Christmas Mythbusters by Dr. Abidan Shah

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CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Couple of weeks ago, I was at a used book store in Raleigh when 2 ladies walked in. I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation, not that I was eavesdropping. They were just so loud and obnoxious! Then, one of them belted out to the cashier—“Hey, did you know that Jesus was not born on December 25th? That day was actually a Roman festival honoring the Greek god Saturn. The church leaders adapted it to keep their people from going back to old pagan holidays.” I wanted to step in and say “Hey, that’s baloney!” but I knew that wouldn’t be good. Please listen carefully: The church did not create Christmas from some pagan holiday. December 25th did not become the birthday of Jesus through some church council decision. Instead, it was passed down through the earliest tradition as the day the Savior of the World was born. In fact, ever since the beginning of time, it was the “most important event” on God’s calendar. Today’s message is different than what I typically preach but it’s one we need to hear, especially our children and grandchildren who are bombarded with anti-Christmas statements this time of the year. It is titled “CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS.”

Galatians 4     3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Question: What do you believe about Christmas? Do you believe that it’s just a myth or do you believe that it’s the “fullness of time” when God sent his Son to save you? Have you received the adoption as sons and daughters of the King?

Foreword: We’re living in what’s known as the “Information Age.” Sometimes, it’s also referred as the Computer Age or the Digital Age. Never in the history of the world did so many people have so much access to so much information. In the past, if we wanted to know about a subject, we had to go to the library or a book store. But, now it’s at our fingertips! Any time any place we can access any information! In some ways, that’s a blessing, but, in some ways, that’s also a curse. People, even Christians, read something on the internet and immediately think that they are getting the truth on a matter. Please listen: Just because something is on the web, it does not mean that it is true. Also, reading a couple of blogs and watching a couple of YouTube videos does not make you an expert on a subject.

Having said that, there is a myth on the internet, which has been around much longer than the internet, that claims that December 25th was actually a pagan holiday that the church adopted as the birthday of Jesus to keep Christians from participating in their old pagan holidays. This began somewhere around the 4th century after Constantine converted to Christianity. Is this true or false? False! Sometimes even Christians say this without realizing the inherent danger. When we say that December 25th as the birthday of Jesus is a myth, the logical questions that follows is “Is anything else about Jesus a myth? Was he really the Son of God? Did he really die and rise again? Is he really the Savior of the world? Did he even come?”

To start with, there are 2 different lines of arguments in support of this myth, sometimes even used by Christians:

  1. The History of Religions View: This view goes back to the 1600s. According to this theory, in AD 274, the Roman Emperor Aurelian built a temple in honor of the Sun God, Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun). He did this because he had won some victories in battle and he wanted to honor the patron god of soldiers. He even instituted some special games in the god’s honor. Guess what date this was? December 25th. Furthermore, this was also the time of the Saturnalia, which ran from December 17th-23rd, in honor of the Roman God Saturn who was the god of wealth and agriculture. This was all based around the winter solstice. In the Northern hemisphere, this is around December 21-22, when the earth is at its maximum tilt away from the sun. The day is short and symbolized the death and re-birth of the sun. It was a time of great feasting, parties, gambling, and gift-giving. Christian leaders under hijacked these pagan festivals and Christianized them.

Listen carefully: There is zero evidence in early history from pagan or Christian writers that the church leaders did this. Instead, we find in historical documents statements that affirm that, according to tradition, Christmas was celebrated in Rome from the very beginning. Furthermore, parts of the world that were not directly impacted by Rome were also celebrating Christmas around the same time period. I can go on and on. In my opinion, the Roman emperor could have instituted his festival to counter the Christians celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25th.

  1. The Calculation View: This view goes back to the late 1800s. According to this theory, the December 25th day was calculated by the church leaders from the date of the annunciation (when Gabriel came to Mary) and the Conception of Jesus. These dates were then taken from the date when Jesus was crucified. This is all based on some rabbinic tradition that all the great prophets of Israel died on the same day as they were born (Integral Age). So, supposedly the early church leaders figured out that Jesus died on March 25th and then they calculated from there 9th months. That’s how they got December 25th. This is the biggest mess because here we’re not talking about the annunciation but the conception. So, what is it? Who knows! By the way, I don’t have time to get into some of the calendar issues, except to say that some of the later calendars are not very accurate. So, we are trying to recreate a date based on a faulty calendar! Again, there is no shred of evidence that the early church actually did this kind of math to figure out the birthday of Jesus!

So, is December 25th the actual date of Jesus’ birth? To start with, I cannot give you all the evidence in the next 10 minutes. I’m going to give you just two from the Gospels:

#1. Matthew 2    1 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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet…” Let me stop there. When did Herod die?Josephus (Jewish Historian) tells us of an incident before the death of Herod. He had set up a Roman eagle above the gate of the temple in Jerusalem. This was a slap in the face of the Jewish people. Herod was getting sicker by the day and some of the Rabbis called on the young men to tear down the eagle from the gate. They did but got caught. Herod sent them to Jericho along with the rabbis and ordered that they be burned alive. The date of the execution was January 10, 1 BC. But, he’s getting worse. Then he decides to head out of town to the mineral springs beyond Jordan in the middle of February, 1 BC. Now, we have a statement by an ancient writer by the name of Macrobius. He recorded some witty sayings of the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. Here’s one—“On hearing that the son of Herod, king of the Jews, had been slain when Herod ordered that all boys in Syria under the age of two be killed, Augustus said, “It’s better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” This was a play on words from “hoos” (pig) to huios” (son). We have the date when Herod had his son Antipater executed. Herod died just 5 days after his son’s execution. This would place his death on April 8, 1 BC. But, let’s stop here for a moment: When did Herod have boys 2-year-old and younger killed. Matthew 2:16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” So, the wise men probably saw Herod before he left for the mineral springs in the middle of February. Where does this put the birth of Jesus? Exactly where we have always believed around December 25th.

