'd be dressed in our finest, usually toting one favorite gift to show off to the cousins and share and of course play with. There was something precious about being with family on Christmas Day. We looked forward to it with anticipatory shivers of delight.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, (2 Thessalonians 2:1)

Believers have a family that is closer than blood. Our spiritual family is united by virtue of the fact that God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit resides in us. We are scattered across the globe, rarely if ever seeing or hearing from each other at times. But we are united and on one special day, Christmas, we celebrate the Father of this family, God, Jesus Christ, by His Spirit in truth unique to only us. Paul wrote often of wanting to see his earthly spiritual family, as in this example from 1 Thessalonians 2:17,

But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face,

Do our eyes light up, our step become more springy, our hearts expand with love at the thought of seeing our spiritual family? Whether we will be seeing them weekly at church or will meet them during the great reunion of the church triumphant in heaven? Are we as highly anticipatory at the thought of being gathered with the brothers and sisters?

Remember even as Christmas comes if you are estranged from your blood family, you have a hundred-fold in heaven. What a reunion that will be!

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29).

Our most eagerly anticipated reunion should be the thought of seeing Jesus as He returns for His saints in the rapture. Paul described what is prophesied to occur and then said these words should be used AS an encouragement.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Do we speak in the hallways or water coolers of His return? Are we excited to see Him? Do we relate details of the upcoming eternal reunion with the same anticipatory enthusiasm as we describe the travel plans of our adult children's arrival home for a Christmas weekend?

As we gather in pleasure and contentment with families this Christmas, let's remember there is an even greater reunion coming. Just as the parents have been laboring to prepare the house for the reunion of their family for the holidays, Jesus has been preparing a place for us and our arrival. It will be clean (of sin), adorned (not with Christmas gifts but as a bride for her husband), shining and bright (not with Christmas lights but with the glory of God).

As a spiritual family we will celebrate the glory of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, forever. The love and adoration we experience at Christmas around the tree on the morning, will be translated, magnified, and permanently eternal. We will gather not around a Christmas tree but around the Tree of Life, Jesus Himself, who IS Life. (John 14:6).

As we await the arrival of our family this weekend, let's actively anticipate and encourage one another with the happy prospect of the great and final family reunion.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21).

Christina Cerda, Unsplash. Text added by author

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Repost: Sacrifice of Isaac prefigures Christ: the grace of Old Testament symbols and acts

First published on December 17, 2015.

Genesis 22 has the story of the great test of faith of Abraham. God called to Abraham one day, and Abraham answered "Here I am!" God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, his only son, who Abraham loves. Abraham was to do this on Mt Moriah, a place God initially told Abraham would be a place I will tell you. Not even initially knowing where, Abraham hastened to obey, and the two hiked to the fateful spot.

Theologians have examined this scene and compared it to Christ's sacrifice so I am certainly not plowing new ground. I have no deeper insights. But in this day and age, with fears and tribulations, and griefs and apostasy, it is always refreshing to keep our eyes on Christ. It is always edifying to see how in the word, the LORD God has it all under control and His plan is unfolding from that day to this in magnificent fashion, and will continue to do so.

Italian Renaissance painter Caravaggio's depiction of the sacrifice of Isaac.

Comparison of Old Testament texts with New Testament texts. Isaac pre-figures Christ.

click to enlarge

Preparing for Christ's death
The cross is the epitome of redemptive truth, foreshadowed in the acceptable sacrifice of Abel, foreshadowed in the ark of safety that saved Noah, foreshadowed in the sacrifice provided on Mount Moriah--a ram in the place of Isaac, prefigured in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, where Moses said, “The Lord is my strength, and my song, and He has become my salvation.” We see the cross foreshadowed in the smitten rock in the wilderness that brought forth water to quench the thirsty people. We see the cross foreshadowed in the Levitical ceremonies, sacrifices and offerings. We see it foreshadowed in the serpent lifted up in the desert for healing. We see it even in Boaz, the kinsman redeemer. We see the cross detailed in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. We see the pierced and wounded Savior in Zechariah, chapter 12--all the way through Scripture. J. MacArthur

Scripture is amazing and wonderful. Read your Bible today.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Nativity

Isaiah 7:10-16
"The Life of Christ: The Virgin Birth"
S. Lewis Johnson

I liked how Pastor S. Lewis Johnson emphasized the virgin conception rather than the virgin birth. He preached, as you will read below in part, that the birth was typical, human, bloody, and messy. It was the conception that was immaculate. The art by American painter Gari Melchers depicts a scene more reflective of a birth than most nativity scenes usually do. Here, we see a deeply concentrating Joseph gazing at his newborn son, perhaps pondering the spiritual implications of this new life that promised to bring new life. Mary, exhausted, drooping, leans against her husband sleepily, recently used washbowl and cloth by her side. Is the glow from the Babe's head, or the lantern that has been set by Him?  The scene depicts exhaustion, wonder, light, and hope.

Gari Melchers "The Nativity" 1891. Click to enlarge

Here is Pastor Johnson on The Virgin Birth. from is series on the Life of Christ-

Now out of this marriage there was to come the man who was really God, the God-man, our Lord Jesus. But I think you can see the kind of arrangements that would be made between Jacob and Eli concerning the young carpenter and the pious maiden whose name was Mary. Now, of course, the moment that this marriage was arranged by the parents, it was legal. That is, they were married. So Matthew says,  
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, (That is, when the arrangements had been made) before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband…”
Now apparently from the account, this is not stated directly, but apparently from the account, Joseph had learned of the pregnancy of Mary, whether he had been told this by Mary herself, whether he had discovered it and she had kept quiet about it the text does not say. I am inclined to think because of the statement that is made in just a moment, that Joseph was very much in love with Mary and that as a result of his love for her, the fact that she was pregnant caused a great deal of consternation to him. And I think, if I judge these characters correctly, that Mary had told him of the experience. 
But Joseph, like so many of us, when confronted with such a miracle and after all, there never had been anything like this before; the closest thing to it was the supernatural birth of Isaac in the Old Testament, but that was by natural means, and yet supernatural, I’m quite sure I can understand something of the wrestling that took place in the heart of Joseph. I can imagine that after he was told this that he spent many a sleepless night. He wondered perhaps, “Should I really marry this young girl?” That is, “Should our marriage be consummated and should be begin to live together?” If it’s not true, perhaps I should put her away according to the Old Testament law. If it is true, I hesitate to take her to be my wife for the simple reason that if this is of God and the Messiah is to be born of her, it seems almost unholy to begin to live with her. 
Now Joseph apparently was about to reach a decision, which meant that he was going to put her away. I gather that is the force of the text when he says, “And not willing to make her a public example was minded to put her away privily.” That is, he wasn’t going to do it publicly, but he was just going to take the minimum of two witnesses and carry out the divorce according to the Old Testament. So Joseph apparently had made up his mind. 
Now I would say that this is true because in the 20th verse, the tense of the word “while he thought on these things” is a tense that suggests that the action had been reached. That is, that the conclusion had been reached. And so having made up his mind and about ready to carry out something that was contrary to the will of God, the angel spoke to Joseph and said to him in a dream, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” 
Now this, of course, is something that we can never really fathom. We can only adore. Who could ever understand what it means to be born of the Holy Ghost? G. Campbell Morgan used to say, “This is the holy mystery, the touch of God upon the simple life that made it forever sublime.” She was found with child of the Holy Ghost. That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. So in a restless night amid fitful sleep, Joseph had a visitor and the visitor told him in supernatural terms and direct language that this in Mary was of the Holy Ghost. Now what he meant by this was that the Spirit was the source of the vitalizing energy which gave to the embryo in her womb. 
Now I want to say something about the doctrine of the virgin birth at this point that I hope will help to clarify your mind some of the theology of it. Who would ever expect a simple New Testament professor and preacher of the word to transform the doctrine of the virgin birth so that everybody now understands it in a new light? So I’m not having any kind of sense of transforming all of theological thought concerning the virgin birth.
But I do want to say this that the New Testament does not teach the doctrine of a virgin birth, the New Testament teaches the doctrine of a virgin conception, a virgin conception. In other words, our Lord Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost, but he was born naturally, born naturally. 
Now I want you to notice that I’m not denying the so called doctrine of the virgin birth. That would make nonsense of everything that I’ve said up to this point. I just want you to think clearly that it was the operation of the Holy Spirit in the conception that is referred to here, not in the birth. Jesus was born as an ordinary person was born.
Praise the Lord Jesus was conceived directly of the Holy Spirit, absent the sin-nature that taints all of us. What mysteries the LORD had prepared in His mind since eternity began! What tremendous love He has for His people! O, Mary, what favor you had and what strength you showed in submitting to the will of God so graciously-

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant."
(Luke 1:46-48).

Praise the LORD for all His ways.

Further Reading

Monday, December 19, 2016

Kay Cude poetry: Sweet longing

Kay Cude, poet. Artist's statement on Beulah Land

I think what affects me the greatest about this song is the identifying that His redeemed have a pronounced longing to be with their beloved Saviour and God The Father. Secondly, we will have resurrected and glorified bodies and no more fleshly infringement with which to wage war. And thirdly, the entire body of Christ (centuries worth, from Adam onward!) will no longer be apart! What a great day for us to wait upon! --To look into the face of Him whose death and resurrection became our atonement; He, Who became our individual and personal Saviour. Yet, when for the very first time that we hear His voice as He calls us each by name--perhaps that will be the second greatest joy we will ever know! For the first will be our being in His presence, prone on our faces in unspeakable love and worship, before our King, our Saviour, our Master and Lord, The Christ!

Click to enlarge, used with permission

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Examining Christmas Traditions #2: Wise Men at the manger?

There are traditions regarding the Christmas story within the faith. We have Christmas carols with lyrics that say that angels sing, we set up nativity scenes with Wise Men, we erect Christmas trees, and more.

Do these traditions have any bearing from scripture? If not should we care? If not, should we abandon them? Accept them? Are we disrespecting Christ by perpetuating them? Or not?

Friday I wrote about the hymns we sing at Christmas time where lyrics portray angels singing. I looked at whether scripture shows angels singing or not. Scripture shows angels saying, proclaiming, and shouting, but not singing. Today let's look at nativity scenes with Wise Men crowded around the babe in a manger. Is that scriptural?

Yes, and no.

Wise men did come from the east upon learning of the birth of the Messiah. They did not arrive at the night of his birth though. They arrived up to two years later. The verse says,

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2).

The 'after this' is after His birth, where Matthew 1 ends. How do we know it wasn't the day after, and that it was up to two years after? Because of this-

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. (Matthew 2:9).

The verse says where the child was, not 'where the baby was'. In the Greek the word used for child means,

("a little child in training") implies a younger child (perhaps seven years old or younger). Strong's.

The Magi went to Bethlehem and fell down and worshiped Jesus at his house. He was not in a barn, or stable, or any sort of animal enclosure, and He was not laying in a manger.

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. (Matthew 2:11)

Herod died in 4BC so the men must have visited between the birth and up to when Jesus was around two years old. Later, Herod made a declaration to kill all the children under two years of age.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16).

It is clear that in actual time, the Magi from the East did not arrive in time to worship Jesus in his birth location, which was temporary. So is it unscriptural to set up a nativity scene with the Wise Men? I don't believe so.

The Wise Men did in fact arrive to worship. It happened. It would be unscriptural for example, if a nativity scene had figures such as Moose or beavers, not indigenous to the location. Or if the scene had added figures such as Herod or Jezebel, who were evil and certainly not depicted anywhere in proximity (and of course Jezebel was long dead).

I believe that collapsing time is an acceptable literary license. The Apostles did so when they wrote inspired scripture. They said things like, 'Then Jesus went..." where the actual time might have been months later from the evetnt written of in the previous sentence. "Jesus was born, then the Wise Men came..."

