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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us . . . .” (John 1:14).
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:1-7).
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
“And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
“(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:6-18).
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
“Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (John 1:29-34).
It is at this point that Jesus’ three-year public ministry began, the events of which are recorded in the four gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. From the very beginning he was taunted by the ruling religious folks–the Pharisees and the teachers of the law—right up until he was crucified by them three years later at the time of Passover; but then he rose from the dead and showed himself to his disciples and many others before returning to his Father in Heaven (Acts 1:1-11). His earthly mission was completed and with it, he brought salvation to the Gentiles (Romans 11), and he said he’d be coming back after he prepared a place for us (believers) in Heaven (John 14:1-4), and to watch and pray; and he gave us the signs to watch for (I wrote about them in my last blog post titled, “The Gospel Cannot Be Contained”).
The Pharisees and teachers of the law never “got it.” Their hypocrisy and lust for public accolades got in the way. One of the most scathing accounts of what he told them is found in Matthew 23. Yet at every turn they mocked, ridiculed, and accused him and eventually killed him; however, this was in the very plan of God that he die and be raised to life again to make possible salvation for humankind (on an individual basis—not a “blanket” or all-inclusive basis). However, not all of the Pharisees ridiculed him. In fact, one of the most famous dialogues between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus took place in a passage that contains one of the most well known verses in the Bible—John 3:16. Here is that dialogue (found in John 3:1-21):
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Jesus’ entire three-year ministry took place within and in the areas surrounding modern day Israel. He was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth in Galilee, and crucified outside the city gates of Jerusalem (where he also rose again). And not only did he tell us that he is coming back while he was here on earth, the entire last book of the Bible–the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ–gives us this very account of the things to take place at the time of his return. Revelation 1:1-3 states:
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
Many books and four main theories have been written in an effort to explain the book of Revelation, and the point of this blog post is not to add any more speculation to what is already floating around out there. The book of Revelation starts off by addressing the seven churches that were in Asia at the time of the writing and here is a brief description of those churches from “Got Questions?org”:
The seven churches described in Revelation 2-3 are seven literal churches at the time that John the apostle was writing Revelation. Though they were literal churches in that time, there is also spiritual significance for churches and believers today. The first purpose of the letters was to communicate with the literal churches and meet their needs at that time. The second purpose is to reveal seven different types of individuals/ churches throughout history and instruct them in God’s truth.
A possible third purpose is to use the seven churches to foreshadow seven different periods in the history of the Church. The problem with this view is that each of the seven churches describes issues that could fit the Church in any time in its history. So, although there may be some truth to the seven churches representing seven eras, there is far too much speculation in this regard. Our focus should be on what message God is giving us through the seven churches. The seven churches are:
The rest of the book of Revelation describes the last seven years of the history of this planet and is known as the Tribulation (and the last 3 1/2 years is known as “the Great Tribulation”) before Jesus returns at the end of the seven years to set up his kingdom (see Revelation 20 regarding the 1,000-year reign of Christ). Revelation 21 describes the creation of a new heaven and a new earth and “the Holy City, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (21:2). Revelation 21 & 22 are two of the most thrilling chapters in the Bible for true believers regarding their future home in Heaven. As the apostle John, the receiver and writer of the book of Revelation, stated in Revelation 21:3-5:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (the rest of Chapter 21 & 22 can be read here).
Epilogue: Invitation and Warning
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Regarding the book of Revelation, Revelation 1:3 states: “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (NIV, 1984). May those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord not get so wrapped up in the things of this world that we forget just how temporary everything in this world really is. After all, as James 4:13-14 reminds us, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” And as I Corinthians 13:12 states, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
So let’s not waste our lives living for what is temporary, but rather let us live with eternity in mind . . .
Because the time is near . . . .
YouTube Video: “Jerusalem of Gold” (2007) sung by Liel Kolet and Klaus Maine:
I began this blog three years ago in July 2010 as a way to express my frustration in dealing with long term unemployment. I was new to blogging at the time and I was also one year and three months into being unemployed, and my frustration level had peaked as I never dreamed I’d still be unemployed by that time after losing my job in Houston in April 2009. Well, if you’ve been reading my blog posts you know that I am still unemployed four+ years later.
Those first few months of blogging were a real struggle–not so much from a writing perspective but because I had no consistent theme and the posts were “all over the place” (much like my frustration level). By the end of April 2011 (which also was the 2nd anniversary of when I lost my job in Houston), I deleted all of the posts I had written and decided to take a break. I wasn’t even sure I’d ever try blogging again; after all, what I needed was a job and a life again, and blogging just seemed to exacerbate the frustration I felt from my attempts at trying to find work after applying for close to 400 jobs at that point in time. However, three months later, in July 2011, I started it back up again and, as the saying goes (and 222 blog posts later . . .), the rest is history.
This post is about celebrating these past three years and the changes that have occurred in me since then–changes that have put Jesus Christ back in His rightful place in my life and that have opened up my life and understanding in ways I could never have imagined even three years ago. Many of my blog posts are the direct result of those changes. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We can’t know how to live this life in Jesus if we don’t spend significant time in His Word and getting to know Him through study and by praying for wisdom, insight, and understanding. Living on the fumes of a pastor’s sermon cannot and will not change a life, nor will focusing on ourselves and what we want. Getting to know the Creator on a personal level will change everything about our lives. He has a plan for each and every one of us but we have to get our plans and agendas out of the way so He can show us His. There is no other way.
As I mentioned in a post I wrote several days ago titled, “Faith That Conquers,” I’ve been planning a trip to Washington D.C. as I haven’t been there since I attended a conference there when I was a grad student at Iowa State University (1990-91). Unfortunately, a situation with my ankle has postponed it for the moment but I haven’t taken it off the back burner. And, I can’t think of a better or more inspiring place to visit to celebrate America’s greatness and everything America stands for from our past right on up through today.
There is one other place I have longed to visit, and that place is Israel. Israel and the Jewish people have a very special place in God’s heart and the Old Testament is filled with stories and prophesies regarding the creation of Israel and it’s rich history which includes folks like Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab, King David, Elijah, Elisha, and all of the prophets, and many, many others, too. Israel is also known as “the apple of God’s eye” (Zechariah 2:8), and it is the birthplace of Jesus Christ and where He ministered during His time on earth until his crucifixion and resurrection. And Israel and the city of Jerusalem will play prominently in the future role God has in store for this planet of ours. Zion is another term frequently used in the Bible which “generally refers to the city of Jerusalem (and is used in conjunction with Jerusalem), and the entire Land of Israel, and . . . to the Jewish people” (quote source here). That brings me to one of my favorite passages in the Bible that is found in Isaiah 54 (NIV), and it is full of promise:
The Future Glory of Zion
“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children
of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with lapis lazuli.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of sparkling jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children will be taught by the Lord,
and great will be their peace.
In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.
If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.
“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.
Centuries ago, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 30:2-3 regarding the restoration of Israel after it’s destruction back then: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,’ says the Lord.” And again Jeremiah 33:7 states, “I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before.” And after 1,878 years Israel became a nation again on May 14, 1948 (source here) and it’s economy is booming.
It is my hope that once my own “economy” is booming again (e.g., employment/income) that I can visit this great nation of Israel that God raised up centuries ago, scattered around the globe after it’s destruction, and then brought back to life again in 1948–a nation so rich in heritage for us as Christians and where Jesus Christ walked and ministered during His years on earth and gave His life so that we may live (for those who believe).
As Israel has come “full circle” after centuries of being scattered, I have great hope, too, that after some very difficult years filled with unbelievable learning experiences that I, too, will soon finally come “full circle.” And if you are currently experiencing difficult and trying times (and who isn’t?) . . .
It is my hope that you will, too . . . .
And on that note, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite jazz instrumentals by David Benoit on his CD titled, “Full Circle” (2006).
YouTube Video: “Beat Street” (2006) by David Benoit: