ADVENT Story Revealed part 11

Tradition or What the Bible Really Say

As far as I can remember, in every traditional Christmas story heard, read and viewed, I always found Joseph and a very pregnant Mary traveling to Bethlehem on a skinny donkey. When they arrive, they find no public inn available because of over-crowding except for a space in a stable already inhabited by a cow, a donkey and some sheep. Just as Mary was about to give birth, the Bethlehem Star would burst through a hole in the roof to shine upon the newly born baby Jesus. Then shepherds would come first then the three wise men.

This version of the Christmas Nativity story, according to tradition, was first illustrated like this during the Dark Ages by the legendary, Francis of Assisi.

I must admit that I had always found this version quite magical but was it biblical? I mean, was it presented the way the Lord God intended? Let us see…

Luke 2:4-5
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

The verses above only narrated the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem with no other clear description on what was their mode of transportation or the conditions of the journey.

It may be that they did travel by donkey as tradition suggests. However, there are other considerations found in Scripture that may add to their journey story.

Nazareth is found in the region of Galilee which is about 80 miles as the crows flies to Bethlehem. At most traveling there by donkey using the established roads would take about 3 days trip. But Joseph and Mary being Jews were faced with a more arduous journey. Why? Let’s look at this map of Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth.

Joseph and Mary could not take the shorter and more direct route because to do so, they would have to travel through the region of Samaria. Jews avoid travelling through Samaritan territory. Why? The people of Samaria were hated by the Jews. [To fully understand the enmity between these two people, you can open your Bible in several books of the Old Testament.]

So, what would be their route? Let’s look at the map again.

As Jews, they would have skirted the Samaritan territory by taking the much more longer and risky route. This would mean at least a week’s journey time through hazardous country. Considering this added information, I really doubted that Mary could have ridden on the bony back of an ass 20 miles a day for a week or so. More than likely, she rode on a cart accompanied with other folks making the same trek to Judea.

So, they reached Bethlehem…

Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the stories told and the movies I watched, Mary and Joseph always arrived in despiration to find lodgings because of extreme labor pains. But if you consider closely the words of Luke 2:6, ‘While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.’ I believe that what was implied was that they were already in Bethlehem for at least a day or so.

How about Jesus being born in a stable because there was no more room in the inn?

People got the idea of the stable mainly because the baby was laid in a manger. Understandable but in truth, not exactly accurate. Where the Bible only offered conjecture, archaeology may shed some light.

Based on archaeological digs in Bethlehem, the average houses looked almost like the image below.

What they unearth was that inside the house was an area for living, eating and sleeping. This living area part was on a large raised platform. The sunken area was reserved mostly for the household’s livestock which were usually kept indoors during the winter time.

Mary (in all probability) gave birth in the sunken area of a first century Bethleheman house which probably belonged to the kin of Joseph who readily took them in. By the way, the ‘inn’, in actuality, is usually the upper room or guest room built on the roof which was already occupied by another kin folk of Joseph who arrived there first. Hence the reason ‘there was no room for them in the inn’ (vs7). Fortunately for Joseph, there were enough female kin to help with the birth.

Praise the Lord God who always provide.

In my next post, we’ll talk about the part played by the shepherd and exactly who it is who was born in such humbling conditions.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 10

God’s Will Be Done [continued]

Imagine, if you will, God going over His checklist of things that are done and things yet to be done.

  • Sent angel to Zecharias.
  • Blessed a barren woman named Elizabeth to become pregnant in her old age.
  • Indwelled the child of Zecharias & Elizabeth with His Holy Spirit while still in the womb.
  • Sent angel to Mary.
  • Conception in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit.
  • Sent a dream to Joseph to protect Mary and unborn child.

Then God looks at the next item to be checked, but then He pauses for the next item was suppose to be…

  • Jesus born in Bethlehem

But there is a problem! Mary and Joseph are still in the northern village of Nazareth. Bethlehem, on the other hand, is located far to the south; about 3 days of arduous traveling time. Not too safe for a nine months pregnant woman who is quite ready to deliver.

So, Jesus is born in Nazareth, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the Lord God declared that he is to be born in Bethlehem. It’s written in Scripture… So, His will must get done

Micah 5:2
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”

In truth, God saw all this before it ever happened. His solution was to use a most unlikely of person, the emperor of Rome.

Luke 2:1-3
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

This should be a reminder to us on how great our God is. For…

Psalm 22:28
For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations.

So, meanwhile…

Luke 2:4-5
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

In tomorrow’s post, we will compare the traditional way of the Christmas story to what the Bible actually say.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 9

God’s Will Be Done

In the beginning of the prayer that Jesus taught the Apostles were these words.

Matthew 6:10b
‘Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’

As we continue our Christmas tale, allow me to bring to light how the Lord’s will got done.