#2. Luke 1    5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. This is referred to as the priestly course. King David had divided the priests into 24 courses to set up a calendar when they could serve. This is complicated but it puts Zacharias’ service around September 5-11, 3 BC. According to tradition, John was conceived around September 22nd, 3 BC. What does John the Baptizer’s birth have to do with Jesus’s birth? Luke 1    26 “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” Can you count 6 months from September? March, 2 BC. That’s when Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Can you count 9 months from March? December.

Then there are other silly arguments that the shepherds could not have been watching their flocks by night in the winter. According to the Mishnah, the sheep around Bethlehem were outside all year. This was especially true of the Passover Sheep which had to be outside for thirty days before Passover. This would be in February, the coldest and wettest month of the year. December would not be a problem.

What’s the point of all this? Listen again—Galatians 4     3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

God sent his Son and that’s a fact. What will you do about it? Have you received him as your Savior and King? Are you adopted in God’s family?

Uncomfortable Obedience by Pastor Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2018)

Manger NativityIntroduction: Thank you once again for being here this evening. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, using our gifts in his service, and leading someone to Christ. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our comfort zones. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Matthew 1     18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a justman,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were in their teenage years or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Joseph today (next Christmas Eve, we may focus on Mary). He was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary was pregnant and it was not his child.What a shock. Furthermore, she was not claiming that she was raped. She was not admitting to any guilt. What a shame. What a scandal. What’s even worse is that the word on the street was that she was claiming to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Joseph must have gone through a range of emotions: Shock, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, and even hate.
  2. They were still in the betrothal period and he was not officially married to her. Even though she was his wife technically, he still had the option to walk away from her. He was not the bad guy in this. No one was blaming him. They knew him better. In fact, they were expecting him to divorce her. Not to do so would be admitting to personal guilt.

Joseph gets a visit from the Angel of the Lord telling him that what Mary is saying is true. Plus, he had to stick around and name that child. Joseph chose to obey God instead of his emotions, his culture, or his family and friends. What would you have done?

How could he do that? The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally.I John 5:3“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Joseph loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

Royal – Our Universal King by Pastor Shah

OUR UNIVERSAL KING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Our Universal KingIntroduction: One of my favorite Disney movies is Robinhood, the animated version. Of course, you have familiar characters like Robinhood, Little John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham but one of the funniest characters is “Prince John.” He is the “Phony King of England” who hates Robinhood for looting his royal coach. So, he puts a bounty on his head and tries to catch him. Of course, he can’t. In the end, King Richard, the good and rightful king comes to claim his rightful throne. So also, 2000 years ago, a phony king was ruling God’s people until King Jesus came to claim his rightful throne. In fact, his own failed to recognize him but magi from the east came looking for him. Jesus was not just the king of the Jewish nation but of all peoples. He is the true Universal King.

Matthew 2      1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heardthis,he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Question: Herod thought that he was the king of the Jews but he was a false king. Who is the false king ruling your life? Jesus is the Universal King. He wants not just a part of you but the whole of you. Have you given your whole life to him?

Pray: Holy Spirit – Let the true King Jesus rule our hearts. Those who are lost, open their eyes and their hearts that they may receive him today and be saved.

Context:We’re in our Christmas series called “ROYAL.” Repeatedly, the Bible portrays Jesus as our king. As I’ve mentioned before, this is hard for us to understand because we’ve never lived under the rule of a king but most of history has been ruled by kings. That’s why the Bible uses regal language in referring to God. We’ve already looked at Jesus as “Our Creator King,” “Our Good King,” and “Our Humble King.” Today, we will see him as “Our Universal King.” 3 questions we need to answer in this passage:

I. WHO WERE THE STRANGERS? 

1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem.”

Background:The word is not “wise men” but “magi.” Who were the magi? The Greek historian Herodotus tells us that the magi were one of the 6 tribes of the ancient Medes. They were a priestly caste of people who were experts in divination (interpretation of dreams) and star-gazers, astronomers, astrologers, dream interpreters and sorcerers in Persia. That’s where we get our English word “magic” and “magicians.” They were also known for their wisdom and counsel. Some of them must have made their way in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. First time we hear about them in the Bible is in the Book of Daniel:

  • Daniel 2 1 “Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was sotroubled that his sleep left him. 2 Then the king gave the command to call the magi, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams.”
  • Daniel 2:9“if you do not make known the dream to me, there is onlyone decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.”

When the Persian King, Cyrus, captured Babylon, many more of these magi must have come into Babylon. As before, they didn’t always have a good reputation. Sometimes they got involved in political power and got into a lot of trouble for it. Jewish people looked down on them with suspicion and disdain. Even the Romans did not like them and kicked them out of Rome and Italy several times.

