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Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas!

A quick Happy Christmas to my loyal readers - plus a short meditation.

In Luke's Gospel we are introduced to to individuals who had studied the scriptures, who had prepared for the coming Messiah, and were secure enough in their relationship with God to dare to believe that He would promise them they would see the Messiah.

They were people of faith - and great patience. How else ca you explain someone hanging on all those years in anticipation - not becoming wearied through disappointment as time passed?


Can you think of any other Biblical examples of 'prepared people' - whose faith and patience are tested and ultimately rewarded?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Chracter Studies - the shepherds

It's woth taking a look at how shepherds are depicted across the entire Bible. Examine thecharacteristics of both the good and bad shepherds listed in both the Old and New Testaments.

There was a good reasn why David was sent out to look after the sheep - he as the youngest, and most importantly, no-one else wanted to do it. It didn't have the status assocated with being a warrior or tradesman. It was certainly inconvenient, lonely, hard work. It had specific dangers associated with it, but also long periods on mind-numbing inactivity.

It wasn't a career choice for the upwardly mobile.

But it was to these people that the angels appeared to announce the saviour's birth. Not the rich or skillful. Society may have excluded them - but God decisively included them, as if to say, "You have significance, you matter to me just as much as those who have been blessed with more in this life."

This is an important lesson for us. If God is impartial, then it is essential that e follo His example in the way we treat others.


God often compares himself to a shepherd. How do you reconcile the shepherd's low status with the image of an all-powerful king?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Character Study 1

Herod - the character who lost the plot

It is difficult sometimes to have sympathy for someone who beomes a victim of a problem of their own making. This is certainly true of Herod the Great.

As a political wheeler and dealer he had schemed and connived himself into a position he had no right to possess, and that ws where his troubles started.

Essentially he was squeezed in he middle - with an occupying army that could remove him on a general's whim on one side, and a rebellious nation who did not recognise his claim to rulership on the other. He had to appear to be strong - but not too strong. He had to be co-operative, but not appear weak enough to be a target for the same manoevering that put him on the throne in the first place.

Then, into the mix for a paranoid king of a people whose culture and aspiraions he neither shares nor respects, there arrives a party of wise men bringing news of a royal birth. In this context, his genocidal outburst seems natural.

But what he doesn't realise is that unwittingly, his madness fulfills prophecies laid down centuries beforehand. His behaviour had been predicted. Not the first Biblical despot to find that his fate was sealed before he acted. Not the last either.


Despotic rulers can be found in many parts of the world today; as well as foolish leaders. There are plenty of prophecies concerning the return of Jesus. Discuss how God's purposes are unwittingly advanced by those who do not realise they are actually fulfilling God's word, but act to protect their own selfish ends.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Advent Word Study #6

Angels: they play a significant part in the Nativity. But, who are they?

Angellos just means messenger - no more, no less. They have cerain specific powers, but they have a clearly defined role and there are distinct limitations to their knowledge and abilities. They are not objects of veneration, for, like us they have been created by god with a purpose to fulfill.

In the story of Jesus' birth, they play the part of heralds of important events that shape the narrative. They reveal the impending pregnancy of both Elizabeth and Mary with John and Jesus. They reassure Joseph and warn him of impending danger in his dreams. They announce the birth of Jesus to shepherds.

It is speculated that angelic intervention is more widely seen in cultures where fewer people have opportunities to read the Word of God for themselves. Certainly, whether contemporary accounts of angels are authentic or not, there is work for them to do.


How ould you react to a visitation from an angel? How would you determine that your experience was valid, and that this was truly an angel form God?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Word study for Advent - 5

Isaiah ch.7 v.14 is well known enough as a clear Messianic prophecy. Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

An all-powerful God provides an irrefutable sign that He is truly in control. No merely a young woman conceiving, but something supernatural, that cannot be explained without accepting that the Almighty is both capable of and willing to intervene in human history.