Luke 1:26-35
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

Let’s talk about the virgin birth. First, it was planned…

Isaiah 7:14
… the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Second, it was crucial for our salvation. How?

Let’s understand that God had set only one way for mankind to avoid eternal damnation and that is for one of us to pay for it through sacrifice of life. The problem is that the one who is to be sacrificed must be completely without Sin. This Sin was passed down by Adam and so, every human born of man and woman was born in sin. This is why we are not qualified to pay for the penalty of sin.

But then Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

1 John 3:5
You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.

Now, after the angel made this incredible news…

Luke 1:38
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

There are many that may not know that this conception may actually put a dent in God’s plans. Let’s read…

Matthew 1:18
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, Mary was found to be with child who was not Joseph’s. If the conception by the Holy Spirit is not believed, people can only conclude that Mary was unfaithful and cheated on Joseph. After the angel’s visit, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child (miraculously). When she returned, she was already 3 months pregnant and obviously showing. This was a problem for her, the unborn Messiah and God’s plan. How?

Leviticus 20:10
If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

According to the Law, Mary could have been stoned to death.

Matthew 1:19
And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

But sending her away was not God’s will.

Matthew 1:20-25
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

In my next post, we will continue to look over God’s will being done.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 8

Is Jesus the Legitimate Messiah?

If I were an enemy of God, I would make it a point in casting doubt on the credibility of Jesus of Nazareth. I’d especially challenge his messiahship. By the way, this is exactly what the Devil is doing even in Christmas time. But God who is by far wiser than all had already thought of this. Do you recall His plan. Yes, ‘The Plan’ for our salvation.

We already saw part of His plan coming into fruition with the angel visiting Zecharias. The next stage is…

Luke 1:26-28
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Ok… Some questions need to be asked before we can go forward.

  • Why would God send His most important angel to this girl?
  • Who was Mary? At that matter, who was Joseph?
  • And how were they part of God’s plan especially in regards to Jesus’ messiahship?

As part of God’s intricate plan, He had chosen a specific family… a family line that went from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Judah then many generations later to a shepherd boy who slew a giant and became the greatest king of Israel. Of course, we’re talking about King David.

Now, if you want to read David’s entire story, you can open your Bible at the 1st & 2nd books of Samuel, the 1st book of Kings and the 1st book of Chronicles. For our purposes, let us look at what God said about David.

Acts 13:22
After removing Saul, He raised up David as their king and testified about him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after My own heart; he will carry out My will in its entirety.’

Saul, by the way, was Israel’s first king before David, but he had failed God big time. God loved David so much that He gave him this promise.

2 Samuel 7:12-13
When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

Since the time that David passed the people expected the Messiah who is to be their forever king. So, how did Joseph and especially Mary came to be legitimately the royal link?

Let us look at their geneology.

From a legality point of view, no one can deny about Jesus lineage. Even if they did not believe in the virgin conception, Joseph’s choice to keep Mary as wife, made Jesus’ birth as his.

Just before Christmas Eve, we will continue this advent story on how God fulfilled His prophecies on the birth of His son.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 7

Birth of the King’s Herald

In history, every important person entering a city, a building was always preceded by a herald. The herald’s functions is tell the people those things they needed to know about the visiting VIP.

  • In Buckingham Palace, the entry of the queen is preceded by the royal page announcing “Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
  • In the Supreme Courtroom, the entry of the highest judge is announced by the court bailer with a title like this: All stand to The Honorable (full name), Chief Justice of the United States.

In this advent story, the Lord inspired Luke (a New Testament author) to start his Gospel not with the birth of the King of kings but with birth of His herald.

Luke 1:5a
In the days of Herod, king of Judea…
  • Herod, known as Herod the Great, was the puppet king of the Roman Empire which had violently expanded it’s military control into the Middleeast. Herod was a typical despot of the time.
  • Judea of the first century was inhabited mostly by the remnants of Israel that had returned from 75 years of exile in Babylon. The Judeans or the Jews then had survived 400 years of servitude to other nation states then to finally under Roman control.
Luke 1:5b-7
…there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

Again, does this sound familiar to the story of Abraham and Sarah? Well, it should. In the Bible, there are no coincidences.

Luke 1:8-10
Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

Luke 1:11-13
And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

What would be special about John?

Luke 1:14
“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.”

This baby will grow up to live a way of holy discipline that is hard for many to follow. In the Old Testament it was called the Law of the Nazirites.

Numbers 6:1-5
Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When a man or woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate himself to the LORD, he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. ‘All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin. ‘All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD; he shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long.”

Now, we come to his task.

Luke 1:15-17
“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

You would think that Zacharias would have jumped and danced, but instead…

Luke 1:18-22
Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.

Like the story of Abraham and Sarah, God kept His word.