What I like about the birth chronology is that everyone involved with it, from announcement to just before the Family had to flee to Egypt, is that everyone worshiped. Elizabeth and Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, Anna and Simeon, the angels, and the Wise Men. Worship is the proper response to meeting Jesus, both intellectually and emotionally. Our Savior is born, and hallelujah that He came into the world. Though not exactly perfectly historic, the crowd around the manger of animals, shepherds, parents, and wise men do depict an accurate response to the birth of the Savior. However, I understand if some people decide to remove or not install figures of the Wise Men in their nativity, or decline to have Wise Men circulating at a live nativity scene, due to historical inaccuracy.

Jesus lived the perfect life under God's standards for holiness that we could not. Enduring agonizing separation from His Holy Father, He cried out and absorbed all God's wrath for our sin.  Accused unjustly, He was nailed to the cross and executed, thus becoming the sacrificial lamb. Pleased with His Son, God resurrected Jesus on the third day and Jesus ascended into heaven. Now, His blood atones for our sin and forgiveness awaits those elected to ask for it. Praise God He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him! Mercy abounds.

Further Reading:

Answers In Genesis Three Wise Men?

Grace To You: 2 min sound podcast, Where Are the Wise Men?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Our precious Jesus, His cross, and the 'accusation'

Jesus died on the cross. When He was nailed to the tree, the soldiers an 'accusation' placed above His head.

And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." (Matthew 27:37.)

The other three Gospels also note that an 'accusation' was placed over His head, each Gospel stating that Jesus is King of the Jews. Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, John 19:19.

Jesus was 'tried' in two different courts. He had a religious Jewish trial and a secular Roman trial. Since each kind of trial had three phases, Jesus was involved in 6 different legal proceedings. In none of them was a sinful accusation leveled at Him. The sign above His head did not say thief. Nor did it charge Him with being a blasphemer. Nor a rebel. Nor a usurper.

The only 'accusation' above the head of Jesus as He expired on the cross was THE TRUTH. No blot was above His precious head. Only the truth that Jesus was, and is, and is to come as King of the Jews.

Now note the Christmas story. Wise Men from the East arrived at Jerusalem. They sought the babe whose star had led them to the city. The men went to Herod and asked about this Messiah. They asked,

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." (Matthew 2:1-2).

Tremendous truth-



Eventually, His kingship will be over the entire earth and all its people. Hallelujah!

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:16)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Examining Christmas Traditions #1: Do Angels Sing?

It's the Christmas season and the lights are up inside homes and all over the neighborhood. Children are having photos with Santa and moms and dads are hurriedly finishing their shopping lists. Kids at school are doing Christmas crafts with paint and Popsicle sticks and teachers are counting the days until Christmas vacation. Churches have cookie swaps and families enjoy the annual classics, "It's A Charlie Brown Christmas", "Frosty The Snowman", and "It's A Wonderful Life". In the south where it is warmer and more rural, many places host a live Nativity, where animals roam in an enclosure and a manger is set up with shepherds, Joseph, Mary, and a baby (or a doll) for the enjoyment and interest of the locals. These are some of our annual traditions here in America.

There are traditions regarding the Christmas story within the faith, also. We have Christmas carols with lyrics that say that angels sing, set up nativity scenes with Wise Men, erect Christmas trees, and more.

Do these traditions have any bearing from scripture? If not should we care? If not, should we abandon them? Accept them? Are we disrespecting Christ by perpetuating them? Or not?
In this essay from Answers In Genesis, "Hark! The Herald Angels Said?", the author wrote,
The idea of angels singing on the night of Christ’s birth has become so common that many are surprised to learn that the Bible does not unequivocally state this. This example provides a good opportunity to discuss traditions. In and of themselves, traditions are not wrong, but they must be based on and consistent with Scripture. If they contradict Scripture, then they must be rejected. ...
One of the points of this series on misconceptions is to lead us all to look closely at what the Bible teaches. Far too often traditions have been the basis of our thinking, and we end up believing things that are not found in Scripture. We have heard and sung about angels singing on that night so often that many do not bother to look closely at the text.
Looking at the specific issue of whether angels sing, we do know there are a great many Christmas carols saying they do. However, scripture never indicates once that the angels sing. They shout, proclaim, and praise, but not sing. However, given the various contexts in which they are rejoicing, such as on the night Jesus was born, it is possible they they sang, also.