Immanuel means 'God with us'. What does that mean to you in your daily life?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Advent Word Studies: 4

Messianic Titles:

Isaiah ch.9 v.6 gives us a list of names:

For to us a child is born. To us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Each one would be a meditation in its own right. I shall just take one: Mighty God. To us, looking from this side of His resurrection, calling Jesus God is natural, for we have come to know Him as our own Lord. But for the people at the time of the prophet Isaiah, this must have appeared to be a bizarre conndrum. A man, referred to be equal to God himself?

Make no mistake. For this was not a comparison, hyperbole or figure of speech. Isaiah was just speaking those words as the Holy Spirit inspired him to, and his choice of words was significant.

We are not talking about grades of divinity. Yahweh Himself is referred to as a Mighty God in a number of passages, particularly when He is being called upon a Righteous Judge. Jesus will return as our Judge too.

The same Jesus is referrd to as Almighty God in Revelation - just as His father is - the first and last. Source of creation and the One under whom it will experience its final culmination.


Choose one of the other titles for Jesus in this passage. Search for other references to this title used for the Father and the Holy Spirit. Look for common themes to give you an insight into Isaiah'schoice of words when he gave this short list of titles for the coming Messiah. In what ways was this title fulfilled by Jesus when He first came? In what ays will the title be fulfilled on His return?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Advent Word Study: 3

What's in a name?

Today's word is: Gabriel.

It's a name. Names have meaning. They disclose the nature of what is being named. That is why God's names, used in the Bible are so important. They give us an essential insight into His nature. In later studies we will look at some of the Messianic titles. But for now, we will focus on another character in our meditations on the Nativity.

We could do a character study on Gabriel. Where else he appears in the Bible. What other clues we have as to his work as an angel with authority from different passages dealing with angels.

But I want to focus on just one aspect. His name means "strong man"/champion/hero of God - The Almighty is literally his strength. Without Him, he is nothing, has no purpose, no position, no power.

It is not a throwaway remark when he reveals himself to Zachariah in Luke ch.1 v.19 by saying "I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God."


What would you call yourself, and why? What meaning does the name you chose have that reveals your nature?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Advent Word Study: 2

Jesus' birth was foretold by prophets who saw His coming, longed to live in those times, but who died confident in the promise that the Almighty had made. That is faith.

Yet, despite a number of clear prophecies that pinpointed the manner, location and special circumstances surrounding His birth, it was largely ovelooked by the religious establishment of the day. His arrival was viewed as a political threat, in fulfillment of another prophecy. But human attempts to thwart God's plans are doomed to futility.


Why the inaction of the religious establishment? They knew the prophecies well enough. They could explain the situation to Herod easily enough. They must have known what his true intentions were in Matthew ch.2, but they did nothing.

Did they fear the disruption of the staus quo? Did they fear the consequences of being wrong if they backed a false Messiah? Were they so convinced of the military might of Rome that they thought the Messiah would be no match if the Empire decided to crush any rebellion He instigated? Discuss your ideas. Can you back them up with suitable scrptures?

Friday, December 01, 2006

An Advent word study: 1

Jesus is described as the Last Adam in 1 Corinthians ch.15 v.45 by the Apostle Paul. There is no accident in his choice of words. He could have described Jesus as a 'second' Adam. But he didn't. He deliberately chose the word 'last' to make a specific point. Jesus' arrival was not merely another step on a long road to spiritual enlightenment for us all.

His birth, rather was the final phase of a long awaited fulfilment of specific prophecy. It was the completion of a work of perfection, not a second phase that would need further correction from a string of self-proclaimed 'new' messiahs.

Jesus' birth heralded that completion. There will never be another baby born as a saviour for all humanity, for that work is done, finished on a cross thirty years later. Now, we go, sent out with the same spirit and power to bring the good news to the rest of humanity.


We often talk about Jesus as the 'first' (or origin, source). What passages can you find that talk about Jesus as the 'last' (or similar words - final, completion)? Is there any connection beteen the two sets of passages that you can see?