Luke 1:24-25; 57-66
After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.
And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

That is a very good question. This child will grow up to be the most unusual herald of them all. His name was…

John the Baptist

ADVENT Story Revealed part 6

Christmas in the Tent of Abraham

We now have enough dark background on the reason for Christmas. And there is nothing more darker than the fact of eternal doom hanging over the heads of all mankind because of SIN. By themselves, mankind is powerless to escape. Fortunately, the Lord God is there.

Deuteronomy 4:31
For the LORD your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers, which He swore to them by oath.
Nehemiah 9:31
But in Your great compassion, You did not put an end to them; nor did You forsake them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God.

Because of God’s compassion and grace, He set into motion a plan. “The Plan!” The plan for mankind’s salvation. And an intricate part of that plan involved a most unusual birth which took place in the beginning of the New Testament. But before that fantastic event, God decided to do… sort of… a dress rehearsal, so to speak. Let us go back to the book of Genesis.

God’s plan was to choose a specific family line of whom will be instrumental in the salvation of mankind. Following 24 generations in the line of Seth (a son of Adam), we come to Abram who would later be renamed Abraham.

Abram was given a very important promise.

Genesis 12:3b
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
Genesis 22:18
“In your seed (offspring) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…”

But Abram had a problem. His wife Sarai (Sarah) was barren. Does this sound familiar?

Then when Abram turned 99 and Sarai was 90, way way beyond childbearing years…

Genesis 17:1-5; 15-19
Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”
Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”

Weeks later, the Lord came to Abraham again.

Genesis 18:9-15
Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”
And he said, “There, in the tent.”
He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.”
And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid.
And He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

Sure enough, when Abraham turned 100…

Genesis 21:1-8
Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

Merry Christmas Abraham and Sarah

ADVENT Story Revealed part 4

The Dark Side – the Enemy Within

In literature, drama is defined as a composition in verse or prose intended to portray life or character or to tell a story usually involving conflicts and emotions through action and dialogue. And in every basic drama story, we always find three characters: a hero, a villain and a damsel in distress.

Now, in the last posting, you were introduced to the villain of the Garden of Eden: the Serpent who is really the Devil in disguise.

I know what question you want to ask. Why did God create a Devil? If you want to pursue it, you can click HERE.

There is much that can be said about this villain, but for the purpose of this advent story, let us look on what he did. Jesus said…

John 8:44
“…He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

How did the Serpent of Eden commit murder? Not biting them, for sure.

Genesis 3:1-5
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Do you see his craftiness? First, he twisted God’s original words. Then he outright called God a liar and a selfish deceiver.

Clearly, the Serpent of old was the instigator of this tragic drama, but was he the only one?

Genesis 3:6
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

You would think that Eve would be the damsel in distress of the story but in this case, she was far from being distressed. Instead, she was too inquisitive for her own good which led to a dangerous desire. This desire was so effective that she set aside God’s commandment and ate the forbidden fruit.

By the way, Adam was no hero here either. According to verse 6, he was there and witnessed it all. And he warned her not. He knew God’s commandment very well. Afterall, he had spent the longest time with God and yet he did not stop her… worst yet… he did not stop himself.

In the long run, they were their own worst enemies. They chose to think that they knew better than God. Unfortunately, there was a price to pay.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is DEATH…

When you think of the word, ‘wages’, the verse translates that death was earned! Adam and Eve earned death for themselves. Here comes the BAD NEWS for us.

1 Corinthians 15:22a
For as in Adam all die…
Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…

In my next post, we really need to look closely at the consequences of sin and understand why the bad news is BAD for all of us. Again, do not be disheartened. . Here is a complete look at the Romans 6:23 verse to remind you of hope.

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

ADVENT Story Revealed part 3

The Dark Side

In every story ever told, you will always find in it a ‘dark side’. We see this in fairy tales and fantasies. In Cinderella, it is the greedy step mother; in Sleeping Beauty, there is Malificent; in Star Wars, there is Darth Vader, in Harry Potter, there is Voldemort; and so on. In real life stories and yes, even in our history, it is the same.

And in this Christmas story, to better appreciate why we need a savior is to better understand the dark side… the bad news.

If you can recall, in the beginning, we had it made. But then something went wrong. Mankind sinned.

I am quite sure that everyone know a little bit about how Adam and Eve fell from Paradise. They fell because they disobeyed God’s one and only restrictive commandment

Genesis 2:17
The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Many have questioned God’s wisdom in giving such a command. Why did He have to give it and why so harsh a consequence? At that matter, if the Garden of Eden is suppose to be a safe haven, why would He place such a dangerous tree in it? Let’s tackle first the commandment.

Is the commandment unjust? …unfair? Why give such a command?

The answer is simple enough. God does what He wants.

Psalm 115:3
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Romans 9:21
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Now, let us tackle the fairness of the commandment. What is so hard about it? Think about it. From the tens of thousands of delicious mouth-watering fruit bearing trees to eat from, only one tree is forbidden. This is clearly no hard task.

How about the forbidden tree itself? Was it really dangerous? If so, why was it in the Garden?

Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Everything in the Garden was meant for our good, that included the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I believe that Adam & Eve were immature and not ready to handle the responsibility of having God-like knowledge of good and evil. I believe, in God’s own timing, He would have eventually allowed the eating of that fruit (Acts 10:10-15) when they reached a level of maturity.

For a certain time (though time was irrelevant in the Garden), both Adam & Eve were succesful in keeping the commandment. Until…

In every good story, there is always a bad guy. In the Bible, the villain is the Devil who comes and goes in many guises. In the Garden, he took on the form of the serpent.

Genesis 3:1
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.

The Devil became the bad guy because he aspired to be greater than God.

Isaiah 14:13-14
You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Because we were lovingly created by God, the Devil set into motion the fall of mankind.

We will continue on the dark side of the Advent story in my next post. Don’t be disheartened by the dark side. Here is a verse to remind you of hope.

1 John 4:4
You (those who are born again) are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He (Jesus) who is in you than he (the Devil) who is in the world.

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ADVENT Story Revealed part 2

The Intended Relationship

Greetings. Well, traditional Christmas is just 25 days away. In my last post, we (rightly so) started this Advent story in the very beginning of the Bible when God created the universe and then mankind. But what does this have to do with Christmas? Why not start with the angel’s visitation of a young woman named Mary? We will! However, other questions needs to be told first; the most important is…

Why does the world need a
SAVIOR?

To answer this, we must remind ourselves of this crucial background.

Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

How special were you when the Lord God created you?

Genesis 2:4
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
Genesis 2:7a
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground…

I love watching potters with their bare hands firmly but yet gently form beautiful pottery from a lump of clay. Their love for their work is visibly expressed in how they formed their masterpieces. No wonder this Bible writer expressed this particular thought about God, the greatest artisan of them all.

Isaiah 64:8
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

But we are more than just art pieces. Remember…

Genesis 1:26
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…”

And let us read the rest of verse 7…

Genesis 2:7
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Here’s a Christmas thought. Why don’t we express gratitude to God and say…

Psalm 139:14
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

Now, God did not stop there. Like a good parent, He did not set us out into the wild environs of His creation

Genesis 2:8-9
The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

He placed mankind in a safe place…

Genesis 2:15-17
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

In that enriching haven, God and mankind became closer.

Genesis 2:18-20a
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field…

Whenever, I read this part, I see this image of a father bringing his child for the first time to the zoo. What a fun time for father and child to have together. This is what our Lord God intended for mankind for eternity. (Even today, He still desires it for us.)

Now, we come to the BAD NEWS of the Advent story. In the beginning, we had it made. But then…

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Epilogue – part 3

THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES – Caesarea

Then his vision cleared and the man was gone.

“Cestus!” he called.

“Are you feeling unwell, sir?”

“On the contrary, I am feeling much better. I want you to take two of our men and ride for Joppa. Go to the tanner’s house. There you will find an old friend of ours, Peter. Bring him back here.”

Some days later, Peter was at his door with some of the brethren from Joppa who accompanied him. Peter entered but not they. Cornelius was about to hug him but remembered that Peter was the holy leader of the church, so he bowed down to him in respect.

But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.”

Then Peter noticed the many people assembled. And he said to him, “You yourselves know, Cornelius, how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me?”

So, Cornelius told him of his vision and how he acted on it by sending for him. He led Peter to the other room, and said, “Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” [italics – Acts 10:27-33]

Peter took a short pause, then he began. “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ for He is Lord of all, you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed.

“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

“We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

While Peter was still speaking these words, Cornelius suddenly felt deep within him an incredible sense of peace and joy that he had never experienced before. There was also something else, he felt loved. He looked at his wife and the others and knew they were all gifted in similar ways. There was both tears and joyful laughter from everyone. Then, there was songs of worship in Hebrew.

Peter, who was so moved, commanded for the brethren from Joppa to enter, so that they may witness that the Holy Spirit also fell unto these Gentiles. He then declared, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” [Italics – Acts 10:34-48]

The whole household was then baptized in a pool at the garden. Peter stayed with them for few more days until Cornelius, his wife and his household boarded the ship bound for Rome. Peter and he embraced their farewells.

As the ship sailed off, Cornelius went to the prow and placed his hands on the railing and smiled to himself. He had first come to this country in search of meaning. Now, he leave with a greater sense of understanding, contentment and a determination to fulfill a mission. Then he was joined by his wife, Trax and Cestus.

Trax then asked, “Father, what awaits us next?”

“A new ADVENTURE!”

THE END… or Is it?


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Thank you

Johann Q