What’s the point? Somehow, they got on God’s mailing list. No one is too far from the grace of God. It doesn’t matter who you are and what family you belong to or don’t. God’s grace is available to you.What is interesting is that the wise men in Jerusalem failed to recognize the king but these magi saw him. Matthew 20:16“So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

By the way, how do you think they got on God’s mailing list? Maybe Daniel told them.Daniel 5:11There is a man in your kingdom in whom isthe Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magi, astrologers, Chaldeans, andsoothsayers.

Application:Are you on God’s mailing list? Are you telling the least of them?

II. WHAT WAS THE STAR?

2saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

Background:There have been a lot of speculations about the star: A supernova, a new star, a comet, alignment of the planets, etc. We don’t know for sure. There are no records about this star in any historical document. Maybe God created the star just the way he created the big fish to swallow Jonah. God has power over the celestial bodies:

  • Joshua 10 12Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” 13. . . So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to godownfor about a whole day. 14And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.
  • 2 Kings 20 10And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.”11So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the LORD, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.

What’s the point? The entire universe belongs to King Jesus. If he wants to create a star to point to his coming, then he has the power to do so. Listen again to Daniel 12:3“Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel could have been the star from centuries ago who pointed the magi to Jesus from 700 miles away. The Jewish leaders around Herod had the Word and they missed him 6 miles away. They didn’t even take the time to investigate.Matthew 2      3When Herod the king heardthis,he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;For out of you shall come a RulerWho will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”7Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have foundHim,bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

Application: Whom are you pointing to Jesus? Whom are you sending in the wrong direction?

III. WHY THE GIFTS?

Matthew 2     9When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Background: Again, there are a lot of suggestions as to the meaning of the gifts. Bottom line: They represent gifts for a king. Maybe it was a fulfilment of the prophecy in Psalm 72     10The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. 11Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him.” Isaiah 60:6“The multitude of camels shall cover your land,the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall proclaim the praises of the LORD.”

Application:What are you offering him today? What are you holding back from him? Is he your Savior and King? Are you pointing others to him?

Royal – Our Humble King by Pastor Shah

OUR HUMBLE KING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Our Humble KingIntroduction: Any Jungle Book fans here? Who was King Louie? He was the self-proclaimed king of all the monkeys in Jungle Book. What was his greatest wish? He wanted to be a man and stroll right into town. What did he need to make that happen? He needed the secret to man’s red fire. Did he ever get it? No. King Louie was trying to climb up the ladder of power and status but he couldn’t. So also, the kings of the earth have always tried to climb up the ladder of power and status. To the contrary, the king of the universe, King Jesus, did not have to climb up. He was already up in power and status. Instead, he climbed down the ladder of power and status. In fact, when he came, he did not come riding a steed, a war horse, but a donkey, the common man’s beast of burden. In other words, King Jesus did not come to subdue but to serve. He did not come to terrify but to bring joy. He is truly “Our Humble King.”

Zechariah 9      9“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He isjust and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. 10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominionshall be“from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’ 11“As for you also, Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.”

Question: The first time King Jesus came, he came in humility to win us over. The second time when he comes, he will come to execute judgment. Have you received him the first time? If you claim to know him, are you humble like your king?

Context: We’re in our Christmas series called “ROYAL.” As I mentioned in our previous two messages, it’s hard for us to appreciate the regal language the Bible ascribes to Jesus because we grew up in a democracy or a republic where people elect their leaders. Kings are not elected by the people. They rule by virtue of family origin, land ownership, or military power. Don’t confuse the British royalty with typical kings in history. The British monarchy is a constitutional monarchy where the King or Queen is a symbol of unity, stability, and pride but the ability to make and pass laws is in the hands of the elected Parliament. Jesus is not a figurehead. He is truly the all-powerful and in-control King of Kings but he is a humble king. What does that mean? 3 things:

I. HUMILITY IS NOT WEAKNESS

Background:I’m sure you’ve heard the statement – “Meekness is not Weakness.” Unfortunately, it’s become a cliché but it’s really true, especially in the verses leading up to Zechariah 9:9. They are words of judgment on the nations that had rebelled against God and had threatened God’s people. They are back in the land from exile for about 20 years but things are far from peaceful. Their neighbors don’t want them back or rebuild their temple. Listen to Zechariah 9      1The burden of the word of the LORD against the land of Hadrach, (This was a city to the south of Aleppo and north of Damascus. It was against God’s people.) and Damascus (Capital of Syria today. It too was against God’s people) its resting place (For the eyes of men and all the tribes of Israel are on the LORD); (Here is a prophecy that one day in the end of times, Israel and her lost tribes, along with her godless neighbors will look to God)2Also againstHamath, whichborders on it, (City in Syria, north of Lebanon. It was part of the Promised Land and one day it will be again.)and againstTyre and Sidon, (Tyre is in Lebanon today and Sidon is to the north of Tyre. Tyre was very proud over its strength.)though they are very wise. 3For Tyre built herself a tower, heaped up silver like the dust, and gold like the mire of the streets. 4Behold, the LORD will cast her out; he will destroy her power in the sea, and she will be devoured by fire. (150 years later, Alexander the Great fulfilled this prophecy) 5Ashkelon shall seeitand fear; Gaza also shall be very sorrowful; and Ekron, for He dried up her expectation. (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod were four of the five capital cities of the Philistines.)The king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. (Again, Alexander the Great fulfilled this prophecy when he destroyed Gaza and dragged King Batis of Gaza behind a chariot through the city until he died.) 6“A mixed race shall settle in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. (No one of the Philistines were left and foreigners had to settle these cities to this day.)

What is the point of all this? When we read the history of the world, we think that it’s just the strong conquering the weak or the wise overpowering the foolish. We falsely think that it is Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.” This is not true. There is an unseen hand that is guiding the rise and fall of kings and kingdoms. Listen to Daniel’s prayer to God in Daniel 2    20“. . . Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. 21And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” Jesus is controlling history. Zechariah 9 is just a glimpse of that fact.

Application:How do you see Jesus? Is he the helpless baby in the manger? Is he the helpless Son of God nailed to the cross? Is he the one standing outside the door and knocking, waiting for you to open the door? Is he the one in charge of everything?

II. HUMILITY IS MERCIFUL

Background: Just when we think that King Jesus will mercilessly decimate all his enemies and the enemies of his people, listen to Zechariah 9     7“I will take away the blood from his mouth, and the abominations from between his teeth. . .” Blood from his mouth is referring to the pagan sacrifices that involved drinking blood and abominations from between his teeth is referring to eating forbidden food. That statement is a description of paganism.What is God saying? Even in the midst of his judgment there is mercy. Somehow God will save individuals even while he is judging peoples and nations. Keep reading 7“. . . But he who remains, even he shall befor our God, and shall be like a leader in Judah, and Ekron like a Jebusite.(Just like David had spared the Jebusites and they became part of the people of Judah, so also God would spare these enemies of God’s people and they would become part of God’s people.) Did this ever happen? Acts 8    26Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet  . . .”  You know the rest. Philip explained the gospel to him, baptized him, and then listen to Acts 8    39“Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.” Azotus is the Roman name for Ashdod.

8I will camp around My house because of the army, because of him who passes by and him who returns. No more shall an oppressor pass through them, for now I have seen with My eyes.”What is God saying? In the days ahead, he will save all people, Jews and Gentiles through Jesus Christ

Application:How do you understand humility? True humility is merciful. When you are totally justified in finishing someone, you still show mercy. It is “Power under Control.”

III. HUMILITY IS JESUS

Zechariah 9      9“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Background:On one hand, King Jesus was working his purposes in the world. On the other hand, he was bringing salvation to his people. While he allowed and even directed earthly kings to carry out his purposes, he was about to fulfil the prophecies regarding the eternal king.3 things we find fulfilled:

  1. He is Righteous:

“Behold, your King is coming to you; He isjust. . .”

Promise to David – 2 Samuel 7:12“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. Isaiah 11     1There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. . . 5Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.

  1. He will bring salvation

and having salvation,

1 Pet. 3:18  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

  1. Humble

Lowly – Same word used to describe Moses inNumbers 12:3. He is approachable.

  1. Riding a donkey

and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

Genesis 49    10The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall bethe obedience of the people. 11 Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes.

Horse was an animal of war but a donkey was not.

10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominionshall be“from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’ 11“As for you also, Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.”

In other words, Christ was coming to bring peace. He brought peace in our hearts now and then peace in our world one day.

Episode 19: Christians and Santa Claus

Episode 19: Christians and Santa Claus

n this episode, the Clearview Church staff sit down to talk about Christmas traditions and the true meaning behind all of our Christmas traditions. If you have any topics you’d like us to discuss, be sure to email us at carpemanana@clearviewbc.org!

Episode 18: Clearview Christmas 2018 (A King Is Born)

Episode 18: Clearview Christmas 2018 (A King Is Born)

In this episode, the Clearview Church staff sit down to talk about our 2018 community Christmas concert titled “A King Is Born,” and also the importance of celebrating Christmas as a Church.  If you have any topics you’d like us to discuss, be sure to email us at carpemanana@clearviewbc.org!

Royal – Our Creator King by Pastor Abidan Shah

OUR CREATOR KING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Royal

Introduction: One of my favorite Disney movies is the Lion King from 1994. You know the story – the crown prince Simba is tricked by his uncle Scar into thinking that he had caused his father Mufasa’s death and he flees into exile. There he finds new friends, Timon and Pumba whose motto is “Hakuna Matata.” One day, his childhood friend Nala and his father’s old advisor Rafiki remind him of his true identity and he returns to take his rightful place. Even though it’s a cartoon, I still get choked up when Simba returns and takes his rightful place as king. Unlike earthly kings, cartoon or real, Jesus alone is the supreme undefeated eternal king of the universe, who built his kingdom, redeemed it, rules it forever, and demands our total allegiance. Faith in Jesus is more than just belief or trust. It is also allegiance and obedience to him.

Colossians 1     9“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. . . 12giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyedusinto the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Question: There are only 2 kingdoms – kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of the Son. Which kingdom do you belong to? Is Christ your Savior? Is he also your King?

Context: Today’s message begins our new Christmas series called “ROYAL.” We who grew up in the twentieth or twenty-first century have very little understanding of rulers and royalty. The only encounter we’ve had with kings, queens, prince, and princesses is through movies and an occasional royal wedding. But, did you know that most of the world’s history was dominated by kings and rulers? This is very hard for us to understand because we grew up in some form of consensual government (See Francis Oakley, Kingship: The Politics of Enchantment). Most of the Bible refers to God as our king. In fact, Jesus is never referred to as our Senator or our Representative. He is repeatedly referred to as our King. That changes everything. We don’t elect him to kingship. We simply declare our allegiance to him. We don’t pick and choose what we will obey and what we won’t. We simply obey no matter the cost. But, unlike earthly kings who rule by fear and threats, Jesus our king has redeemed us by his blood. In this series, each message will be focused on an important attribute of King Jesus. The first one is “OUR CREATOR KING.” 2 things about our Creating King:

I. OUR KING CREATED AND SUSTAINS EVERYTHING.

Colossians 1     15“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

There are 2 very important words in that statement: image and firstborn. First, what is the meaning of the “image of the invisible God?”We find it in the LXX, Greek translation of the Old Testament, in Genesis 1:27“So God created man in His ownimage; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” To be created in the image of God was to represent God in his authority and to have certain attributes that the other creatures do not have, especially in being able to have a relationship with God. So, when Paul said that “Jesus was the image of the invisible God,” is that what he meant about Jesus? Not at all. Keep in mind: Adam was made in the image of God. Jesus is the image of God. It is a subtle but a very substantial difference. When we think of the word “image,” we think of a copy or something inferior. That word image in the original Greek is eikwn(eikon) which is a complex word. It has the meaning of the inner core and essence. A good translation would be “He is the DNA of the invisible God.”Another example: difference between a blueprint and a real building. Jesus, the real building was even before the blueprint, Adam.What is Paul saying? Jesus is not like God or reminds us of God. He is God.

Second, what is the meaning of the “firstborn over all creation?” It can mean the first child as in Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn through Leah. So, when Paul said that “Jesus was the firstborn over all creation,” is that what he had in mind?” Not at all. Keep in mind: Firstborn also meant “the legal heir.” For example: David was the seventh son of Jesse but listen to Psalm 89:27“Also I will make him Myfirstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.” It means that even though David was not Jesse’s legal heir, God made him his legal heir.

All this was more than just some honorific title16For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.” Jesus is not just a silent observer. He is the active creator who made everything in heaven and on earth. He made the birds in the sky. He made the fishes in the sea. He made the plants and the trees. According to some estimates, there are 8.7 million species in the world. They are mostly animals and only 1.2 million have been catalogued. He made us. Think about how complex we are. The human eye in one square mm has about 400,000 optical sensors. Imagine a sphere on which you have tennis ball shaped circles and each is separated from the other by the same size/diameter. How much space do you need to draw 400,000 such tennis ball shaped circles? Three times the size of a hot air balloon! He made the galaxies and the countless stars. The sun is 93 million miles away. According to a recent article on BBC, the universe is 93 billion light years in diameter. One light year is 5.88 trillion miles. Not only that but he also created “thrones,” “dominions,” “principalities,” and “powers.” Thrones = angelic beings; dominions = spirit beings; principalities and powers = various levels of spirit beings, good and evil. What’s the point? He made everything that exists.

But there’s something more – “All things were created through Him and for Him.” In other words, you and I and the entire creation was made for his pleasure. 17“And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”Jesus not only created everything and for himself, he also sustains everything below the surface, on the surface, above the surface, and beyond the surface.

Application:How well do you know your king? Do you truly understand who Christ is? What are you afraid of?

II. OUR KING CAME TO REDEEM AND RECONCILE EVERYTHING.

18And He is the head of the body, the church. . .”

Background:Something happened to the creation. Sin came in and everything fell and was under the wrath of God. This was not a surprise to the Son. He already knew that he was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. He knew that he made it and he would have to come down and fix it himself. How did he do that? He died on the cross for our sins and those who believed in him became part of his new creation, the church. Since he brought this about, he is also the head of this body of believers.

Something more – “. . .who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” Once again, we see the word “firstborn.” It has a double meaning: He was the first one to come out of the grave for us and he has the legal authority to bring us out of the grave. “. . .that in all things He may have the preeminence.” Now, Jesus is not only supreme over the first creation but also over the new creation of his people and headed towards the final recreation of everything.

19“For it pleasedthe Father thatin Him all the fullness should dwell, 20and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”  That word “reconcile” was for the guilty party to initiate the process of reconciliation. Instead, God has initiated the process of reconciliation with us and the whole creation. For example: A child pouting and the parent has to reach out. How does God do that? 21“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled22in the body of His flesh through death. . .” Meaning: Our entire disposition was against the King. He could have destroyed us. Instead, he paid our penalty so he could make us friends again.

Then, there was an exchange – 22 to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”

What is our responsibility? 23if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Invitation: How do you see Jesus?

  • Is he the supreme, eternal King who created and sustains this world?
  • Is he the one who came to die and redeem this world and has created the church?
  • Do you belong to his church?
  • Have you been reconciled to him and received his exchange of holiness and blamelessness?
  • Are you continuing in the faith grounded and steadfast and not moved away from the hope of the gospel? Are you obedient in your relationships, with your past, and in your present?

MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 9, 2017)

Most Wonderful Time of the YearOne of my pet peeves is reading or listening to claims that many of our Christmas traditions are just pagan rituals that should be abandoned. Here are some facts on a few of them:

Are Christmas trees just some pagan ritual borrowed from the Scandinavians? While it is true that many cultures have worshipped certain trees, this was not the case for Christians. For them, trees were never sacred, just symbolic: Adam and Eve took the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; Abraham lived by the Oaks of Mamre where He built an altar to the Lord; The people of Israel were promised to become “Trees of Righteousness”; Jesus hung on a tree for our sins; and in Revelation we see the tree of life in the middle of the street of the Heavenly City. So, next time you see “O Tannenbaum” with lights, ornaments, and gifts, think of the many wonderful promises of God, especially the coming of Jesus to die on the wooden cross for us!

What does kissing under a mistletoe have to do with Christmas? In ancient times, mistletoe was considered a miracle plant. When everything was dead in the harsh winter, this rootless parasitic plant would still be flourishing. It symbolized life, hope, and fertility. Ancient Druids and Vikings thought this plant was so sacred that they would marry under it. When they became Christians, the mistletoe took on a deeper meaning. It reminded them of God’s power to bring life where there was death. Later on, in England, when a couple passed under the plant, they had to stop and kiss. If they did, God would bless them with an everlasting love. So, next time someone says, “Hey! You’re under a mistletoe!” Think about the undying love of God in Jesus Christ and oh yes, pucker up!

Do you know that house during Christmas that has everything lit up, even the doghouse! If you’re like me, you wonder how they pay their electric bill! Where did we get this tradition? Legend has it that Martin Luther, the German Reformer, was taking a walk through the woods one late December night when he saw the moonlight sparkling on the snow-covered branches of the evergreen trees. He was so struck by their beauty that he tried to recreate the sparkle by attaching candles to his Christmas tree. It reminded him of Jesus the light of the world. With the coming of electricity, people began to decorate even their homes and yards with light. So, when you drive by that over lit house, ask yourself, “Is Jesus shining brightly in my life?”

Every Christmas you hear complaints about how we have commercialized the birth of Jesus and how we’ve lost the true reason for the season. Ever wonder where the tradition of gift giving at Christmas comes from? Contrary to what you may think, it was not inspired by the magi. In fact, the Christian practice of giving gifts began with St. Nicholas, the pastor of Myra, who rode across Asia Minor distributing gifts to poor children. December 6th in the Western Church and December 19th in the Eastern Church became St. Nicholas’ Day – a day to give gifts to children – and in time this practice merged with December 25th. So, next time you go shopping, enjoy buying gifts for your loved ones but don’t forget to be generous to the less fortunate. After all, we were all undeserving but God graciously gave us the gift of Jesus.

Some people have a problem with Santa Claus. After all, how does some overweight old guy who lives at the North Pole with reindeers and elves fit into the Christmas story! Well, Santa Claus was actually St. Nicholas of Bari who lived in the fourth century. His parents died when he was young and Nicholas distributed all his wealth to the poor and became the pastor of Myra in modern day Turkey, as mentioned in the previous paragraph. He was known for his prayer life and his strong convictions regarding the deity of Jesus. But more than anything else, he became known for his generosity to the less fortunate, especially children. Stories about his kindness travelled everywhere and Nicholas became known as the giver of gifts in the name of Jesus. So, next time you see someone in a Santa costume, don’t frown but smile and remember to be generous like Ole’ St. Nick. Merry Christmas!

Fulfilled: Location of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fulfilled 4

Introduction: There are towns in our United States with some really funny names! For e.g. Accident, Maryland; Chicken, Alaska; Cut and Shoot, Texas; Embarrass, Minnesota; Experiment, Georgia; Frankenstein, Missouri; Imalone, Wisconsin; Nothing; Arizona; Pie Town, New Mexico; Santa Claus, Arizona; Tightwad, Missouri; Two Egg, Florida; Uncertain, Texas; and Why Not, North Carolina. I actually looked this one up. It’s in Randolph County, South of Asheboro, where the NC Zoo is located. Story goes that when the first settlers were trying to decide on the name, they kept debating “Why not this” and “why not that,” until one man who had enough of it suggested, “Why not name the town Why Not and let’s go home?” This actually pleased everyone! In this message, we will be looking at another small town which compared to Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and Babylon was nothing but it was the place God chose for the birth of his son. Because, God loves to work through insignificant people and insignificant places. This is our 4th and final message in our series “FULFILLED: THE LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH.”

Matthew 2    1 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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Question: Do you ever feel insignificant? Do you ever feel unworthy? Do you ever feel that you are too little or unsuitable to be used by God? I have and I still do. Here’s the good news! God loves using the insignificant and the unworthy, the little and the unsuitable. Why? He specializes in using those through whom he can get the most glory. But, whether significant or not, you have to be saved? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read has so many things that we can focus on: the identity of the magi or the wise men (Who were these strange visitors from the East); the meaning of the star (Was it a comet? Was it a supernova?); the significance of the gifts (Gold, frankincense, and myrrh). For time’s sake, I would like to focus just on the significance of the little town of Bethlehem in Judea in the coming of Jesus. Listen again to Matthew 2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…” The reason Matthew specifies Bethlehem of Judea is because there was another Bethlehem in the North about 7 miles Northwest of Nazareth. For e.g. If I were to write something like “Wilbur Hardee, the founder of Hardees, was born in Greenville, North Carolina.” Why did I specify “North Carolina?” Because there’s a Greenville, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, California, and about 26 more in the United States! Why do I bring this up? When people claim that the Bible is just a fictitious book made up by the church to control the masses, they haven’t taken the time to carefully examine the historic details in it. Let me say it again: The Bible is unlike any book in the history of the world. It was written by men who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” You can trust it!

What happens next? Wise men (magi) from the East come to Jerusalem and their question is “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” That title “King of the Jews” is very important. It implies “Where is the descendant of King David?” The magi may not have understood what they said but the people of Jerusalem surely did. Listen to their reaction – 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’” It was no secret at the time of Jesus’ birth that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. In fact, listen to John 7   40 Therefore many from the crowd…said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” The reason they knew this is because 800 years earlier a prophet by the name of Micah had prophesied the location of the Messiah’s birth. Who was Micah? He was a younger contemporary of Isaiah the prophet who primarily preached to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Just like Isaiah he also warned the people of Judah that it was foolish for turning to the Assyrians for help because after they were done destroying Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, they would come for them in the South. Just as he had warned, it happened. The Assyrians destroyed the North and sent them into exile, never to return. Then they marched into the South. Listen to his words in Micah 3   9 Now hear this, You heads of the house of Jacob And rulers of the house of Israel, Who abhor justice and pervert all equity, 10 Who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity…12 Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.” Micah pronounces 3 sets of judgments against them but in the midst of declaring God’s wrath and discipline, he gives them some rays of hope. Listen to Micah 5    2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah (An ancient name for Bethlehem), Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” A better translation would be “whose origins are from of old.” In other words, although this ruler would be a descendant of King David, he will be unique in that he is eternal. He doesn’t have a descent. 3 Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel.” In the midst of sure judgment under the Assyrians, God promises his people that he will not abandon them. Just the way God promised, he miraculously saved his people from Sennacherib’s armies. Read 2 Kings 19 of how when the Assyrian army lay siege to Jerusalem that the angel of the Lord went through the Assyrian camp that night and killed 185,000 of them. God delivered.

Listen carefully: Even when we mess up, He is still merciful.

But that was just a down payment on a much bigger prophecy. One day the true deliverer would come to set his people free from the bondage of sin. He will actually come from the but from Bethlehem of Judea. Where were Joseph and Mary living when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit? In Nazareth of Galilee in the North. I preached on this couple of years ago. Until the 1800s, people denied that there was any such place called Nazareth in history but then through archaeology scholars found inscriptions about Nazareth. It was a tiny village of maybe 250-300 people who claimed to be descendants of King David. Some of them had priestly lineage. Where did they come up with the name “Nazareth?” It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” These people were probably from Bethlehem, the city of David, in Galilee in the South. Why did they move to the North? Maybe because of employment. Maybe because of the Herodians who were crazy to say the least. They had moved up and began this settlement of Nazareth, trying to preserve themselves for the coming of the Son of David, the King of the Jews, the Messiah.

Now we have a problem. It’s time for the Messiah to be born but he’s in the wrong location! I can imagine Mary and Joseph wondering something is not right. We should be in Bethlehem if all that angel has said is true. I can also imagine Gabriel going to God and saying – “Everything is ready for God the Son to land but he’s in the wrong location! Would you like me to take a couple of angels with me and just airdrop them into Bethlehem? We could do it so fast that they won’t even know what happened. Or maybe a strong wind could just blow the city of Nazareth to Bethlehem.” God the Father says, “Nope. I already put my plan into motion about 50 years ago. There’s a megalomaniac who goes by the name of Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome. He thinks he is a god and the savior of the world. He is building up his empire, rebuilding the temples and the public buildings. He is really popular with the masses. But, he’s running out of money because of his 28 legions, each with 5000 soldiers. So, he’s about to do something that will transport Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Listen to Luke 2   1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David. Don’t you love the way God solves problems. Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” How frustrating and uncomfortable for Joseph and Mary but there was no better way.

Don’t forget: “Man’s interruption is God’s providence; human disruption is divine arrangement.” There’s no reason to be frustrated and bitter in the Christian life. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Application: Are you struggling with some situation or some decision someone has made? Have you been handed a bad deal? Do you feel insignificant? Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit. God is still in charge.

God is a God of Mercy. He’s always been merciful to his people. Mercy has a name. JESUS. Have you received him?

Fulfilled: Manner of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: MANNER OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fulfilled 3Introduction:  Every Christmas time the major news magazines carry some article or cover story about Christianity. It’s all about selling copies. This year, the December edition of the National Geographic has on its cover page “The Real Jesus: What Archaeology Reveals About His Life.” Listen to what it asks, “Might it be possible that Jesus Christ never even existed, that the whole stained glass story is invention?” This is nothing new. People have forever tried to deny the existence or the deity of Christ. Our series titled “Fulfilled” will hopefully strengthen our faith in Christ that he did come and he is the one who fulfilled all the promises and prophecies of God.

Matthew 1    18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Question: People have asked me “Does a person have to believe in the virgin birth in order to be saved?” I answer them, “No. The thief on the cross didn’t know a thing about the virgin birth when he got saved.” But, let’s suppose that thief on the cross were given a second chance, taken off that cross, and then someone told him about the virgin birth. What should he do? He better believe. Do you believe? I’m not just asking just about the virgin birth. Do you believe that Jesus is God’s only hope for you?

Context: In the passage we just read Matthew gives us the very unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ. He tells us that Mary became pregnant without having any physical interaction with Joseph. He attributes Jesus’ birth to the Holy Spirit. Of course, Joseph does not believe her and wants to divorce her but the angel of the Lord warns him in a dream that the child is indeed of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Mary is pregnant but she’s still a virgin. By the way, we need to clarify something here – “Virgin birth” is actually a misnomer. It implies that Mary was still a virgin when she had Jesus. Although this could be true and, I believe, is true, the real implication here is that Jesus was conceived without Joseph and Mary coming together. In the early church, some actually believed that Mary had a painless birth in which her hymen was not ruptured. So, the actual title should be “virginal conception.” While I’m on the subject, let me also clarify that the “Virginal Conception” is not the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity or the Assumption:

  • Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This idea was an invention of the medieval church and even the Catholic Church did not recognize it until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. It is not a biblical doctrine.
  • Perpetual Virginity or “aieparthenos” teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. This idea has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century. It is not a biblical doctrine either.
  • Assumption of Mary teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven before she died. It is also not a biblical doctrine. Neither is the Dormition of Mary that teaches that Mary died and after three days she rose again.

Let’s return to verse where Matthew writes 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” In verse 23 Matthew is quoting Isaiah 7:14“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” This is one of the most debated Messianic prophecies in the Bible. One scholar remarked, “Probably no single passage of the Old Testament has been so variously interpreted or has given rise to so much controversy as the prophecy contained in these verses.” (Walter Kaiser) Why is there so much debate?

  1. Historical context of the prophecy is complicated: This prophecy was given by the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. They were facing an attack from all sides: from the South from Edom; from the West from Philistia; from the North and the Northeast from Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom, also known as Israel) and Syria. Keep in mind it was already determined and prophesied that Jesus would come through the tribe of Judah, through the line of King David. God was going to protect his promise. So, he sent Isaiah to Ahaz to comfort him and give him a sign but Ahaz had other ideas. He had already sent off his ambassadors to King Pul (Tiglath-Pileser) of Assyria, the kingdom north of Syria to get help. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We also look here and there instead of the Lord. Instead of asking for a sign as God had instructed, Ahaz acts condescendingly towards Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah 7:13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?” This is very important how Isaiah addresses Ahaz. He calls him “O house of David.” Meaning: This prophecy is not going to be limited to just the immediate context but has far important significance. First, what is the immediate significance? Isaiah 7:14“…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Meaning: Maybe King Ahaz’s wife or one of his harems was pregnant. This was a sign that the kings to the north will not be successful and that the line of David will continue through Ahaz’s son. I believe that it was probably his son who became King Hezekiah. Second, what is the far important significance? One day in the future another young woman would bear a son who would be the Ultimate Son of David. There’s a difference between the first woman and the second. The first was virgin until conception and the second was a virgin even in conception. And what would be his name? Immanuel. In Isaiah 8:10 it gives us the meaning, “For God is with us.”

Either way, whether to Ahaz (the faithless king) or to sinful us, God’s promise is that God is with us. He is here to save us. Jesus has come to save us.

  1. Liberal scholarship has claimed that the virginal conception is nothing more than a pagan myth and the word for “virgin” could be variously interpreted. First one about the pagan myth, it is claimed that it is only another example of a “hieros gamos” like Zeus and Semele or Isis and Osiris. In all these instances, there are gods and goddesses mating with each other or somehow impregnating human beings. There is no such thing when it comes to the “Virginal Conception” of Mary.

Second, some claim that the word for virgin in the Hebrew text at Isaiah is “almah” which doesn’t have to mean a virgin and that the true word for virgin is “betullah.” Again, this is not true. To start with, there are 5 different words in this debate: 3 Hebrew and 2 Greek. The first Hebrew word is “issha.” It simply means woman or wife. Then the word, “almah.” When you examine every use of the word “almah” in the Old Testament, it actually means “virgin.” Then there is the word “betullah” which does mean “virgin.” But when you compare their uses, “almah” is found in those passages where there is “something other than a normal child birth” (R.T. France) is involved. In fact, when the LXX translators came to this verse, they could have easily translated this “neanis” if it was just a young woman. But, they knew that there was more involved and hence they made it “Parthenos,” which is explicitly virgin. Words change meanings over time. For example: Bachelor – young knight, then lowest rank in university, and unmarried men. Bachelors are not “College educated Knights.” Or Hussy – housewife, then mistress of a household, then disreputable woman today. Don’t call your wife that!

I wish I could say “this is how people outside the spectrum of Christianity believe” but unfortunately, there are people in the ranks who don’t believe in the fundamental doctrines of the faith. They practice what is known as “double-speak” where they use the common terminology but when pressed, they reveal a very different understanding.

Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? To prove that He was sinless, to prove that He was both fully God and fully man, to prove that He came through the Holy Spirit, to be a sign as prophesied by Isaiah.

Are you saved? Only through Christ you can be.

Why didn’t God make it clear, why all these other stories other meanings and fulfillments? Why did God allow such discrepancies and tough issues? Why do we do Easter Egg Hunts? God gets joy out of seeing us discover. All of life is like a drama just like what Shakespeare said. What part of the story are you in?

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