Answers In Genesis explains things from their view:
As we wrap up this Christmas article (pun intended), you are probably wondering if the angels did sing to the shepherds. In light of the fact that there is a strong connection between praising and singing in the Bible, and since angels, in all likelihood, are capable of singing, there exists biblical support for the tradition of singing angels found in the Christmas hymns.
GotQuestions thinks they do. Robin Schumacher thinks they do. John MacArthur thinks they do. J. Vernon McGee doesn't think so. Phillip Holmes at Desiring God doesn't think so either.

Since scripture doesn't say one way or the other if angels sing, we are not being unscriptural by singing carols that say they do. It's a tradition that isn't harmful to a person's faith if they want to believe angels sing. The point of the season is to focus on Jesus, His incarnation, and respond with song, praise, and worship.

AiG finishes this way:
In any case, when we think about God’s amazing gift of a Savior to mankind on that night, we should glorify and praise God, whether in spoken word or in song, just as the shepherds did on that incredible night after they had seen the newborn King.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jesus is the Prince of Peace

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6).

Part 1 - For unto us a child is born
Part 2 - A Son is given
Part 3 - And the government shall be upon his shoulder
Part 4 - 'and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor'
Part 5 - Mighty God
Part 6 - The Everlasting Father: the Father of eternity
Part 7 - Jesus is the Prince of Peace 

This is a multi-part series looking at this wonderful verse of scripture from Isaiah and commentary from Barnes' Notes. I'd said that for me, the text is rich and full of truth; complex with spiritual meaning, yet can be read and understood by children; is a great a promise, one even spoken as had already happened, yet would not occur for hundreds of years hence; a faithful promise, and a comforting thought. Barnes Notes on the last part of the verse, 'Prince of Peace'-

The Prince of Peace - This is a Hebrew mode of expression denoting that he would be a peaceful prince. The tendency of his administration would be to restore and perpetuate peace. This expression is used to distinguish him from the mass of kings and princes who have delighted in conquest and blood. In contradistinction from all these, the Messiah would seek to promote universal concord, and the tendency of his reign would be to put an end to wars, and to restore harmony and order to the nations; see the tendency of his reign still further described in Isaiah 11:6-9; the note at Isaiah 2:4; see also Micah 5:4; Hosea 2:18. It is not necessary to insist on the coincidence of this description with the uniform character and instructions of the Lord Jesus. In this respect, he disappointed all the hopes of the Jewish nation, who, in spite of the plain prophecies respecting his peaceful character, expected a magnificent prince, and a conqueror.

Gill's Exposition:

The Prince of peace; Christ is a Prince, often so called, Ezekiel 34:24 he is so by birth, being the King's Son, the Son of God, and by office, power, and authority; he is so a Prince as that he is a King; he is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour; and he is a Prince superior to kings, being the Prince of the kings of the earth, Acts 5:31 and he is called the "Prince of peace", because he is the author of peace; just as he is said to be the "Prince of life", Acts 3:15 for the same reason:
he is the author of peace between Jew and Gentile, by abrogating the ceremonial law, the enmity between them, and by sending the Gospel to both, and making it the power of God to salvation to some of each of them, and by bringing them into the same Gospel church state, and making them partakers of the same privileges and blessings, internal and external, Ephesians 2:14 and he is the author of peace between God and sinners; he has made it by the blood of the cross, having the chastisement of their peace laid upon him, in consequence of a covenant of peace he made with his Father, who was in him reconciling the world to himself, and he is so called likewise, because he is the giver of peace; of all outward peace and prosperity to his churches, as rest from their enemies, concord among themselves, and additions to them of such as shall be saved; of internal peace through the discoveries of his love, and the application of his righteousness, blood, and sacrifice in a way of believing in him, and in a course of obedience to him; and likewise of eternal peace and rest in the world to come.
Moreover, all that concern him as a King or Prince show him to be the Prince of peace: his kingdom lies, among other things, in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost; the sceptre of his kingdom is the golden sceptre of grace and mercy; his royal proclamation is the Gospel of peace; the fruit of his Spirit is peace; and his subjects are peaceable ones, both in church and state.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Everlasting Father: the Father of eternity

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6).

Part 1 - For unto us a child is born
Part 2 - A Son is given
Part 3 - And the government shall be upon his shoulder
Part 4 - 'and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor'
Part 5 - Mighty God
Part 6 - The Everlasting Father: the Father of eternity
Part 7 - Jesus is the Prince of Peace 

This is a multi-part series looking at this wonderful verse of scripture from Isaiah and commentary from Barnes' Notes. I'd said that for me, the text is rich and full of truth; complex with spiritual meaning, yet can be read and understood by children; is a great a promise, one even spoken as had already happened, yet would not occur for hundreds of years hence; a faithful promise, and a comforting thought. Here are Barnes' Notes:

Everlasting Father

The everlasting Father - The Chaldee renders this expression, 'The man abiding forever.' The Vulgate, 'The Father of the future age.' Lowth, 'The Father of the everlasting age.' Literally, it is the Father of eternity. The word rendered "everlasting," properly denotes "eternity," and is used to express "forever;" see Psalm 9:6, Psalm 9:19; Psalm 19:10. It is often used in connection with ‛ôlâm, thus, vā‛ed ‛ôlâm, "forever and ever;" Psalm 10:16; Psalm 21:5; Psalm 45:7.

The Hebrews used the term father in a great variety of senses - as a literal father, a grandfather, an ancestor, a ruler, an instructor. The phrase may either mean the same as the Eternal Father, and the sense will be, that the Messiah will not, as must be the ease with an earthly king, however excellent, leave his people destitute after a short reign, but will rule over them and bless them forever (Hengstenberg); or it may be used in accordance with a custom usual in Hebrew and in Arabic, where he who possesses a thing is called the father of it.

Thus, the father of strength means strong; the father of knowledge, intelligent; the father of glory, glorious; the father of goodness, good; the father of peace, peaceful. According to this, the meaning of the phrase, the Father of eternity, is properly eternal. The application of the word here is derived from this usage. The term Father is not applied to the Messiah here with any reference to the distinction in the divine nature, for that word is uniformly, in the Scriptures, applied to the first, not to the second person of the Trinity. But it is used in reference to durations, as a Hebraism involving high poetic beauty. lie is not merely represented as everlasting, but he is introduced, by a strong figure, as even the Father of eternity. as if even everlasting duration owed itself to his paternity. There could not be a more emphatic declaration of strict and proper eternity.

It may be added, that this attribute is often applied to the Messiah in the New Testament; John 8:58; Colossians 1:17; Revelation 1:11, Revelation 1:17-18; Hebrews 1:10-11; John 1:1-2.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Mighty God

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6).

Part 1 - For unto us a child is born
Part 2 - A Son is given
Part 3 - And the government shall be upon his shoulder
Part 4 - 'and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor'
Part 5 - Mighty God
Part 6 - The Everlasting Father: the Father of eternity
Part 7 - Jesus is the Prince of Peace 

This is a multi-part series looking at this wonderful verse of scripture from Isaiah and commentary from Barnes' Notes. I'd said that for me, the text is rich and full of truth; complex with spiritual meaning, yet can be read and understood by children; is a great a promise, one even spoken as had already happened, yet would not occur for hundreds of years hence; a faithful promise, and a comforting thought.

Mighty God
The King is the Mighty God and His kingdom is free from all chaos. "God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33), which means chaos is antithetical to who He is. Christ the King loves to step into a life of chaos and not only provide wonderful counsel, but also display His divine power by bringing order. He not only tells His subjects what to do as a wonderful Counselor, but He can energize them to do it—because He is the Mighty God. In Jesus we have a sovereign Master who can forgive sin, defeat Satan, liberate us from the power of evil, redeem us, answer our prayers, restore our broken souls, and reign over rebuilt lives, bringing order to chaos.
~John MacArthur

Monday, December 12, 2016

'and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor'

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6).

Part 1 - For unto us a child is born
Part 2 - A Son is given
Part 3 - And the government shall be upon his shoulder
Part 4 - 'and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor'
Part 5 - Mighty God
Part 6 - The Everlasting Father: the Father of eternity
Part 7 - Jesus is the Prince of Peace 

This is a multi-part series looking at this wonderful verse of scripture from Isaiah and commentary from Barnes' Notes. I'd said that for me, the text is rich and full of truth; complex with spiritual meaning, yet can be read and understood by children; is a great a promise, one even spoken as had already happened, yet would not occur for hundreds of years hence; a faithful promise, and a comforting thought. We'd looked at the first part of the verse, 'For unto us a child is born', and part 2, 'a son is given,' and part 3, 'and the government shall be on His shoulder'.

his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor...

Barnes Notes:
Wonderful - פלא pele'. This word is derived from the verb pâlâ', to separate, to distinguish, or to make great. It is applied usually to anything that is great or wonderful, as a miracle; Exodus 15:2; Lamentations 1:9; Daniel 12:6. It is applied here to denote the unusual and remarkable assemblage of qualities that distinguished the Messiah. Those are specified more particularly in the other part of the verse; such an assemblage of qualities as to make proper the names Mighty God, etc. 'The proper idea of the word,' says Hengstenberg, 'is miraculous. It imports that the personage here referred to, in his being and in his works, will be exalted above the ordinary course of nature, and that his whole manifestation will be a miracle.' Yet it seems to me, that the proper idea of the word is not that of miraculous. It is rather that which is separated from the ordinary course of events, and which is suited to excite amazement, wonder, and admiration, whether it be miraculous or not.
This will be apparent if the following places are examined, where the word occurs in various forms. It is rendered marvelous, Psalm 118:23; Psalm 139:14; Psalm 98:1; Job 5:9; wonderful, 2 Samuel 1:26; Psalm 139:14; Proverbs 30:18; Job 42:3; Psalm 72:18; Psalm 86:10; hidden, Deuteronomy 30:2; things too high, Psalm 131:1; miracles, Judges 6:13; Exodus 15:2; Psalm 77:14; Psalm 88:10; Psalm 89:5; the word is translated wonders, in the sense of miracles, in several places; and hard, Deuteronomy 17:8; Jeremiah 32:17. From these passages, it is clear that it may denote that which is miraculous, but that this idea is not necessarily connected with it. Anything which is suited to excite wonder and amazement, from any cause, will correspond with the sense of the Hebrew word. It is a word which expresses with surprising accuracy everything in relation to the Redeemer. For the Messiah was wonderful in all things. It was wonderful love by which God gave him, and by which he came; the manner of his birth was wonderful; his humility, his self-denial, his sorrows were wonderful; his mighty works were wonderful; his dying agonies were wonderful; and his resurrection, his ascension, were all suited to excite admiration and wonder.
Counsellor - This word has been sometimes joined with 'wonderful,' as if designed to qualify it thus - "wonderful counselor;" but it expresses a distinct attribute, or quality. The name "counselor" here, denotes one of honorable rank; one who is suited to stand near princes and kings as their adviser. It is expressive of great wisdom, and of qualifications to guide and direct the human race.

Our Wonderful Counselor, personification of all-wisdom, guidance, and counsel, stands ready to hear you and me in prayer. Bring your troubles to Him, bring your worries to wisdom personified. Praise His glorious name, one of which is Wonderful.

Prata's Place / Graceful Garlands: Gradual Growth

My title comes from Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland ...