What was God Doing in the Christmas Story? (Part 1)

5 12 2019

I love the story of Christmas. It’s a beautiful story that only God could tell. It’s a story that only God could write. We know the basics of the story, it’s all very familiar to us. I don’t want to hit on the basics I want to dwell for a few minutes on the facts less talked about.

I don’t have a single text because we will be all over the place but if I had to have a set text from which to jump into the subject it would be Galatians 4:4-5:

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

What we have in the Christmas story is the middle chapter a longer story. It’s kind of a bridge between the types and shadows and the fulfillment. The story began in Genesis 3:15 with the prophecy from God Himself that a Savior would be coming.

From there a foundation is laid throughout the Old Testament with types and figures of the fulfillment of this great promise. How could such a Savior come to fulfill these types that we see played out in story form across the Hebrew Scriptures?

It’s clear you would need a separate story to bridge the promises and the fulfillment. Certain prophecies were written into the story hinting at what that bridge would look like. Prophecies hinting at how such a Savior would come.

Then we get to the birth of Jesus and we begin to see these prophecies played out in real life. God was doing more in the birth of Jesus then giving the world a Savior. He was keeping His word and demonstrating that He was faithful to bring this Savior.

Have you ever noticed the emphasis God places in the Old Testament on His previous works? The Psalms which were the songs sung in Israelite worship constantly recount the mighty acts of God on behalf of His people.

God over and over again tells the people of Israel remember when I parted the Red Sea, or delivered you from the house of bondage, or gave your fathers manna in the wilderness. His keeping of his word became the evidence that they should trust Him in the future.

This is what Christmas is about. Jesus and the events of His birth are the proof that God keeps His word.

“For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

All the promises of God are yes in Jesus because in Jesus we find the great fulfillment of all that God promised. So let’s look at the Christmas story with the eye to see the the Word of God to His people fulfilled.

1. The nature of His birth. (Matthew 1:18)

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”

After going through a list of this father begat this son Matthew comes to Jesus and he is like the birth of Jesus the Messiah was in this way. In other words not the normal way. He was born of a virgin.

This was promised by God through the prophet Isaiah 700 years before His birth. This was in Isaiah 7:14. If Jesus was born in the normal course of things then God’s promises would be void but they are yes in the birth of Jesus.

“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23)

We see these events play out in Luke 1:26-35.

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

2. The place of His birth. (Luke 2:1-4)

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David.”

The place of His birth is vital because the prophets spoke of it long before it happened. The Jewish leaders understood this, in fact even the Roman authorities knew it had been foretold.

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” (Matthew 2:1-6)

Where are they quoting from? They are quoting the prophet Micah.

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)

He had to be born in Bethlehem and then God used ordinary means to bring it about. A census was taken in order to tax the population. We often forget that God uses mundane day to day activities to accomplish His purpose.

God tells the king to take a census and the king thinks it’s his decision and doesn’t realize that God is using him to bring the Savior in the world. He is the yes to the prophet Micah.

To be continued…





In Everything Give Thanks

29 11 2019

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

I think this short verse holds one of the most difficult commands in the entire Bible. I know it does for me. Corrie Ten Boom struggle with obedience to this verse as well. Listen to her story.

“We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw.
..Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg.
“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ’Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’
“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.
“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ’He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’
“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…’”
It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’
“‘Oh yes:’…“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”
“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
“‘Such as?’ I said.
“‘Such as being assigned here together.’
“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’
“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’
“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’

She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.
“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–’ 

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.
“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”
“Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.
“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.

“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call.
There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.
“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.
“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’
“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.
“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!’”
“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

The reason we can obey this particular command is in the light of Romans 8:28.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

If all things work together for our good then we can confidently give thanks for everything because no matter how bad anything seems all things work for our good and therefore deserve thanks.





Understanding Acts 2:38

24 10 2019

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

There is a lot of controversy surrounding a particular verse in Acts 2. Many false churches fixate on this verse as the main source of their doctrines. When I come across people from these churches their social media normally has this text prominently displayed, even some churches put it right out on their sign.

There is a danger in what is commonly called proof texting. The Bible is to be understood and interpreted in context. Scripture should be interpreted in light of Scripture. The Bible was never intended to be chopped up in such a way that one verse cancels out another or entire doctrine could be built on the foundation of a single verse without respect to the context the verse is in.

This is called proof texting. It’s dangerous because it always leads to error. Every denomination that calls itself Christian yet veers from orthodoxy does so because they proof text particular verses. I remember door to door witnessing with a pastor and after going to the door of one of these people he moved on and the person followed him down the street yelling “believe Acts 2:38.”

When this happens it’s easy to lose balance and to fixate and even base your entire faith on one particular verse or doctrine. So what does Acts 2:38 mean? Does it cancels out other verses?

Consider Matthew 28:19:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

Some would say that baptizing in the name of all 3 persons is based on this one verse and yet it’s not. Salvation is a work of all 3 members of the Godhead. The Father decreed it, the Son accomplished it and the Spirit applies it. It follows that the sign and seal of our salvation would be in the authority of all 3 persons.

The Acts 2:38 proponents have one basic problem: the deny the Triune nature of God. I don’t have space to delve in here but the Scriptures teach extensively on the doctrine of the Trinity so this is not a stand alone verse but a verse that can be clearly understood in accord with other Scriptures. Notice the individuality of the persons and yet the singular use of the word “name.”

It’s not the “names” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It says in the “name” singular of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. They are individual persons but one God, one substance, one essence, one nature.

Does Acts 2:38 change that by saying in Jesus name only? No it doesn’t because you have to understand this verse in context. In this sermon Peter is pointing out that they had rejected Jesus and had crucified Him yet God overruled their objection and raised Him from the dead.

They had rejected the authority of Jesus as Messiah and King at His crucifixion. Now they must be baptized in the authority of this man whom they had rejected. He is not ignoring the words of Jesus in Matthew but speaking to the specific attitude of the crowd in front of him.

It would be like me preaching to Roman Catholics and telling them to reject the system of penance and repent of their sins. I don’t mention anything about the Trinity because they have a different issue. When I speak to a follower of the Watchtower I will address their need to recognize that Jesus is God and never mention Rome’s system of penance. It’s about speaking to the needs of the crowd.

Does this verse teach a works salvation? The answer is no because the message of the Bible is one of salvation by grace through faith. We see it in the salvation of Abraham in Romans 4, and it’s heavily emphasized in Ephesians 2 and Colossians 1. We see it also throughout the book of Acts like Acts 8, 10, and 16. We see it again in Romans 3, 5, 8 and 10.

To take this single verse and teach salvation by baptism would be to cancel out all of the passages on faith alone. So we must interpret this verse in light of the overwhelming evidence in the other passages. So what is Peter saying here? I want to use experts from my book “Understanding Believer’s Baptism” which will be available soon from this website.

“A second point pertaining to this verse is the term “for.” This word is often highlighted to demonstrate that the baptism was for or to cause the remission of sins. The problem is that there are several Greek and English uses for the word “for.” The word can also mean, “in order to get” (which is what these folks are saying) or it can mean, “because of, as the result of.

So is Peter saying they must be baptized in order to get forgiveness of sins? If he is then he is contradicting Paul who simply told the jailer in Acts 16:31 to believe.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.

If I say “take two aspirin for a headache” am I saying to take two aspirin in order to get a headache? Of course not. I’m saying it because you already have one.

The same applies if I said I’m going to Grandma’s house for her birthday. Will she not have a birthday or even a party if I don’t go? Of course she will. My going is not to give her a birthday but because she is having a birthday. This is the clear use of the phrase in this passage.

Salvation is a free gift given by God to those who believe. We are commanded to have repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Peter is not contradicting these passages. He is not saying you must be baptized in order to complete remission of your sins. He is saying to be baptized because you have remission of sins.”

We know that baptism does not contribute to salvation because Paul clearly separated the Gospel from baptism. We all agree that the Gospel is what saves us the Bible says in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is the Power of God to salvation so anything necessary for salvation is in the Gospel and yet Paul said God sent him not to baptize but to preach the Gospel.

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” (1 Corinthians 1:17)

In that verse in Romans 1 Paul says the Gospel is the power of god to salvation for everyone who believes, once again it’s faith alone that saves. In fact the passages that mention salvation apart from baptism are numerous while the baptismal regeneration proof texts are about 3 or 4. It’s more probable that 3 or 4 verses are being misunderstood than that the hundreds of other verses are.





An Inteview with Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones

23 10 2019

Enjoy this interview with Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones. I found his calm explanation of the Gospel refreshing





Prayer Letter: August/September 2019

4 10 2019

Greetings:
We greet you in the name of the Lord and hope this letter finds you well. I apologize for getting this letter out so late but September was an extremely busy month.

Street Ministry:
We had a hot summer in our street ministry. I can’t complain I suppose because the Lord blessed us with a short summer. Our hot months typically stretch from May to October but this year they only lasted from June to August with a few warm days in September.

Our usual spots are the Courthouse, the bus station and the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. We were able to proclaim the Gospel at all of them over the summer.

Prison Ministry:
The Lord has been stirring the hearts of men in both prisons. The men in Lancaster are seeing tremendous answers to prayer including several of the brothers having life sentences reduced. A few men have been released and are serving the Lord with their families now.

The men in North Kern are being stirred with a particular desire for holiness and a desire to share the Gospel on the yard. I was able to minister to a man at our county prison over the summer as well. I hope he continues to seek the Lord.

Prayer Requests:

*Financial support
*A home repair financial need of $3,200 to be met
*Upcoming outreaches in December: PAC 12 Championship outreach; Fiesta Bowl Outreach; Christmas revival at Lancaster prison
Please consider supporting us financially as well as with your prayers. You can give a tax deductible donation.

Giving Instructions:
Give online at http://www.gospelbeacon.org

To give by check simply make the check out to Revival USA with Lighthouse Gospel Ministries in the memo section. You can mail it to us at:

Lighthouse Gospel Ministries
400 McKee Road
Bakersfield, Ca. 93307

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” C.H. Spurgeon





3 Pleas for Political Involvement

22 07 2019

I have grown disgusted by the political state in America. This disgust isn’t just with the world but with the way Christians have been dealing with politics. They have dealt with it largely in the same manner as those in the world.

Politics is based on division. Our side vs. their side. Our side is always right and their side is always wrong. This is not what Christians are called to be.

There is so much hypocrisy and vitriol coming from Christians. We act as though the Republican party is God’s party and the Democratic party is Satan’s party. We pretend our leaders are God’s servants while the other side is basically the Antichrist. This is not a Biblical view of politics.

We need to stop demonizing the other side and we need to stop deifying our side. We have to acknowledge when our side is wrong and praise the other side when they are right. I’m not proposing we pretend to agree but we need to talk like Christians.

I wanted to see if we can approach politics with a Biblical worldview and not a conservative or liberal worldview. How does the Bible say Christians should act? Let’s look at a passage of Scripture and draw a few conclusions.

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:1-5)

This passage really convicted me about the way I was acting as a follower of Christ when it came to my politics. Let’s go through it and see how we should behave as Christians.

1. Be subject to those in authority. (Vs. 1)

Of course when the law of man violates the law of God we are bound to obey the higher authority (Acts 5:29). We have a habit today however of only believing in submission to authority when “our guy” is in power. Christians regularly looked for reasons to disobey President Obama yet when President Trump took office they completely changed.

Obama was a tyrant and they called his administration a regime in order to liken him to an evil dictator. Once Trump took office all I heard were things like God ordained Trump and God appointed Trump. I agree with that statement, but God ordained and appointed Obama as well.

As a believer I’m not called to obey and submit myself only to Presidents I voted for but to all who are in authority (13:1). In fact by doing this we put our enemies to silence.

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (1 Peter 2:13-15)

2. Don’t trash talk the other side. (Vs. 2)

It’s okay to disagree and to make a case for those disagreements. What’s not okay is to demean, insult and name call the other side. I knew Christians who called President Obama “Emperor Obama.” I knew others ho called him “Obummer.”

Let me say that these are some of Trump’s staunchest supporters and now demand respect for the President. This is hypocrisy. The Bible allows us to disagree but not to malign other people.

We need to treat our political opponents as the image bearers of God, which they are. There is a level of human dignity that we need to uphold. Let’s face it, as Christians we are called to a higher standard.

Let’s also keep in mind that even our opponents who support evil laws (such as the murder of children through abortion) are deceived themselves. We should have some compassion for them. They are not the enemy, there are unseen spiritual forces at work behind the scenes and that is the true enemy (Ephesians 6:12).

3. Remember who you were before Christ. (Vs. 3)

The verse starts out with “For” another way to say it is “because.” So Paul is saying don’t malign these people because you were once like them. You and I were once deceived and serving the god of this world.

Why tear them down as though we were better than them? We aren’t and the reason we are different today is completely outside of us. It’s the kindness of God (vs. 4), given totally outside of anything we have done (vs. 5).

So when you approach politics, don’t run with the crowd. You and I are held to a higher standard, the Word of God. Behave like a child of God and put others to silence. We are not bound to the Republican party but to the Lord Jesus Christ.





Prayer Letter March/April 2019

17 05 2019

Greetings:
We greet you in the name of the Lord and hope this letter finds you well. I mentioned in our last letter that our foster son needed surgery. We made it all the way to prep when they realized there was an error on the court paperwork. We had to postpone and are still waiting for another date.

We have seen major improvements in our foster son and even though both kids are dealing with a lot of trauma we have been able to phase him out of therapy which is a blessing. We have our yearly home inspection in a few weeks for our foster care license so please be in prayer. We have a new social worker so we don’t know what to expect.

They changed some rules which forced us to erect a fence around our above ground pool. It was about $350 we really couldn’t afford but the blessing is that it could have been $300 more. The Lord allowed us to save money by buying a used one and the seller delivered, painted and installed it. Keep praying that we can adopt the kids in the coming months.

Street Ministry:
We have been blessed with cooler weather which is a great blessing when ministering on the streets. We are getting involved with some outreach at our local abortion clinic. I am praying a door opens to do that on a regular basis. Over the last 2 months the Lord allowed us to give out 112 tracts on the streets as well as have several good conversations with people about the Gospel.

We are going to Fresno (about 2 hours away) quarterly to reach out to the large homeless population there. We were there March and gave away 40 Bibles as well as provided a meal for 111 people. We were able to engage some about their souls as well.

Prison Ministry:
I was contacted about a man in our county jail on attempted murder charges. I was able to visit and share the Gospel with him as well as send him some books to help him. Pray for Luis and I will try and keep contact with him to keep sharing the Gospel. In Lancaster we are seeing great answers to prayer among the men and a great desire among the men to share the Gospel. One yard has even arranged a weekly outreach time.

North Kern has been plagued by lock downs but in those times they have been open God has worked in the men’s hearts. I gave away 43 Bibles, 40 John/Romans, and 431 tracts. I have been able to preach to 158 men with 7 calling on the Lord for salvation. I have sent 4 Christian books to men requesting Christian materials.

Please consider supporting us financially as well as with your prayers as we desire to serve the Lord full time in the Gospel ministry. There are so many people who need to hear the Gospel and so little time to labor and serve the Lord in this life.

You can give a tax deductible donation by clicking the “donate” tab above or to give by check simply make the check out to Revival USA with Lighthouse Gospel Ministries in the memo section. You can mail it to us at:

Lighthouse Gospel Ministries
400 McKee Road
Bakersfield, Ca. 93307

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” C.H. Spurgeon








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